I really do like Sgt. Pepper's and Tolkien

I’m getting quite excited about reading Gene Wolfe’s sci-fi fantasy magnum opus The Book of the New Sun. It’s a constant temptation to drop-kick the stack of books in my office, take a long weekend and just blow through them.

It’s the constant praise for them that gets me. I’ve been telling my wife it looks like Wolfe’s Book all of a sudden crept up on the best-of lists, right up to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and it seems to me, that it could easily supplant Frodo and Sam’s big adventure in the next few years. If it weren’t for the fact that people don’t seem ready to let go of their old favorite.

I wish they would actually. It doesn’t even have to be for Wolfe’s Book either. The whole Lord of the Rings best-of thing reminds me of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It seemed to me that Sgt. Pepper’s was the consistently boring number one on best-of albums lists all throughout the 80s and 90s. Things really needed to change. Now we have OK Computers and Revolvers and Pet Sounds taking the top spots, opening up new trails for those looking to explore the best twentieth century electronic folk music. Very Good.

Here’s hoping that Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun will be that good, better than Tolkien good. Or, at least, good enough to meet my ridiculously high expectations of it.

And if you don’t know who Gene Wolfe is you should. Everybody loves Gene Wolfe.

6 thoughts on “I really do like Sgt. Pepper's and Tolkien

  1. Well, I don’t know if I would say Wolfe is ‘better’ than Tolkien. In some ways they’re very different writers. I *would* say that he can be considered Tolkien’s greatest successor, since Wolfe is a great fan of Tolkien, and has a lot in common philosophically with him. As opposed to someone like Ursula K. LeGuin.

  2. There’s no room in my philosophy for nuanced judgments. I will use all the dark forces at my command to forge one writer to rule them all!!!Ahem.LeGuin. She’s coming up after Gene Wolfe. I’m hoping for illuminating contrast.But Wolfe is after Schweitzer, more Cordwainer, and a lot of Gibbon.

  3. TOLKIEN SEES ALL, KNOWS ALL, RULES ALL.(I didn’t take to LeGuin’s style. I tried that first book in her Wizard of Earthsea trilogy (or whatever it’s called) and, while the hero’s not-so-nice start was really intriguing, her distant, removed narrative voice was a turn off. I still mean to try Left Hand of Darkness though. One day.)

  4. Left Hand of Darkness is quite good – it raises all sorts of interesting questions about gender. And it reminds me of all those memoirs by people in the Soviet Gulag.

  5. See, I didn’t like Left Hand of Darkness. It was too weary or something. Soviet Gulag memoirs makes sense – and suggests to me that I may have judged it too quickly.

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