Monday, 11 March 2013

the shadow of the torturer

Finished this book by Gene Wolfe in January, the first in a series. They're familiar from Douglas's shelves, and has been on my mental list for a while, but I picked it up secondhand recently. It was enjoyable enough that I'd seek out the next one. It was one of those post-apocalyptic mediaeval set-ups, though you could miss that if you weren't paying attention, as it's not overplayed. At one point I feared he was going to introduce too many things and ideas which didn't follow or weren't explained or didn't make sense or tie up, or just seemed to have been abandoned, but there were enough out of those things which were resolved/explained in the end that I didn't lose faith with the writer that he was just throwing things together. Not everything has to be explained, but you have to be confident that it could be explained and does make sense, and that either it will be or you can work it out or it doesn't matter but just creates the world and the atmosphere. (When We Were Orphans was the recent one which comes to mind where I didn't think the details hung together properly.) And I do have to feel that it is all going to lead somewhere. I have a low tolerance of dreams and visions, though, and there was too much of that.

The idea of torturers having a guild and apprenticeship system was well put-together, without being either gratuitous or melodramatic. The setting of much of the book put me in mind of the castle in Gormenghast, ancient and labyrinthine. (But I didn't make it past the first volume of that trilogy, which I found dull, tiresome and drawn-out.)