In Green's Jungles: The Second Volume of 'The Book of the Short Sun'

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9780312873158: In Green's Jungles: The Second Volume of 'The Book of the Short Sun'
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Gene Wolfe's In Green's Jungles is the second volume, after On Blue's Waters, of his ambitious SF trilogy, The Book of the Short Sun. It is again narrated by Horn, who has embarked on a quest from his home on the planet Blue in search of the heroic leader Patera Silk. Now Horn's identity has become ambiguous, a complex question embedded in the story, whose telling is itself complex, shifting from place to place, present to past. Horn recalls visiting the Whorl, the enormous spacecraft in orbit that brought the settlers from Urth, and going thence to the planet Green, home of the blood-drinking alien inhumi. There, he led a band of mercenary soldiers, answered to the name of Rajan, and later became the ruler of a city state. He has also encountered the mysterious aliens, the Neighbors, who once inhabited both Blue and Green. He remembers a visit to Nessus, on Urth. At some point, he died. His personality now seemingly inhabits a different body, so that even his sons do not recognize him. And people mistake him for Silk, to whom he now bears a remarkable resemblance. In Green's Jungles is Wolfe's major new fiction, The Book of the Short Sun, building toward a strange and seductive climax.

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Review:

Gene Wolfe has stymied and delighted smart science fiction readers for years. His complex, multilayered narratives, untrustworthy narrators, and puzzle-box characters send those of us who like that sort of thing into paroxysms of thrilling speculation, re-reading, and just plain guessing what it all means. In Green's Jungles is the middle book of Wolfe's opus trilogy, The Book of the Short Sun (the first is On Blue's Waters). It is by no means necessary to start with his other series, The Book of the New Sun and The Book of the Long Sun, in order to enjoy what is most likely the final examination of the universe Wolfe has created. But critics and fans are mostly in agreement that they are best read in order, and that the Short Sun series is the best of an astonishing bunch.

In Green's Jungles follows narrator Horn as he voyages to the planet Green (Blue's companion) and to the abandoned generational starship known as the Whorl in search of the godlike Patera Silk. As Horn recounts his adventures, his own identity becomes muddled, and we find out his interactions with the vampiric inhumi of Green and the strange alien Neighbors were deeper than we knew. In fact, Horn may not be himself at all anymore. Tantalizing story details drip slowly from Wolfe's pen:

Through the ring a Neighbor saw him, and she came to him in his agony.... she said, "I cannot make you well again, and if I could you would still be in this place. I can do this for you, however, if you desire it. I can send your spirit into someone else, into someone whose own spirit is dying."

So who is Horn? Has he become Patera Silk--it seems so, for people begin mistaking him for the heroic leader. Is he the warrior king Rajan, or is he something entirely new, formed by the strange places and people around him into a savior of worlds? Identity, love, and faith weave through the themes of In Green's Jungles, and Wolfe has added another masterpiece to a shelf full of them. --Therese Littleton

About the Author:

Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by The Washington Post. A former engineer, he has written numerous books and won a variety of awards for his SF writing.

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