Citadel of the Autarch – 4/5
This is a re-read of the book and this time through an audiobook. It’s now the the fourth book in the series and we pick up right at the end of last book. Severian has been drained after a big fight in the last book and is wandering along when he finds a dead solider. He brings them back to life with the Claw and then continues north where a battle is in its early formation. Severian joins the battle and has to confront his skill as a torturer with what a solider is asked to do and can’t quite reckon the two. A soldier is part of a mass and a group and the fine skills and tools of being a torturer don’t quite translate.
We also begin to get some of the bigger picture spelled out for us more from this world, and some of the clearest evidence that this is a fallen world and not a new one emerges as further old technology is in play now, mixed with the newer elements of Severian’s world. We also begin to see more of Severian’s future for the first time as we finish things up in this original run of story. There’s a sequel yet to read, but I get the impression that this other book is more of an off-shoot than a direct continuation.
Fallen world sci fi is really interesting because you glimpse a little about what remains of the past and what would still be useful in the future. But because it comes from a cataclysm type event, it’s all random and arbitrary when it comes down to it. It’s also a reminder that while post-apocalypse always feels like a future, so many “worlds” in our own world experienced their own apocalypses and falls of worlds. Just because we live in the after, it’s hard to realize the before meant something very different.
Urth of the New Sun 4/5
In this sequel, our main character has been moved away from Urth at the end of the previous novel and now finds himself on some kind of ship. The ship is possibly a living being, but otherwise is part of a world of God-like beings. This means that in addition to having interstellar travel, they are playing with the fabric of time and reality in the same ways. So while on the ship, the ship takes on the shape and look of older vessels and Severian meets up with versions o past friends and enemies and interacts with them in different ways.
The book reminds me a lot of the Philip Jose Farmer Riverworld books in a way, in which a journey is just the frame onto which a philosophical discussion of time, history, morality, and life are hung. It’s still just as oblique and strange as the previous novels, and maybe more so as the action itself is more and more removed from an understandable understanding of reality as we would know it. It’s trippy and well, a little rough going.
Now there’s only four more novels in the series….