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▶  More from Fiction Book Reviews Before the Rising Sun
‘Of the Living City’
Impressions of Chapter 8 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer


Reading from pages 57-61 of Shadow & Claw

The Conversationalist

Severian’s first conversation with the beautiful Thecla centers on questions of religion, of which she, like so many jaded aristocrats, become intensely pursuant of. The religion of Urth seems to be a science-infused Catholicism which has accreted so much syncretism, artifice and lore that it seems somewhat Hindu to this reader, albeit with Greek terminology. Thecla is a cynic looking to form a fashionable cult among her class and makes one deep observation concerning religions, “Look at the great successes of the past—they say their deities are the masters of all the universes, and yet they require grandmothers to defend them, as if they were children frightened by poultry.”

Severian is soon summoned away from his conversational duty and returns to barracks where he is the captain of apprentices, only to be taken away by the former captain, one of his two mates from the cemetery gate, dressed up for a visit to a brothel and accompanied by his senior in disguise as optimates, for Torturers are universally despised. A young men do they discuss their expanding knowledge of the world outside their childhood sphere as they journey into the wintry night, described beautifully by the author:

“…it was starting to snow, fluffy flakes as big as the end of my thumb sifting so slowly through the air that it seemed they must have been falling for years. There was no wind, and we could hear the creaking our boots made breaking through the familiar world’s new, thin disguise.”

The reader finds out through an offhand comment that a “new sun” is supposed to rejuvenate the world of Nessus currently being failed by her dying star. Urban blight is also treated in a practical illustration of “the living city” as opposed to the necropolis, waxing and waning like a land-eating slug creeping from the sea upriver, leaving a deserted waste behind.

Diction of Note

-hierophants, the sacral authorities

-agathodaemon, afterlife

-cabochon, a type of emerald

-House Absolute, the cryptic dwelling of the Autarch

-echopraxia

-fiacres, a small carriage

-palfreniers, light animal mounts

-omophagists

Ire and Ice: Winter and A White Christmas

https://www.amazon.com/Ire-Ice-Winter-White-Christmas/dp/1523727128/ref=sr_1_117?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511041400&sr=1-117&refinements=p_27%3AJames+LaFond

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