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▶  More from Fiction Book Reviews Before the Rising Sun
‘Dr. Talos’
Impressions of Chapter 16 of Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer

Reading from pages 102-106 of Shadow & Claw

The Rag Shop

“…there was no fact in the world beyond the fact of Thecla’s death. Each patch of darkness among the shadows reminded me of her hair; every glint of white recalled her skin.”

So Severian suffers through an unexpected grief, being responsible not just for betraying his guild but for the death of the woman he loved. Sub-rational suffering within the mind of a character in speculative fiction is a rare commodity which Wolfe traffics in to the extent of no other author of the art.

The outward, northward and upward journeying torturer is now being drawn into the orbit of Dr. Talos, an orbit he consciously tries to resist assuming bad intent as he attempts to clothe himself in something that will conceal the cloak of his grisly office, even as Dr. Talos recruits another performer for his troupe and insinuates himself in Sevrian’s pilgrimage. As Severian realizes that Dr. Talos is some kind of shapeshifting grafter he is brought to consider the secrets Urth holds:

“I have heard those who dig for their livelihood say that there is no land anywhere in which they can trench without turning up the shards of the past. No matter where the spade turns the soil it uncovers broken pavements and metal; and scholars write that the kind of sand that artists call polychrome (because flecks of every color are mixed with its whiteness) is actually not sand at all, but the glass of the past, now pounded to powder by aeons of tumbling in the clamorous sea.”

So Wolfe wrote of the great whirl of plastic now churning in the Central Pacific decades before it formed.

Nessus soars grinning and imperishable beyond the human scale around the small party, even as Dr. Talos strikes a deal with an unattractive waitress to make her beautiful in return for acting in his troupe for no salary. Finally, Severian finds a rag shop where to purchase a mantel to cover his notorious habit and meets a more than ordinary and less than beautiful woman, who seduces him in his own mind before she takes notice of him.

Diction of note

-lambrequin, a suffocation device used by assassins






The Consultant

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