The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I knew things were going to get interesting the moment we started the book on the spaceship "Yesod", the ninth branch on the tree of life directly above the root, the kingdom, in the Kabbalah. Yesod is the ship that is outside of time and Maya, and the source of the Sun's renewal and the place where Sevarian must make or break his new covenant, the place of the new foundation for humanity.
Nuts? Hell yeah. There's plenty of crazy going on in the whole series, but the fact we start moving up through the branches to Hod, witnessing the splendor of Tzabaoth, kinda sealed the idea for me, and it didn't really matter if these were aliens outside of time who were once on the same road as humanity until we spread throughout the galaxy and did horrendous things and broke the covenant. The underlying shape of the story is clear even if it isn't actually Severian dealing with angels. ;)
Things are also a bit more complicated when we move from the flaming swords of Gabriel and return to earth to deal with the personal issue of fractured times and places making Severian deal with the qualities of Glory, Victory, Beauty, Severity, Mercy, Wisdom, and finally the Crown.
Unfortunately for me, I was reading purely for entertainment value, so I didn't actually sit down and track every scene to a branch on the tree, but I picked up on at least 4 or 5 of them, easy. :)
Impressive? Yeah, I think so too, and we've even got the whole feel of Slaughterhouse Five, the coming resurrection, the return of the king, and a lot of other hints, too, but let's face it... the story is very odd. Scenes feel all right by themselves, but they often take very odd directions from one another, and I can't quite tell if it's because it's following the Tree regardless of the natural progression of story, or whether the story is just odd for its own sake.
Having read the previous four, I'd soooo love to say, outright, that it's fundamentally incomprehensible, but no, I think I've actually found a pretty decent roadmap.
I'm impressed, but, not quite engrossed in the tale enough to put in the extra work of truly deciphering it. :) Still! Props.
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