An Evil Guest - Gene Wolfe My rating: 2.5

I tried to like Gene Wolfe's latest novel. There are many good elements about it. Wolfe is a brilliant writer with a masterful control over his story (even if his readers may sometimes be left at sea for a while). Just an example is his mastery of conversation - his characters talk just the way people do in real life: In ellipses, alluding to things the hearer may or may not understand, responding to internal questions rather than to the external. As Wolfe does not spend much time with descriptive prose or internal monologue, one must pay close attention to the dialogues or become hopelessly lost.

I adore The Book of the New Sun, Severian is one of my favorite SF/Fantasy characters, and, in college, I would reread the entire series every year. I've enjoyed his Soldier of the Mist novels; and several of his standalones are also quite good ([book:Free Live Free] and [book:There Are Doors] immediately come to mind). Unfortunately, the elements that make these works so enjoyable to read don't come together well in the current work, leaving me unsatisfied.

The biggest gripe I have with Wolfe is the utter passivity of the hero, Cassie Casey. Everything happens to her; it's only in the final chapter that Cassie takes any initiative at all. Wolfe's heroe are often somewhat hapless victims of forces beyond their control or understanding but his best stuff has achieveda balance between the "hammer of Fate" and "free will" that is sadly lacking here.

If you're already a Wolfe fan, I'd say try this one; if not, I couldn't recommend it as a place to begin. I'd start with [book:The Shadow of the Torturer] or [book:Soldier of the Mist] myself.