A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘Exodus from The Long Sun’


Two weeks have passed. The Ayuntamiento has gone underground, refusing to surrender or acknowledge Silk as Caldé, whilst the Trivigaunte troops effectively occupy Viron. General Mint and Patera Remora are at Blood’s ruined villa, hoping to negotiate a truce. Though Councillor Potto’s chem body remains, another arrives, with his chief spy-catcher Spider, and takes them prisoner.
Potto dismisses the rebellion and considers himself free to kill or torture Mint. He threatens to blind her by pouring boiling hot water into her eyes, but is halted by the arrival of Patera Quetzal, bearing tidings of another theophany, this time of the supposedly-dead Pas. Spider forces the prisoners into the tunnels, only for Quetzal to disappear.
Silk still hunts for Hyancinth. He finds Chenille reinstalled at Orchid’s. Auk is also missing. Both women promise to aid his search and he takes Chenille to Sun Street where he shrives her. Auk is at the Orilla, where he has gathered two hundred disciples and is holding Hyacinth under guard by Corporal Hammerstone. He is still following Blind Tartoros.
Silk is approached by Hossaan, a Trivigaunte spy who he recognises as having been Blood’s driver. A Trivigaunti army is approaching which will secure Silk as Caldé, though he will be a puppet in those conditions. Maytera Marble, who has brought her granddaughter Mucor to the mainteion, asks Silk the favour of having her severed hand reattached.
However, Silk first asks Marble to oversee reopening the Caldé’s Palace. He surprises Generalissimo Saba with the knowledge Hossaan has provided of the troop movements, leaving her assuming he has gained this through augury. He presides over their ceremonial arrival and invites Generalissimo Siyuf to a formal banquet at the Palace.
Meanwhile, a team of fliers from Mainframe, led by Sciathan, observe events among the cargo. They are seeking Auk but, when they land near the Trivigaunti forces, all are killed except their leader.
Auk, who is no augur, leads his disciples to Sun Street, where Patera Incus performs the ceremony, leading to Pas’s theophany. Pas’s plan is now to be followed: the occupants of the Whorl must leave it to settle on the Short Sun planets around which it orbits. Anticipating his family’s revolt, forty years ago Pas his small parts of himself in various bios, including one Patera Jerboa. He is now rebuilding himself.
Silk has taken Marble to the shop where her hand is reattached. Whilst there, he orders several taluses for the city.
Imprisoned in the tunnels, Mint and Remora hear shots. Remora tries to signal for aid with his gammadion, but instead Spider takes them deeper within, where they are to shrive one of his men. However, the man is already dead so instead they have to take him into a side-tunnel for burial. Mint suspects all Spider’s men are dead: he tries to negotiate his continued employment as spy-catcher if the Ayuntamiento falls, to which Mint agrees.
The men are dead. Mint questions Spider about the purposes of the tunnels, which were designed by Pas as air-conditioning ducts and to allow water to be flushed through them. After three hundred years the system is breaking down. Spider surrenders his needler to Mint, expecting to be killed, and hopes for interment. He reveals that her aide and second in command Bison, whom she hopes to marry, join her army as his spy, but refused further reports after he became loyal to her. Three chem soldiers, despatched by Silk, erupt from the grave-earth.
Auk leads men to find Patera Jerboa, who returns with them to Sun Street to sacrifice. Jerboa rambles, but the eventual manifestation is of Kypris, who reports that Pas is wiping his wife Echidna out of Mainframe.
Oosik visits Silk to advise on likely future developments now Trivigaunte is here in force: Viron must concentrate on the tunnels, where Siyuf will be at a disadvantage. Bison brings news that a raiding party has found fresh blood in the tunnels. Silk sets a place for Mint at the formal dinner, to prevent Trivigaunte suspecting she may be dead, but Siyuf’s intelligence has already reported this: the Generalissimo is possessed by Mucor who confirms that Mint is alive and above ground.
Sergeant Sand leads the chem soldiers. They get everyone, including released prisoners out of the tunnels up a chute into the private chapel beneath the Prolocutor’s Palace.Mint cleans herself and changes garments before reporting to the Caldé’s Palace, but her message is taken by Hossaan.
At the dinner, Silk horrifies everyone by planning to release Mint’s army each with two cards and their weapons. Only Siyuf understands that he will be earning their loyalty. He leaves abruptly on receiving word of Hyacinth and they are soon reunited. After dinner, Siyuf takes Chenille back to her room. Later, Chenille uses the monitor glass to find Auk and arrange for another girl to replace her.
Remora conducts a sacrifice which fails. Sergeant sand offers himself, a sacrifice that brings Pas to the Holy Window. Echidna tries, unsuccessfully, to override him. Pas orders sand to be taken to Auk for restoration. Mint leads a group including Marble to rendezvous with Auk for this.
Everyone gathers at the Grand Manteion anticipating Pas’s next appearance. Quetzal revokes Silk’s vow of chastity so that he can marry Hyacinth. Mint requests the same, and Quetzal lso releases Marble, whom Hammerstone has recognised as his former girl Moly(bdenum): they plan to make a child.
On wakening from a deep sleep, Auk discovers Jerboa has died. He gets Incus to revive Sand. Sciathan is taken away under the control of Colonel Abanja’s, Siyuf’s intelligence Officer, but still refuses to answer questions. Chenille passes on to Silk that a Flier has been captured and is being taken to the Juzgado, which Siyuf plans to take for her headquarters. Auk has himself smuggled in as Sciathan’s cellmate and breaks him out to go to Silk.
Sciathan’s mission is to find Auk, and take him with any companions he chooses to Mainframe. The Long Sun is overheating and will soon have to be shut off. The cargo must leave and go outside and Auk must lead them. Not until they have reached Silk does Auk reveal who he is.
Silk calls a conference with the Ayuntamiento, represented by Loris and Potto. The Trivigauntis have begun disarming Mint’s army, so they have been sent home. Potto is triumphal, but Silk points out that all they have to do is let the Ayuntamiento and Trivigaunte fight in the tunnels: the winner will be too weak to resist Mint’s forces. Silk does not want to do this. Rather he wants to use Saba’s airship to get Auk and Siathan to Mainframe.
Silk reveals that Chenille is the illegitimate daughter of the murdered Caldé, Tussah, and therefore his sister. Sciathan pleads for urgency: if an exodus does not begin soon, Pas will begin to force both cargo and crew out. Loris and especially Potto are obstructive, but the meeting is disrupted by word that a Trivigaunti regiment is approaching. To gain his ends, Silk surrenders to the Ayuntamiento, but all, plus Horn and Nettle, are captured, except Loris, who is killed. The airship is to take them to the Rani of Trivigaunte.
The revived Sergeant Sand bargains with Siyuf, trading information for the release of Hammerstone and Marble, but suggesting the release of Silk as Trivigaunte’s best friend. When Siyuf is unable to recall the airship, she is take hostage, to be exchanged for Silk.
On the airship, Auk reveals that by seemingly betraying them, he has got twenty-one chosen men, his best thieves, on board, ready to take the ship. Silk does not want violence. He climbs out onto the gondola’s roof. Mucor appears to him and receives instructions. The engines begin to fail. Four of eight are out of action before Silk can persuade the captain to tun east to Mainframe. The airship comes down in the desert, where Hyacinth overcomes the pilot and Silk takes command. They resume flight, following the Long Sun.
Silk climbs onto the gondola roof again, followed by Horn, who senses his despondency and fears he will jump to his death. Horn talks of writing a book about Silk and his central role in events. Silk talks about the lies that have surrounded him. Horn persuades him to return, whereupon he returns command to Saba. She promises to take his party to Mainframe. Onscreen, Kypris offers to have Silk scanned in at Mainframe, to become the other head of Pas.
Auk and Chenille depart the Whorl in a lander. There are two planets, green and blue lights in the void.
The airship returns. Silk climbs onto the gondola roof again. Horn and Netle follow, trying to distract Silk from the knowledge that Hyacinth is in Saba’s cabin, seeking to seduce her to Silk’s side. Silk’s explanation of why this does not matter to him causes Hyacinth to run away. There is war in Viron against Trivigaunte and Mint once again leads her army. Silk returns to spread the word that everyone is the leave the Whorl.
In a not-epilogue, Horn describes how he has written this book, with Nettle’s assistance as editor, despite having seen so little of what happened first hand. He reveals that, at the last, Quetzal tried to lead their lander to Green, to become food for the inhumi, of which he was one, only for its monitor to overrule and take them to Blue.

A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘Caldé of the Long Sun’


At his Palace, Prolocutor Quetzal, who despite appearances is not human, having snake-like fangs concealed in the roof of his mouth, discusses the rapidly changing situation in Viron with Patera Remora. He orders a letter sent to the Chapter endorsing the return of a Caldé then, once alone, flies into the pouring rain.
On Lake Limna, Auk steers Patera Incus’s boat back to the shrine, on the instructions of the possessed Chenille/Scylla. The Goddess orders these three, and Dace the boatman, to prevent Kypria from taking Viron. She appoints Incus as Prolocutor before leaving Chenille, which flatters his self-importance. When Auk tries to ignore her instructions, they are attacked bya talus which smashes the boat and bears them off into the tunnels.
At Sun Street, Mayteras Marble and Mint prepare to conduct the sacrifices in the absence of both augurs. Mint announces the death of Maytera Rose and orders that, in view of the large congregation, the service be conducted in the street. Volunteers under Horn move the Sacred Window. To her amazement, she conducts the sacrifices with growing confidence and boldness.
Blood and Musk present themselves. Maytera Rose, speaking through Marble, identifies the former as her son, Bloody. Mint prophecies an early death for Blood, or perhaps Musk, who presents two rabbits: she mistakes him for Blood’s son. The prophecies refer to victories. Mint’s readings are interrupted by the return of Patera Gulo, here to announce that Silk is back, and lead open chants of Silk for Caldé.
Silk returns, warning the crowd not to assume the Guards are against them. Gulo resumes the sacrifices whilst he changes. Mucor warns that Blood has been ordered to kill him. He collects two letters before returning outside, in his robes, and takes over the sacrifices.
Immediately, the Sacred Window is occupied by Echidna, wife of Pas, Queen of the Gods. She countermands Kypris, orders that Viron must remain Scylla’s and all sacrifices must be hers. The Ayuntamiento must be overthrown. Mint is ordered to lead the crowd to the Alambrera, their Palace. A part of Echidna occupies her. Silk throws her the azoth. The bull he is sacrificing foretells war, tyranny and fire.
The last supplicant is Musk, who is intent on killing Silk. Maytera Marble intervenes, imprisoning Musk in her arms and sacrificing him by burning him in the pyre. Echidna possesses her, announcing that Pas is dead. Mucor possesses an old woman, tittering that she could kill Silk with Musk’s needler, but it is slapped from her hand by an old man who identifies himself as Quetzal.
In the tunnels, the talus carries Auk’s party into battle against chem soldiers that it ‘kills’. Incus restores Corporal Hammerstone and reprogrammes it to worship him. When the talus is destroyed by a launcher gun, and Auk receives a head wound that nearly kills him and leaves him mentally affected for a long period, Incus turns on Auk with spite and threats over his earlier casual treatment, using Hammersone’s muscle to back up his affronted dignity. Auk begins to imagine his older brother, Bustard, dead several years, talking to him.
They encounter a band of escaped criminals, one of whom, Urus, they take with them on their stumbling journey. Dace is captured and killed by the convict leader, Gelada, who starts to eat him: Auk talks Gelada into range with promises of forgiveness but executes him.
Echidna’s announcement has shocked Silk and undermined his faith
Silk is in shock at Echidna’s announcement and feels he can never sacrifice to her again. Quetzal takes temporary charge as the crowd follows General Mint to the Alambrera. The little sybil becomes an immediate stretegist. Silk learns of Maytera Rose’s death. She has largely replaced Marble and confirms the details of being Blood’s mother: she is to blame for his urge to cause trouble by buying the manteion.
Quetzal leads Silk in completing the funerary ceremonies for Maytera Rose and Musk. He explains his reasons for not opposing the Ayuntamiento’s seizure of power, and reveals that it was believed that Caldé Tussah – who knew Silk’s mother – nominated a secret successor, an adopted son, an embryo taken from the chambers in the tunnels, before he was killed.
Quetzal and Silk walk towards the Alabrera. Quetzal confesses already knowing Pas was dead. It happened thirty years ago, and Echidna and the seven children openly boast of in in other cities of the Whorl but Quetzal has kept it secret in Viron to uphold morality and keep the Chapter safe. He has tried to distance Pas in favour of Scylla and prevent theophanies. Their talk is interrupted by a Guard Lieutenant who shoots Silk.
He suffers a punctured lung and receives expert and sympathetic care, but Crane’s bandage is taken away for more urgent use. Patera Shell, his junior, updates him on the seige, shrives him and delivers the Chapter letter supporting Silk. This puts Quetzal into as much danger as Silk, who orders Shell to find him and take refuge in areas controlled by Mint. He is also reminded of his two letters and calls for his clothes.
At Sun Street, Marble/Rose has the Sacred Window brought back inside. She begins to re-organise the manteion. From the roof, she sees what she assumes is a solid cloud, over the Lake, moving against the wind.
Silk is visited by General Oosik of the Guard, who is embarrassed to have the Caldé as his captive, entirely on the initiative of an officer who was only supposed to reconnoitre. He is in an invidious position, holding Silk alive when the Ayuntamiento’s orders are to kill on sight. The rebellion is finely balanced: whichever side wins, he will be at best disgraced, at worst executed. Silk shows him the Chapter letter, including information that Councillor Lemur is dead, which Oosik didn’t know.
He returns Silk’s robes and their contents. He has read the other letter, from Hyacinth, who wants to meet Silk. Oosik knows and has slept with both Hyacinth and Chenille. He gives Silk directions to Hyacinth’s meeting place and leaves, removing the guard and leaving Siilk his needlers. Not knowing whether Oosik wishes him to escape, or seeks an excuse to kill him whilst escaping, Silk leaves. He addresses a letter of apology to the owner of the bedchamber in which he has recuperated, signing it as Caldé for the first time. In the street, Oreb rejoins him.
Auk’s confusion has separated him from the party. Chenille wants to search for him but Incus to abandon him. They argue over their destination. Whilst incus prays, Urus sneaks off, noticed only by Oreb. When they chase Urus, he sets off in search of Silk, who has sought shelter with Master Xiphias, the swordsmaster. Xiphias insists on another bout before, despite Silk’s exhaustion and multiple wounds. Silk wants to learn a safe route to the Palatine, for Hyacinth, but when it becomes apparent that Xiphias intends to escort him, he slips away alone.
Auk hears the voice of blind Tartaros, god of night and thieves, who addresses him as ‘my noctolator’. Tartaros will guide the damaged Auk back to where he can leave the tunnels, can eat and preserve himself. He is reunited with Chenille, who has fled Incus and Hammerstone.
Silk is held up at the barricades by Lieutenant Liana, a girl no more than twenty, but argues his way through under a white flag as a simple augur, bringing the Peace of Pas to mortally wounded Guardsmen. A jeweller tells him that the last augur to do so was killed as soon as he finished his prayers. He leads Silk to his shop and its strongroom to keep him safe. There, Silk finds Quetzal.
Silk reaches Ermine’s Hotel, for his rendezvous with Hyacinth. He is extremely nervous, expecting to be refused entrance, but he is expected and afforded all courtesy. Someone has been asking for him but this is actually Remora, ejected from the Prolocutor’s Palace by Guards seeking Quetzal. Silk writes a letter requesting Mint’s forces to permit Remora to pass, to try to negotiate a truce with Brigadier Erne. Remora is then possessed by Mucor, who is being tortured to do the Ayuntamiento’s work. Xiphias appears, prepared to save Silk’s life. Silk sends both away, just in time for Hyacinth to appear, kissing him and professing love. They are barely united when Silk collapses, coughing blood.
At Sun Street, Maytera Marble is washing and cleaning and increasingly remembering another figure, male, of metal. The seeming cloud is now hovering overhead, but is an airship. Auk and Chenille see it from the pit, where they find ncus and Hammerstone disarmed and bound, the former gagged. According to Tartaros, the airship is from Trivigaunte, whose Rani has ordered an invasion. A sudden announcement, by Silk, fills the pit, releasing the criminals to fight for Viron.
Before this, Silk comes to in bed again, surrounded by people, including General Oosik, who wants to ensure the revolt is ended with minimum further bloodshed, and without the moral disaster of the Alhambrera being taken. Silk accedes: whatever Echidna has ordered, to return to Viron’s Charter of Caldé and Ayuntamiento it is neither victory nor defeat .
Silk and Quetzal broadcast their announcement live across the city. Privately, the Ayuntamiento offers massive rewards for the bodies of Silk, Oosik and Quetzal.
Silk is taken by floater to the front-line, with Quetzal accompanying him officially and Hyancinth unofficially. En route, they are attacked by parachuting women warriors from Trivigaunte’s airship. Auk’s escape is hindered by bombs from the airship that shatter the Alambrera’s wall. Silk undergoes a near-death experience: his soul leaves his body for the Aureate Path, where he is greeted by his mother and his father, former Caldé Tusssah. Silk comes to, underground, back in the tunnels, having been rescued from being buried alive.
Whilst Quetzal seeks water, Silk digs desperately, believing Hyacinth to be similarly buried nearby: instead, he uncovers and is arrested by Sergeant Sand.
Silk is imprisoned at the Juzgado. After a failed attempt at a truce on behalf of General Saba of Trivigaunte, Maytera Marble gains access under a white flag, by asking for her son, Bloody. He admits that his purpose in buying the manteion was to get back at Maytera Rose, for abandoning him, and that he grossly misrepresented the price to Silk. Blood has won his game, but his house stands only because Silk is inside. He has done well out of the Ayuntamiento, but is beginning to resent being taken for granted by them.
Silk is brought up by Councillor Potto to a meeting involving the Ayuntamiento’s new presiding officer, Councillor Loris. Present are Blood, Maytera Marble, Chenille, Xiphias and Patera Incus, still proclaiming himself Prolocutor.
Marble recites exactly the forces outside, which Loris refuses to believe. He issues terms, non-negotiable, or all the prisoners will be killed. They represent total surrender, withdrawal of Trivigaunte, disarmament and a declaration that only the Ayuntamieto rules, with only its present Councillors, into infinity. The terms are wholly unrealistic, as Silk spells out. Marble gets agreement to allow her and Silk to talk alone before she reports back to Mint and Oosik.
They are joined after a long talk by Blood, bringing Mucor for safety. Blood is looking for an opportunity to change sides if he can keep the criminal empire he’s built. Silk refuses: he accepts the return of the manteion, but Blood will be prosecuted, fairly.
Suddenly, Mucor announces that Potto coming, to kill Silk and send his body back with the woman who killed Musk. Blood realises this must be Marble. As she reaches towards him, he uses his azoth to cut off her hand. He’s about to kill her when Silk intervenes with Xithias’ swordstick, automatically running Blood through the throat. Potto bursts in, ordering Sand to kill the Caldé, but on identifying Silk as the true authority, Sand kills Potto. Marble gives Silk the azoth before she uses it on him. Sand and his fellow soldiers salute Silk.
In a brief epilogue, Silk wears the Caldé’s robes as he prepares to meet the new Tivigaunti Generalissimo. He reflects on the journey he has taken in so few days, and wonders as to the whereabouts of those he has drawn with him…

A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘Nightside the Long Sun’


Within the Whorl – whose lands are on the inside and which is lit by the Long Sun, running down its centre, around which a shade revolves, artificially creating night and day – in the ballpark of a run-down manteion on Sun Street, in a poor quarter of Viron, a young augur, Patera Silk, yellow-haired, devout, receives Enlightment in the middle of a game that resembles basketball.
This does not come from any of the nine Gods of Mainframe – two-headed Pas, his wife, Echidna, their five daughters and two sons – but from The Outsider. Silk is transformed by his experience. And he is tasked with saving the Sun Street manteion, which is under threat of being sold for unpaid taxes.
Silk, aged 23, tall with yellow hair and a habit of drawing small circles on his cheek with his forefinger when thinking, shares the manteion with three sibyls, Mayteras Rose – much of whose human body has been replaced by artificial parts, strict and censorious – Marble – a chem, or wholly artificial person – and Mint – a shy, unassuming, wholly human woman. He has been at Sun Street for only a year since ordination, first as assistant to, then as replacement for old Patera Pike.
It is a time of great heat and prolonged dryness, from which the city is steadily suffering.
His first thought is to make a sacrifice to The Outsider, for which he will need a suitable subject. Different animals are birds are sacred to each to the Nine Gods, but Silk has never before sacrificed to The Outsider. Nor has he any cards or cardbits with which to buy a sacrifice. Nevertheless, he sets off for the Marketplace.
En route, he encounters a rich man being driven in a floater, and persuades him to give up three cards, or face the peril of refusing a God’s requirement. Silk is not aware that he is speaking to Blood, a successful criminal, nor that Blood has already bought the manteion by paying its overdue taxes, and who is on the way to inspect it. Blood, however, knows who Silk is.
After much haggling, Silk buys a black night chough to sacrifice. The bird can talk, in brief, two-syllable bursts and understands what Silk intends. Back at the manteion, unknowing as yet that Blood had made himself known to the sybils as the new owner, Silk prepares for the sacrifice. Like all such manteions, Sun Street has a Sacred Window whose leads and connections need checking and tightening. Silk’s voided cross doubles as a screwdriver and a spanner.
Once upon a time, Gods would appear at Sacred Windows in response to a suitable sacrifice, but this has not happened in Viron for twenty years or so. But Silk’s sacrifice fails. Before he can slit the bird’s throat, it suffers a seizure and goes limp, appearing to have died.
Disturbed by his failure, and now aware of Blood’s purchase, Silk determines on a dangerous and morally dubious course. He proposes to find Blood’s home, invade it, and make Blood, by persuasion if possible but by force if necessary, to assign the manteion back to the Chapter, so that it can continue to be of benefit to the people of that Quarter. In short, he plans to steal the manteion back.
Silk justifies his intentions, to first himself and then to those who would dissuade him, by reference his having been commanded by a God, an by pleading a kind of greater morality based on the needs of the poor people, a greater number. Nevertheless, he continues to doubt his self-assigned mission even as he pursues it determinedly.
Being a complete novice at thievery, Silk seeks out a professional to advise and assist. Maytera Mint, the shyest of the sybils, directs him to Auk, a former student at the manteion, who she had favoured. Auk, now a burly, highly competent man, is found at his usual haunt at the tavern, the Flying Cock, at shadelow, when the light of the Long Sun is hidden from Viron and instead illuminates the cities of the skylands on the opposite side of the Whorl.
Auk agrees to advise Silk, but refuses to get involved on any practical basis. He knows the whereabouts of Blood’s villa and will lead Silk there, but no further. Silk shrives Auk of his recent sins, then has the thief shrive him, placing both in a state of grace. He also obtains a promise from Auk to change his life, giving up thievery.
Silk succeeds in scaling the walls that surround Blood’s grounds and, beyond that, gains access to the roofs of the villa, To get this far he has had to evade vicious genetically-modified horned cats and an armoured talus.
Inside the villa, Blood is hosting a substantial party, his guests including Councillors from Viron’s ruling body, the Ayuntamiento. Strictly, they act illicitly: they are supposed to co-exist with a Caldé, but no new Caldé has been appointed since the death of the last one, twenty years before, nor have any new elections been held.
Whilst on the roof, seeking access, Silk undergoes attack again, this time from a genetically-modified bird. He is seriously wounded by the bird’s beak, but manages to kill the bird.
Entering through a skylight, Silk encounters two young women. The first is the unnaturally thin Mucor, with skull-like features. She claims to be Blood’s daughter and it is quickly apparent that she can possess people. The other is Hyacinth, a beautiful woman who is plainly addicted to drink and drugs: it is equally plain that Hyancinth is a prostitute,there to entertain guests, but Silk is struck by her beauty.
There is a monitor glass in Hyacinth’s room. Silk summons up the Artificial Intelligence that mans it, and attempts to get a warning sent to Auk. Hyacinth makes advances to him. Silk removes a small needler from her possession, but when he refuses to have sex with her, she produces an azoth, whose beam disintegrates anything in its path. To escape, Silk is forced to jump out of the window, fracturing his left ankle, and being captured.
Silk’s ankle is attended by Docftor Crane, Blood’s physician. To speed up the knitting of the bone, Crane applies a leather-like, self-sealing bandage that generates heat. To maintain the heat, Silk must periodically unwrap the bandage and thrash it against a flat surface to restore its kinetic potential. He is then taken before Blood and his main henchman (and lover) Musk, a mostly silent but entirely vicious young man whose sole enthusiasm in life is in hunting birds. Musk holds a deep-lying grudge against Silk, for his having killed Musk’s bird on the roof.
Silk is now wholly at Blood’s mercy, but despite his weak position, indeed with nothing to offer, he succeeds in drawing a bargain that will enable him to buy back the mainteion, albeit for twice what Blood has paid for it: 26,000 cards. He has a month in which to raise a substantial sum towards that total, as a demonstration to Blood that he is not merely a time-waster.
Silk is sent home in Blood’s flier. Crane will come to check Silk’s health that coming afternoon but Blood also requires an exorcism at one of his properties, on Lamp Street, a brothel under the Madameship of Orchid. En route to Sun Street, and passing this house, Silk hears a scream from within, but the driver refuses his pleas to halt.
When Crane arrives, he finds Silk trying to identify a hidden intruder. This turns out to be the night chough, which did not die but merely suffered some form of fit. Having threatened to cut its throat, not to mention damaging its wing poking about with Crane’s stick, Silk finds it hard to gain the trust of Oreb, as he names the bird. Once it does emerge, Crane bandages its wing before taking Silk to Lamp Street for his one o’clock meeting with Blood.
Blood is late, and Silk begins to discuss the exorcism with the Madame, Orchid, a barely awake overweight woman. They are interrupted by a scream: Orpine, one of the girls, is dead, stabbed under the left breast. Silk administers the last rites over the hysterical and blasphemous shouting of the red-headed Chenille.
When he arrives, Blood wants Silk to testify that Orpine’s death was suicide, to conclude the matter without question. Silk refuses, and combines his preparations for the exorcism with questions to establish the truth behind this. Orchid is persuaded to admit that Orpine was her daughter, which enables her to grieve properly. Thus relieved, she asks for a lavish funeral at Sun Street, and gives Silk thousands of cards to pay for this.
Silk identifies Chenille as the killer and elicits her confession. However, Chenille was not in possession of herself, being taken over by Mucus, who is also responsible for all the strange happenings that have prompted the exorcism. As part of the exorcism, he reconnects and retunes a long-disused Sacred Window from when the house was itself a manteion. Before the conclusion of the ceremony the Window is visited by the Goddess Kypris.
She is a beautiful, dark-haired woman and it takes Silk time to identify her. She is not one of the Nine but rather a minor Goddess, of Love, lover of Pas. She twits Silk over his twenty-three years of abstinence and about how Hyacinth, who she possessed the previous night, liked him. She commands the obedient Silk to keep their conversation secret.
The exorcism complete, Silk returns to Sun Street, to find Auk waiting for him. On a wall is chalked the words ‘Silk for Caldé’. Auk wants to know what happened, to advise Silk on the nightside world he has gotten himself mixed up with, and to protect him: these wall-scrawlings could put him in danger.
Indeed, Doctor Crane is currently filing a report to unknown masters outside of Viron on such a subject, and the possibilities of a popular movement in Silk’s favour, based on the ‘miracles’ he is reputed to have wrought.
Silk is still in debate with himself about the comparative moralities of his various courses. In order that he may be taught to defend himself, Auk takes him to meet the elderly one-legged fencing teacher, Master Xiphias, who hops around energetically and speaks in short bursts of excited sentences.
Silk returns to the manteion, tired, his ankle hurting. For a moment, he waits outside, listening to a conversation. He feels himself divided between Patera Silk and nightside Silk, convinced that the latter despises the former. Little more than twenty-four hours have passed since his moment of enlightenment. One of the voices inside sounds familiar: it is his own. Needler in hand, Silk enters.

A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s clothing: The Solar Cycle resumed


Though The Urth of the New Sun had appeared as a single-volume sequel to The Book of the New Sun tetraology, the very completeness of the sweeping story appeared to preclude any further visits to that overwhelmingly distant future of decay and rebirth. So it was both a surprise and a delight too learn that Gene Wolfe was writing ‘another multi-volume series’ set in the same Universe.
As is always the case with Wolfe, beware of assumptions for they will invariably fail to materialise.
The Book of the Long Sun is massively different in all but one aspect, and that is that at its centre it has a Christ-like figure acting, though he doesn’t know it, to save his people and his world. And even then there are very few correspondences between Severian the Lame, and Patera Silk, whether he be what he is at the outset, a young augur at a run-down manteion in a poor part of a dying town or, what he becomes, the Caldé of Viron and the centre of a massive popular revolt. One saves by destroying everything, one saves by expelling his people outwards.
The biggest contrast between the New Sun and the Long Sun, apart from practically everything, is that the first was a first person narrative, by an unreliable narrator, and the second is a third person story, something that is comparatively rare in Wolfe’s work, yet in exactly the same way that Severian’s revelation of his own insight into his true nature at the end of ‘The Citadel of the Autarch’, there is a revelation at the end of ‘Exodus from the Long Sun’ that throws everything the reader has faithfully absorbed into doubt, when the writer of the Long Sun makes himself known.
Don’t mistake an authoritative impersonal narrative voice for authority.
Another major difference is that whereas the entirety of the New Sun is seen through the single, unaware viewpoint of Severian, in the Long Sun Wolfe sustains the viewpoints of dozens of characters, each with their own distinct modes of speech, whether it be a wholly invented and equally convincing Thieves Cant, the drawn out prolocution of a senior religious figure, the repeated emphasis on certain words of another such. Modes of speech, accents, voices, each clear and unmistakable.
It’s difficult, indeed almost impossible, to accept the Long Sun as taking place in the same Universe as the New Sun. There isn’t a moment in which the feel of either series corresponds to the other, in which the sense of what we are reading is in anyway comparable. But there is a link, detectable even in the opening volume, ‘Nightside the Long Sun’, that the perceptive reader can seize upon to draw the two into a single continuity, though I admit I had to have it pointed out to me.
Of the three series that go to make up ‘The Solar Cycle’ – which, let us remember, is a title put forward by Wolfe’s fans, not the lupine master himself – The Book of the Long Sun has always been the least to me. Previously, I promised to summarise as best as I could the four books of the tetraology as with the New Sun. It is trying to hold to that promise that has meant so long a delay in picking up this series of posts. The increasing profusion of characters, the increasing profusion of separate strands, the increasing variation from not only a single, coherent narrative but also a single, coherent narrative plot has not only made that promise untenable for me, but also made the re-reading of each volume a very tedious and unenjoyable process.
I’ve done just as I said, but the result is an unintelligible mess. What will follow will be shorter précis of each volume, and a longer analysis of the series as a whole at the end.
I was introduced to The Book of the Long Sun via a hardback copy of ‘Nightside the Long Sun’, bought in the last phase of my short-lived Book Club commitment. I bought the rest of the story in paperback, lovely themed covers of predominately yellow colouring reflecting the conditions of heat affecting the inhabitants of the Whorl. Completist that I am, I sold my hardback to buy the paperback.
The books came out one a year between 1991 and 1994 and, to the best of my knowledge, were the last of Gene Wolfe’s books to be published in Britain for many years: the only other Wolfe book I am aware of having a UK edition since was the 2009 retrospective, The Best of Gene Wolfe. Thankfully, Waterstones in Manchester had adopted a vigorous policy of importing American SF editions, which kept me going until the era of Amazon and eBay.

On with the show!