Gene (Rodman) Wolfe Paul Granahan - Essay

Paul Granahan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Sword of the Lictor is the penultimate book in that striking science fantasy [tetralogy, "The Book of the New Sun"], and continues the adventures and revelations of its protagonist, Severian of the Order of Torturers. Sentenced to demean himself as a jailmaster and executioner in a backwater town for the crime of showing mercy to a "client" whom he had loved, Severian is our focus for discovering the mystery and richness of the "Urth" of a million years hence. Beyond this, he himself plays a pivotal role in a world swiftly approaching a little understood Eschaton. For Severian is the wielder of the archetypal jewel, the Claw of the Conciliator, the full significance of which is yet to be revealed….

I found this novel a bit of a letdown from the previous entries in the series. Less controlled than the others, it didn't seem to possess quite their texture, but it is still head and shoulders above most current writing. I'm confident that Gene Wolfe—perhaps the most talented author writing in the SF field today (and one who deserves recognition far beyond it)—will not disappoint us in the upcoming conclusion to one of the most innovative works of speculative fiction ever conceived.

Paul Granahan, "Science Fiction: 'The Sword of the Lictor'," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1982 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 42, No. 1, April, 1982, p. 14.