Gene Wolfe's Book of Days by Gene Wolfe

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Gene Wolfe's Book of Days Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Gene Wolfe’s Book of Days has, in general, had a favorable reception, though some critics consider the selection uneven and the linking apparatus sometimes overstretched. Nevertheless, these stories, published individually in science-fiction and fantasy magazines and anthologies between 1968 and 1981, represent Gene Wolfe’s emergence as a major writer of science fiction. For the most part, they predate his most famous work, the Book of the New Sun sequence (1980-1987). Stylistically very different from that work, which critics have called science fantasy—a blend of futuristic elements with fantastic ones—the stories in this collection mirror some of the tetralogys hybrid elements.

A number of these stories are clearly categorizable as science fiction. “Beautyland,” for example, is set on a near-future Earth and features robots and ecological devastation. Others, such as “Forlesen,” “The Adopted Father,” “Paul’s Treehouse,” and “The Blue Mouse,” show less clearly the apparatus common to science fiction but do arise from science fictions dystopian tradition. These stories show a world much like that of the present but with problems taken to their logical and devastating conclusions—massive overpopulation, military takeover, and dislocation of the family. These stories hold a mirror up to the reality of the world while providing some distance or perspective.

Other stories, however, are not science fiction at all. “St. Brandon,” for example, borrows a story from Celtic mythology, and “Car Sinister,” “The Changeling,” and “Many Mansions” derive more from the fantasy/horror genre popularized by such writers as Thomas Tryon and Stephen King. Other stories, such as “La Befana,” “Against the Lafayette Escadrille,” and “How I Lost the Second World War . . .” blend elements of fantasy with the “what if?”...

(The entire section is 434 words.)