Lake of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

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Lake of the Long Sun

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Volume Two of THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN follows the experiences of Patera Silk, a young augur trained to perform ritual sacrifices to the gods and goddesses of the Whorl. Unknown to him and most of the other inhabitants, the Whorl is an immense starship containing hundreds of cities that was launched three centuries earlier. The long sun refers to the artificial sun, a long, thin beam of light that stretches the length of the Whorl through its center. Both humans (known as bios) and robots (known as chems) inhabit the Whorl, working and serving together.

At the beginning of the novel, Patera Silk is disturbed by a previous vision sent by the Outsider, a god from beyond the Whorl. He is charged by this vision to save his manteion, a neighborhood religious center similar to a parish. Unable to raise the money necessary to buy his manteion back, Silk goes in pursuit of Dr. Crane, whom Silk believes to be a spy for a rival city, in hopes of extorting the funds he needs from the doctor.

Silk is a good man, and after a vision of a goddess appears in his “window,” he is revered by the populace and becomes a threat to Vironese politics. Armed with two futuristic weapons and hampered by a fractured ankle, Silk discovers secrets of the Whorl that the leaders of Viron do not want him to know and escape to tell. Despite what he learns, Silk does not lose his faith in the gods and the novel ends as he is proclaimed calde by a troop of soldiers. A third volume, CALDE OF THE LONG SUN, will continue the series.