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|Sword of the Lictor
by Gene Wolfe
Published by Timescape, 1981
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Highly Recommended by: Elliot Hanowski
This is the third volume of The Book of the New Sun. When we meet him again, Severian has taken up his post as lictor (executioner, torturer and prison warden) of the city of Thrax. It is not a position he occupies long, though, for a crisis of conscience causes him to disobey the local archon. He flees into the wild, a hunted outlaw.
This book shows us more of Wolfe's glorious and eccentric future landscape. The mountains through which Severian travels were long ago carved into monumental statues depicting forgotten emperors. In the valleys he encounters the animalistic zoanthrops, people who have renounced their humanity. On Lake Diuturna he sees the traveling islands and the free fisherfolk who dwell on them.
While there are sections in which our narrator, wandering alone, muses eloquently on questions philosophical and theological, Wolfe still provides plenty of action. Severian's twilight encounter with the alzabo, a creature which speaks with the voices of its victims, remains one of the most tense scenes I've ever read. Equally exciting are his confrontations with a fiery assassin, a cabal of jungle sorcerors, and the demonic ruler Typhon.
It is in this third volume that Wolfe begins to supply answers to some of his riddles. We learn who is behind the attacks on Severian, and where Dorcas came from. We again meet Dr. Talos and the giant Baldanders, but see them in a very different light. We learn why the Claw is so named. And we are permitted a glance beneath the double masks of the alien cacogens.
A number of these insights and encounters combine to indicate that something profound is going on beneath the adventures, something of great import for Urth and her peoples. While only reaching fulfillment in the four and fifth volumes, it is becoming apparent that Severian's story is actually one of salvation history. (August, 2006)
This four book series, Shadow of the Torturer, Claw of the Conciliator, Sword of the Lictor, and Citadel of the Autarch are extremely complex but delightful renderings of a world so far in the future that it is hard to recognize as our own. Yet Severian, the torturer who shows mercy, becomes a strange Everyman, who shows us decency and wonder in a strange, but absorbing place. Christians will not find an obvious tract here: this is a dense literary journey, but it will bless you. Diane Joy Baker
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