by Gene Wolfe (1980)
The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories and Other Stories has me torn. Some stories rank among my favorite sci if, while others took me days and days to slog through and left me more confused than satisfied. Author Gene Wolfe is a science fiction writer’s science fiction writer. If you begin to research who inspired your favorite writers, his name is likely to pop up eventually.
Jim just recommended his most admired work, The Book of the New Sun, but I decided to start easier, with this short story collection considering how dense science fiction might get from the mind an engineer and a devoted Catholic. Often times, I felt a bit lost and even ended up skipping over the latter half of The Eyeflash Miracles.
But in a complete opposite reaction, I swooned over the title story (The Island of Dr Death and Other Stories) which displays an incredible combination of moods and genres. The brief tale of a pre teen, angsty boy trying to comprehend the complexities of the adults around him while burying himself in stories of adventure is unlike anything I’ve ever read and it’s tone is haunting.
Another favorite is the last one in the book, Seven American Nights, which shows a future that would be even more terrifying to many today in our post 9/11 sensitivity to our role as a world power. America, once a great country is now fallen, below third world, and the citizens are deformed. The new world is viewed through the eyes of a middle easterner who is daring enough to leave his wealthy, scientifically advanced and comfortable country to brave the ruins of Washington D.C.
I also loved the super short La Befana which imagines that pain-in-the-ass mothers-in-law will still exist even as we find new planets to colonize and aliens to befriend. I also liked Hour of Trust, Tracking Song, and Three Fingers. I’ve never been so divided by one book and I think every reader will find themselves more drawn to some stories over others, but everyone will find something interesting.