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Literature / Book of the Short Sun

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Though trodden beneath the shepherd's heel,
the wild hyacinth blooms on the ground.

The sequel series to to Gene Wolfe's epic Book of the Long Sun and concluding segment of the "Solar Cycle". After having left the Long Sun Whorl, the former inhabitants of the city-state Viron have colonized an archipelago of the water planet, Blue. After having lived away from Whorl for twenty years, Horn, who runs a paper mill with his wife, Nettle, is tasked by his town's leaders to find the now-legendary Patera Silk.

Once the narrator embarks on this quest, his identity gradually becomes more and more ambiguous. He recounts his travels on the seas of the planet Blue, to the forested ruins of the Vanished People on Green, to the Whorl, the generation starship that he used to call home, and the voyage back to his wife and family in New Viron.

Books in the series include (in order) On Blue's Waters, In Green's Jungles, and Return to the Whorl.

Being the sequel series to the Book of the Long Sun and Book of the New Sun, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware!

This series provides examples of:

  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The climactic battle with the inhumi occurs during the wedding of Hide and Vadsig in the New Viron manteion.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The "elephants" of Planet Blue apparently have two trunks.
  • Crapsack World: Wijzer really wants to forget about ever visiting the Red Sun Whorl.
  • Depending on the Writer: In story. The way things are changes slightly depending on who is writing the narrative.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Krait dies in Horn's arms, and Jahlee dies in Nettle's.
  • Do Inhumi Dream?: One of the driving questions of the novel. Not only for the inhumi, but also for Babbie (the hus), Oreb (a nightchough) and Maytera Marble (a chem)
  • Genre-Busting: Which is why it is known under the moniker of "speculative fiction". Part science-fiction, part fantasy, part memoir, part metaphysical tract, part family drama... all Gene Wolfe.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Everybody except the narrator knows where Silk is.
  • Meaningful Name: Every single name given has some king of double-meaning or pun- even characters whose names are only mentioned once.
  • Reluctant Ruler: The narrator starts the book out telling us he is being held against his will while simultaneously acting as a Solomon figure for his captors.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Taken to the nth degree. The narrator is oblivious to the fact that he is who everyone around him thinks and tells him he is (not a spoiler, this is chapter 1). The author has had to take great care to reveal its extent bit by bit to preserve the reader's suspension of disbelief; and does this so well that it engenders Selective Obliviousness in the reader, who starts to go along with the pretence that Silk is really Horn. It doesn't matter to us that the narrator mentions Horn being fatally wounded earlier on another planet, he says he is Horn so he jolly well must be Horn.
  • Spiritual Successor: It's a lot like The Odyssey... but in a speculative fiction setting
  • Talking Animal: Oreb, though he only speaks two syllables per phrase.
  • The Trickster: The inhumi are arguably a race of tricksters.

Alternative Title(s): The Book Of The Short Sun