Review of Peace by Gene Wolfe

ISBN 0312890338 (ISBN13: 9780312890339)

I never expected so much depth. While it is barely Science Fiction, it is most certainly literature of the highest caliber.

Like Faulkner, Wolfe constantly cripples the reader’s understanding with his obscure perspectives and elegant suggestion. Chronology and irony are never explicit, and characters are always hiding pieces of their personalities. In a way entirely unique to his oeuvre, Wolfe invents layers beneath the surface narratives – stories surrounding an enigmatic core, like onion-skin.

After finishing Fifth Head of Cerberus, I was already convinced that he had deliberately designed a multi-dimensional masterpiece. Possibly even more thoroughly with Peace, he manages to make good on his techniques, and to deepen the modus operandi. We are forced to dig to uncover the rippling insinuations of his world.

A second or third reading will likely reveal more puzzles and subtexts to the seemingly innocuous, and tenuously connected stories of fragmented memories, contradictory doctor visits, Midwestern town life, the nearly Victorian tale of a porcelain egg, an homage to the Arabian Nights and the undercurrent of human deception cutting through it all.

Structured like a memoir, Wolfe’s style is never forced, and is always confidently stringing the reader along, no matter how thoroughly razzled your flailing body becomes. It is nonetheless a fascinating joyride, an imaginative dream, half-remembered but sprinkled with divine joy and profound sadness. Witness his use of playful fairy tale, and his staggering ability to engross and entertain you. His voices will haunt you, like the ghosts and banshees in his books, because of the uncanny magic of ‘what they know.’ Wolfe excels at dangling the forbidden fruit of knowledge before the reader. All you are allowed is a taste, but it is enough to realize the breadth of mystery inherent in any imperfect being’s conception of the universe.