Gene Wolfe
Peace Cover

A Difficult Book to Categorize...


Peace is a difficult book for me to categorize. Wolfe is mostly famous for writing science-fiction and fantasy but this book is really neither of those things. Well... perhaps it's a modern fantasy, of sorts... 'Pastoral Horror' is about the nearest term I can think of.

In Wolfe's first full-length novel we are told a series of stories, most of them frustratingly incomplete, by an aging first-person narrator. There are ghost stories, tragedies, treasure hunts, forged books, romantic entanglements, strange surroundings, even stranger events, meta-physics, a sort of time-travel... All in all, there are a lot of weird happenings. But none of them are stridently visceral. It's all delivered in a languidly matter-of-fact tone that soon imparts to the reader that there is much, much more to these stories than the person doing the telling is letting on.

Now, I love me some first-person story-telling because I always expect the narrator to be unreliable. And this one certainly is. Alden Dennis Weer is a strange old guy and the way he reminisces about people, places and events from his past (and present?) soon makes it abundantly clear that there is more here than meets the eye at first glance. And Peace is definitely that rare type of book that will reveal more of itself with each re-read. I almost want to start over from the beginning right away to see what I missed in the early going that might help clarify where we ended up. Which was where again? Ah yes. The ending, (if one can call it that). Frustratingly incomplete and yet... Oh well, there are too many other books clamoring for their fair share at the moment - but I will be tempted to re-read this one sooner rather than later while it's still relatively fresh. Anyway, I pretty much loved this book - even though I am grinding my teeth a bit at the swooshing sound I keep hearing above my head...

A footnote: Gene Wolfe has never been an easy read for me. He places a heavy demand on his audience. When you pick up one of his books, do not expect to be spoon-fed a plot. That doesn't mean there isn't a plot, only that there will be deeper meanings in his stories than you might at first realize. There are always layers of meaning and hidden events in Wolfe's narratives. This book is perhaps his most confounding that I have read to date - although Castleview is comparably dense with semi-whispered meanings.