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From: "Mitchell A. Bailey" <MAB@lindau.net>
Subject: (urth) Intro to Wolfe, my viewpoint
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1999 20:35:29 

As you probably can tell, I'm not a literature scholar. I'll have to
paraphrase Sev's line on this subject: if I sometimes manage to seem a
peer of the esteemed contributors to this list, or at least one whose
company does not shame them (perplexes? annoys?) it is to a significant
extent due to that erudition to which I've been exposed here. 

As a chemical engineering major, I tended to shuffle my way through
literature courses in college. I did read the more 'conventional' sort
of sf such as Niven. Probably the first Wolfe I ever read were the short
stories "Continuing Westward" and "War Beneath the Tree", not very
distinctive or inspiring. Non-SF fantasy such as Tolkien and Stephen R.
Donaldson's Thomas Covenant cycle were also favorites. My late brother
and I would pass these back and forth and remark on them.

Then one fateful summer break, my brother unearthed a copy of 5HC from a
surplus paperbacks bin at my father's college bookstore, in preparation
for a family trip to the coast near Charleston, SC. Finding myself on
the porch of the cottage with little to do, I picked up that copy of 5HC
and started reading it. It didn't hurt that Charleston and the
surrounding countryside have a fair resemblance to some of the places
described in 5HC anyway (Chas. even has a Citadel!<g>). I was hooked!

Being used to the likes of Larry Niven, I kept looking for the abo
mystery to get cleared up somewhere. I kept wondering when Victor was
going to get released, or what the deal was with all the cloning. In the
hands of, say Niven, we would not only know if there were any abos and
where they went, but Louis Wu or Gil Hamilton would have discovered that
the Pierson's puppeteers or the Pak protectors were behind it all. 

Gradually, as the sun set over the meadowmeres of the Carolina coast I
came to understand that this thing had dimensions I was hardly equipped
to perceive beneath its superficially goes-nowhere triple plotlines.

Of course when _Shadow_ started appearing in paperback a couple of years
later I snapped it up greedily, mining its multiple layers.

So I say don't be bashful; let your friends take the plunge with 5HC.
Either they are thoughtful enough to appreciate it (notice I don't say
solve it or understand it), or else not. Maybe the "Doc-Death-Island" or
"Dead Man" stories might be a decent intro, just to get them accustomed
to Wolfe's distinctive style. After that, they can tackle BNS and UNS
and the Soldier series.

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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