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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (whorl) OBW: Horn and Silk
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 14:45:06 

I just finished reading OBW and haven't started IGJ yet, but I couldn't
resist reading through the archive discussions of the first book and
posting a few responses.  I'd appreciate if responses avoided spoilers for
IGJ.  If applicable, you could just say, "IGJ contradicts your theory."

I think this is the best book Wolfe has written.  There are too many
wonderful things to ennumerate:  the very moving story of what Marble has
sacrificed to care for Mucor, the scene in the pit and Horn's ongoing
relationship with Krait, Horn's obtuse but believable relationship with
Sinew (especially the bit about how he couldn't follow his desire to be a
coward in front of him on the lander)...

There are a lot of intriguing/satisfying/powerful allusions to the earlier
books, and I really wouldn't recommend anyone read this without reading
the Long Sun, but I was amazed at how satisfying this book is on its own.  
There is much left unanswered and more to Horn's story, but we do have
Horn making a pact with the Neighbors, arriving at Pajaracu, flying away
on the lander, liberating it from the inhumi with Sinew, being reconciled
with Krait as he dies fighting to save Horn, saving Gaon, and escaping to
rejoin his family.  That's a lot more than we could say at the end of
Shadow or Nightside.

I had seen bits of discussion on the list about Horn being in Silk's body,
or subsuming some part of Silk into himself before reading the book, but
even with that possiblity in my head as I read, I didn't think that was

I'll start at the end.  Horn says he's not ashamed of what he's
accomplished:  "I have snatched the ball and won the game."  What a
wonderful line.  Some have seen this as Silk's personality speaking,
referring literally to the game Silk won.  But surely Horn is speaking
metaphorically, using an image from the event he remembers well, the game
where Silk was enlightened and with which Horn began the Book of Silk.

And what meaning did Silk's action have for Horn?  Horn said to Silk at
the time, "You were their best player.  It wouldn't have been fair to them
if you hadn't played your best."  Silk used his power and strength to help
the weak.  Which is exactly what Horn did, using his power over the inhumi
(and his wise leadership in general) to save Gaon from Han.  Horn may be
referring to some other action as well, but regardless, I take him as
meaning he has, at least in some things, done as Silk would do.  Which
makes the line such a beautiful summary of how Horn has, throughout the
book, sought to be a faithful disciple of Silk.  

There's no evidence that Silk would even remember the game, preoccupied as
he was by his enlightenment (note his lame response when the boys ask him
what was the lesson in it).  Seeing the reference as the personality of
Silk himself literally remembering that game makes the line a trivial non

As for inhabiting Silk's body, the ankle and Oreb are pretty strong
arguments in favor (and the hair, but that's doesn't necessarily point to
Silk's body), but the height issue argues very strongly against.  Silk
notes that he and Horn are almost the same height right in that opening
section of Nightside that has so much other rich foreshadowing.  I can't
believe Wolfe would have missed that.

In addition, if Horn has a new body, it seems very odd to me that he never
once worries about his family not recognizing him.  You'd think at least
once when he's addressing Nettle, he'd say something about it, or that
he'd mope, "Even if I do manage to return, I will not be recognized." It
is very Wolfean for a narrator to not mention the obvious, but I think it
would make even less sense than usual in this case.

I'll be reading IGJ soon, so I'll be able to catch up with the rest of the
discussion.  I'll be happy if it's half as good as OBW!


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