The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction

Overview

From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.

There are many award winners and many that have been selected for various Year’s Best anthologies among the thirty-one stories, which include: “Petting Zoo,” “The Tree Is My Hat,” ...

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The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction

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Overview

From a literary perspective, this will certainly be the best collection of the year in science fiction and fantasy. Gene Wolfe, of whom The Washington Post said, “Of all SF writers currently active none is held in higher esteem,” has selected the short fiction he considers his finest into one volume.

There are many award winners and many that have been selected for various Year’s Best anthologies among the thirty-one stories, which include: “Petting Zoo,” “The Tree Is My Hat,” “The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories,” “The Hero as Werewolf,” “Seven American Nights,” “The Fifth Head of Cerberus,” “The Detective of Dreams,” and “A Cabin on the Coast.” Gene Wolfe has produced possibly the finest and most significant body of short fiction in the SF and fantasy field in the last fifty years, and is certainly among the greatest living writers to emerge from the genres. This is the first retrospective collection of his entire career.

It is for the ages.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In these 31 self-selected stories, Wolfe (An Evil Guest) mixes pulp adventure, ghost stories and noir with self-reference, meta-fiction, unreliable narrators and puns. His protagonists faces threats both modern (political correctness in "Petting Zoo," corporate capitalism in "Hour of Trust") and eternal (sexual temptation in "Bed and Breakfast") and learn to trust fantasy over fact ("The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories," "And When They Appear"). Sincere tributes to the Gospels ("The Detective of Dreams"), G.K. Chesterton ("Westwind") and R.A. Lafferty ("Has Anyone Seen Junie Moon?") bring out Wolfe's sentimental side, though he proves equally capable of satirizing American self-righteousness ("Seven American Nights") or affectionately teasing his contemporaries ("From the Desk of Gilmer C. Merton"). The result is a highly flattering career retrospective of a postmodern fabulist disguised as a mild-mannered SF writer. (Mar.)

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Kirkus Reviews
A major retrospective from this writer's writer, comprising 31 tales, 1970-1999, ranging from a few pages to novella length, selected by the author (with one exception, included at his agents' behest) and arranged chronologically. In nonliterary circles, former engineer and Illinois resident Wolfe achieved acclaim by contributing to the invention of the machine that makes Pringles chips. We're thankful for the chips, but the fiction that followed is even better. Many of the stories here are famous and have appeared many times, among them a story cycle that begins with the H.G. Wells-ish "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories," continues with the Nebula Award-winning "The Death of Dr. Island" (murder as psychotherapy) and finishes with "Death of the Island Doctor" (a sentimental mediation on islands). Also instantly recognizable are "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" (cloning), "Bed and Breakfast" (on the road to hell) and "A Cabin on the Coast" (dickering with the fairies-the sole entry not selected by the author). Elsewhere, Wolfe shows remarkable prescience, envisioning a future United States where businesses compete by conducting wars via private armies, and another decadent future that astonishes and appalls a bewildered visitor from Iran. Others display typical Wolfian twists and sidebars: a Dark Age hot-air balloon, an author-agent correspondence, a review of a nonexistent film, puppetry, werewolves, witches, spies, a chess-playing computer, alternate worlds where fantasy becomes indistinguishable from reality, dreams and barbarians at the gate. Wolfe's prose is dense and allusive; he frequently employs unreliable narrators, often leaves readers with the impression that he knowsthings they don't, he interweaves many pieces with a persistent and occasionally obtrusive religiosity. An ideal introduction to Wolfe's short fiction.
From the Publisher
Praise for Gene Wolfe:

"If any writer from within genre fiction ever merited the designation Great Author, it is surely Wolfe…[who] reads like Dickens, Proust, Kipling, Chesterton, Borges, and Nabokov rolled into one.”

—The Washington Post Book World

“One of the literary giants of science fiction.”

—The Denver Post

“Gene Wolfe is as good a writer as there is today…. I feel a little bit like a musical contemporary attempting to tell people what’s good about Mozart.”

—The Chicago Sun Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765321367
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,155,146
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Gene Wolfe is winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and many other awards. In 2007, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He lives in Barrington, Illinois.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great anthology

    This superb anthology lets the 31 tales sell the talent of the author to science fiction and fantasy readers; as the compilation jumps right into the stories. There are 14 from the 1970s; 11 from the 1980s; and 6 from the 1990s. Many are award winners and have appeared in the best of the year anthologies like "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" and ¿Petting Zoo¿. This reviewer¿s favorite in this superb collection is the related threesome: "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories", "The Death of Dr. Island" and "Death of the Island Doctor"; my suggestion is skip around and read these three one after another. Fans will appreciate how wide Mr. Wolfe¿s vision of a dark future is whether he writes a fantasy (see "A Cabin on the Coast") or a science fiction tale (see "The Fifth Head of Cerberus"); the road to hell can be ¿On the Train¿ or in a ¿Bed and Breakfast¿. Regardless, the audience will quickly find out you can¿t just read one (a night).<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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