An Evil Guest


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An evil guest

For example, Woldercan's humanoid species can and do interbreed with "lower" forms of life, and strange hybrids result—here there is a strong echo of the parasitic Inhumi of the Short Sun books; there are echoes later of the vanished Neighbors of that series as well. An Evil Guest continues Wolfe's trend of paring back the descriptive passages of his work almost to nothing and making dialogue the engine that drives his narrative. It's like reading the script of a play, appropriately enough in this case. Then, quietly, simply, with careful precision wedded to a mystical vision, he pulls back the veil of the mundane.

This mystical quality is the soul of all Wolfe's work, regardless of what body a particular work happens to wear, just as Wolfe only happens to wear the body of a speculative fiction writer. Cassie short for Cassiopeia, a name not chosen lightly Casey, an actress with a spark of greatness that too seldom flares to life, becomes the linchpin of a mystery involving a cat-and-mouse game between two powerful men.

One is the eerie and romantic Dr. Gideon Chase of Miskatonic University, chair of the Department of Modern Gramarye, a Shadow-like figure who was born on Woldercan but now resides on Earth, where he sells his deductive and psychic talents to the highest bidder; the other is Bill Reis, a man of many aliases who formerly served as an ambassador to Woldercan but now is back on Earth, where he uses various techniques learned on the alien world to manage a vast financial empire encompassing both legal and criminal enterprises. The president of the United States hires Chase to expose Reis as a traitor and spy, and Chase turns to Casey, using his powers to kindle the spark of greatness in her to an almost divine effulgence.

How he does this, exactly, is not clear, but what is clear is that Chase has bootstrapped her up to a higher level of being, a level which was potential in her but needed help to become actual similarly, people can go down, descending to lower levels of being, though assistance is seldom necessary there, as it's easier to go down than it is to go up.

These ascents and descents are both physical and spiritual in nature. All of this is very reminiscent of the elaborate existential hierarchy Wolfe set out in The Wizard Knight. Cassie's new star quality attracts the attention of Reis, who, under a different name, bankrolls her in a musical entitled Bride of the Volcano God.

A backer of a theatrical show is traditionally called an angel, but if Reis is an angel, he appears to be very much of the fallen kind, at least initially. But appearances in Wolfe's fiction are almost always deceiving. Typically, when I read one of his books, there is a moment when I realize what's really going on -- A is really B, the bad guy is the good guy, there is a time loop so the end of the action is really the beginning, probably all of them at once.

Then when I finish reading I go on the internet and pick up the pieces I missed.


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With this book, I never got the aha moment. I was tucking away all the seeming non-sequiturs and then when I got to the end Gene Wolfe is famous for his unreliable narrators. I was tucking away all the seeming non-sequiturs and then when I got to the end it still didn't make any sense. OK, I thought, I was a dummy this time. I went on the internet to see what was really going on.

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Nope, it seems like no one knows. There are some theories, but none of them provoked the aha moment I've enjoyed with his other fiction. For Wolfe, it's light and breezy. If you read it as a straight piece of fiction, as if someone other than Wolfe wrote it, it's got a lot of non-sequiturs, unexplained plot twists, and events that seem important but go nowhere which would weaken the book considerably.

Knowing it's Wolfe, I suspect there is some underlying secret that would clear up all the discrepancies but he hid them too deeply this time. In particular, the main character is supposed to be in love with the person originally set up as the bad guy, but I don't see it at all.

At the beginning, she's supposed to be leading him on so he can be caught, but along the way she is supposed to doubt that he's really all that bad and then fall in love with him for real. Is that really what happened? I dunno. The emotional resonance was simply not there. I didn't believe she fell in love with this character who terrified her at the beginning. At one point she gives essentially the Marilyn Monroe line that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man, and that's that. But her actions after that imply that Wolfe did intend for her to genuinely be in love with this man.

The emotional core of the book is missing without understanding that. There is a hint in her name -- Wolfe makes a big deal out of her name being Cassiopeia instead of Cassandra. Cassiopeia was a queen who insulted the gods with her vanity. So I'm thinking she is motivated by vanity instead of love. However, if I know this from putting together puzzle pieces instead of from the emotional core of the book, it falls flat for me.

And it doesn't explain the other missing pieces. Most importantly, there is a kidnapping that feels like it should be important but then disappears, and a mysterious death at the beginning that also disappears. In typical Wolfe, things that disappear don't really disappear, it's just that the resolution was so subtle you might miss it. So I'm willing to believe that's the case with this book, but I haven't encountered any readers smart enough to pick it up yet.

Maybe I'll wake up at 2AM some night understanding what Wolfe was trying to do, but since it seems like no one got it, I doubt it. I expect this to remain a puzzling and frustrating read. Jun 05, Connor rated it it was ok. Worst Wolfe I've read yet. Not nearly as composed or interesting as his other work. May 29, Perry Whitford rated it liked it. Cassie Casey is an undistinguished actress with "latent" star quality. Gideon Chase is a philosopher, wizard and high stakes trouble-shooter who casts a glamour on Cassie and hires her to entrap a mysterious and seemingly dangerous businessman.

Bill Reis is said businessman, a one time ambassador to the planet Woldercan, who has learnt some interesting physical tricks of his own as a result of the advanced biology on that world. This trio of characters inhabit a future America which is also li Cassie Casey is an undistinguished actress with "latent" star quality. This trio of characters inhabit a future America which is also like a past America, shooting up into space in "hoppers" while conducting conversations in snappy, s style dialogue. Much of this involves ordering a multitude of sandwiches with extremely specific ingredients, e.

Mayonnaise in a cup on the side. And there is plenty more besides. And all of it ultimately adds up to I'm not entirely sure? Appearances are always deceptive in a Wolfe novel and this was no different. Much of the interest in this story came from Cassie's changing affections for the two main men as she understands more about them and their role in the obscure, high-stakes battle being acted out.

Onomastics are important with Wolfe too, so I looked up the meanings of the names Gideon "destroyer" or "feller of trees" and William Reis which could be translated as "protective king" and it certainly helped to know those meanings, but they don't necessarily point to where you would expect. There is also plenty of shape-changing going on, with characters transforming "up" and "down" in both form and, I suspect, in spiritual function. This was another key, possibly to the storey's central lock, but I couldn't open it after one reading. Wolfe is always tricky, he never "leave s a clue more than once" to quote his own words; and much which can only inferred at best.

There is always a deeper plot hidden beneath the surface story. Yet upon first reading of An Evil Guest , I can only imagine that he either surpassed himself this time out, or that he simply lost his way during his latest genre-bending exercise. I don't mean to say that it was a total digression, it wasn't; it's just that so much happened in such a hurry, so many new and crucial characters were introduced and killed or discarded, that it seemed like willfully obtuse plotting to me. Another gripe, which I think only a voracious reader of Wolfe like me could have, is the manor in which his characters constantly quiz each other throughout.

This often reveals important plot points or gives us our only look at events that happen off stage, which I have no problem with as a device. But why does Wolfe never grow tired of variations on "May I just ask you a question? In fact, may I ask two? That's not a literal quote, but any avid reader of latter-day Wolfe will recognise dialogue like that, it's almost endemic. Uncertainties and quibbles aside, there was still a lot to admire here. The story was a rollicking one for the most part, while few can write as silkily as Gene Wolfe, so there is always a pleasure to be had through the reading alone.

I can only bring myself to give it three stars, however. I will certainly read it again, and if the last pages sit more comfortably with the first second time around I will be back to edit this review, no doubt with a more favourable rating. I finally got around to a reread during the Xmas of Unsurprisingly I did indeed pickup on a lot more of what Wolfe was about this time, and the abrupt shift in scene and pace near the end was a lot less jarring. That said, An Evil Guest remains one of my least favourite novels by the maestro.

The dialogue still irritated me in places, alongside all the nodding, smiling, and grinning the characters did. Nov 16, J. I discovered Gene Wolfe more than twenty-five years ago, when I first read Book of the New Sun , and have been following him ever since. He has been hailed as a modern day Melville, at ease in both the novel and short story genres. His last novel, Pirate Freedom , on the heels of The Wizard Knight , was for me a return to form, and so I looked forward to reading An Evil Guest no, it is not my biography. Set in the latter half of the twenty-first century, An Evil Guest is also flavored with a Chandleresque taste of the mid-twentieth century, although, unfortunately, Wolfe lacks the wit and sense of comedic timing to carry it off.

The story is dense, which may leave many readers feeling excluded, even as Wolfe often resorts to dialogue to drive the story; at times the narrative is so sparse the story reads like a stage play. As in Pandora by Holly Hollander , Wolfe again tries his hand at cross-gender writing, and again he falls short. And every man who sees you will foam at the mouth. Conrad Guest for The Smoking Poet Feb 11, Sade rated it it was ok. Given the number of big-name blurbs at the front of this book, I have to say I was really disappointed by An Evil Guest. So much so that I seriously considered simply not finishing it, and that's speaking as someone who hate-read their way through both Emperor Mollusk and the truly execrable Sugar-Frosted Nutsack.

The Evil Guest is described as a pulp thriller for the twenty-first century. So much of the book is a throwback that we get very little feeling for the future; Wolfe's economic sense, for instance, is so far off that the characters refer to sums of money that would be moderately appropriate today, then expects us to believe this is a hundred years in the future.

Indeed, aside from some poorly explained hyper-space method of travel and reference to an archly-named planet populated by humanoid aliens, we have no sense at all of the futuristic world our characters supposedly inhabit. And oh, the characters. Not a one is deeper than the page they're printed on. Not only are there a good many of them, but new ones get introduced all the time; with old ones cast off and mostly forgotten. There's a cast list in back encountered only after you no longer need it , where every minor role is given a name and description equal to the weight of every one else.

We know we have a heroine, the annoyingly named Cassie Casey. Do we have a hero? Are there two? Possibly just one - or is it the other! Who knows? Don't expect to tell them apart, except by initials both appear under more than one name that 'cleverly' tip you which is which.

Don't expect to be able to keep track of the endless conversations, either. Many go on for well over a page without ever attributing who's speaking, so that you have to count back lines if little details like that matter to you. You certainly won't figure it out by the way they talk, because every character in this pot-boiler has the same damn voice. As for the plot, well, don't count on keeping track of that, either.

First we're chasing bad guys, then some never-explained offstage bit of magic turns the heroine into a star overnight and none of her friends or coworkers seem to particularly notice the change. Eventually we wind up on a remote desert island where the islanders speak a condescending pidgin or else some sort of cockney slang; there's assassins, unexplained bat aliens, werewolves, and oh, why the hell not, Elder Gods. Yes really. And all of this squeezed into a paperback that barely tops three hundred pages.

If you don't mind reading something that chugs along like a s serial, discarding plot twists the minute new ones get made up and never really explaining anything, then by all means take this to the beach, on an airplane or on the subway with you. Because should you happen to leave it accidentally behind any one of those places, you really won't be missing anything at all. While this book isn't worthless by any means, I felt when I was reading it as if an essential part of it was missing. It took me a while before I was able to hit on quite what that was, and I'm still not sure I'm entirely right, but my best guess at this point is that character development is completely left out.

The main character, Cassie Casey, is an actress who becomes enmeshed in a complex plot involving government black ops, a billionaire with a shady reputation and strangely easy access to While this book isn't worthless by any means, I felt when I was reading it as if an essential part of it was missing. The main character, Cassie Casey, is an actress who becomes enmeshed in a complex plot involving government black ops, a billionaire with a shady reputation and strangely easy access to gold, a university professor with seemingly mystical powers, and strange networks of spies and assassins.

The book generally gives us Cassie as a viewpoint character, but even as we're watching her every move, her motivations remain completely opaque. She goes from seemingly loving the mysterious professor to loving the man the professor is attempting to kill, and we're never given a basis for understanding which of these loves, if either one, is really true. The motivations that fuel the other characters are clearer, but more in a sense that we're told what motivates them, rather than being shown those things.

Again, it never really rings true. It's almost like a novel written by an autistic person, in which the feelings and emotions that typically drive people are left out of the book because the author doesn't understand such things. The plot seems like it could be pretty entertaining if I understood and cared about the characters, and there are some neat elements of setting--the idea of a near-future sci-fi tale that mixes in Lovecraftian elements remains appealing to me, and I will admit that the book delivered in a big way on these elements, which is probably why I gave it 2 stars instead of 1.

Ultimately, I found this book unengaging. As an intellectual exercise on the part of the author, it may have been useful, but there's not much of anything here that's actually worth reading. Nov 23, Molly rated it liked it Shelves: science-fiction , read-or-reread-in I revere Gene Wolfe, but like many others I have to pan this book. Gene Wolfe often gives us a very passive hero to whom things just "happen". We also often get strange pointless dialog, out of context things said, and incredibly illogical behavior.

Unfortunately when he set this book in times he wanted to seem somewhat modern, and coupled it with a backdrop of a noir spy mystery, his usual tactics of character and plot development are out of place. A ditzy actress who blathers inanities almost c I revere Gene Wolfe, but like many others I have to pan this book. A ditzy actress who blathers inanities almost constantly suddenly finds herself the main focus of a gambit to capture a wealthy, genius billionaire.

She is used as this gambit by another wealthy sophisticated genius. And we are supposed to believe that simply because she has charisma and is pretty, these two geniuses fall all over themselves aeound her. Stranger things have happened, but seldom without there being several around the men thinking they are complete idiots. Unfortunately if Gene Wolfe thinks everyone is acting like an idiot, he failed to clue me in. This book kinda stumbles along with no plot or intent, and then ends.

Gene Wolfe likes protagonists who seem to wander purposelessly, then somehow become a Queen, King or Emperor. But usually along that journey such magnificent things happen that the insanity and illogical happenings look like they belong in the story.


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Here we get a few vague references to werewolves and giant talking bats and that is about all we get, other than an oversized angry cuttlefish we never see. Jul 02, Sarah B. First of all, I love the other Wolfe novels l have read, and I consider myself a fan. With this novel, though, I was disappointed. I see what Wolfe was going for in this one -- sort of a retro-future noir-sci-fi mash-up.

And for the most part, I was there with it and interested. But in the end the novel didn't work for me, mostly because the dialogue wasn't quite right. I think Wolfe was trying to achieve a His Girl Friday retro feel, but to me it felt over-wordy, chatty, and distracting from th First of all, I love the other Wolfe novels l have read, and I consider myself a fan. I think Wolfe was trying to achieve a His Girl Friday retro feel, but to me it felt over-wordy, chatty, and distracting from the plot. The plot, however, was fantastic. I wished we could have skipped all the Cassie stuff in the first three quarters of the book and just focused on the ending.

It was so good that if I picked up this book with no expectations whatsoever, I probably would have been blown away by the ending. Is it just me or did Cassie finally shut up when stuff started happening? There is a very good novella buried inside this book! Disappointingly, the book ends with Cassie starting a whole new adventure.

Does that mean there will be a sequel? I hope not, because I will feel compelled to read it to find out what happens, and I didn't like this book enough to revisit it. I take it back, I would read a sequel. I love Gene Wolfe! Jul 30, Nigel rated it did not like it Shelves: fiction.

The Evil Guest

A funny thing happened yesterday. I decided to stop reading a Gene Wolfe novel. Yup, I decided An Evil Guest just wasn't worth my time. I love Wolfe. Soldier of Sidon and The Wizard Knight were amongst my favurite reads last year, but this? It's set in the future but drenched in the past, and so triangulates on the present. Consequently, stuff that passes fine in his science fiction and fantasy becomes unbearably grating, specifically his patented 'dialogue as spoken by no living person, e A funny thing happened yesterday. Consequently, stuff that passes fine in his science fiction and fantasy becomes unbearably grating, specifically his patented 'dialogue as spoken by no living person, ever, not even bad old pulp stories.

People telling each other exactly how many points they're about to make. Vacuous female characters. It all feels like a subtle joke, and I suspect this book is supposed to be humourous, not necessarily on the reader, but it just doesn't seem terribly funny, and if there's all this stuff going on in the background or hidden, then why does the stuff up front have to be so boring and stodgy? Never a badly written sentence, mind you. Maybe I'll pick it up again later in the year and it'll be better. Jan 27, Adam Burton rated it did not like it.

Well, I was not encouraged by my friend Athena's review of the first 75 pages of this book, but as I was the one who requested that the damned thing be purchased for the library, I felt I should at least give it a try. As it was purported to be Lovecraftian, I went in really, really wanting to like it.

I even finished the thing, despite my dislike for it. This is not a trick question.

I have heard it more than once. Indeed, I have heard it a disturbing number of times. I have heard it often enough that my head is once again in danger of exploding from yet another assault on our. Glorious English Language.

Not-a-review of An Evil Guest, by Gene Wolfe | the Little Red Reviewer

I have only heard it. But I might see it in print one day, and maybe even one day soon. Because language evolves, right? Fuck that noise. Massively incorrect. And, in my forever-never-humble opinion, it will never, ever, ever, EVER be correct. I bet you anything the Curmudgeon agrees with me on that. A dedicated animal welfare advocate, Heidi lives in Los Angeles with her musician husband and their rescued senior dogs.

She loves to read, hike, travel, and do a classic spit-take whenever something is really funny. Heidi is graduate of Wesleyan University. T he W eekly C urmudgeon.

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