I feel I was unprepared to read An Evil Guest in that Gene Wolfe is a new author to me and I had no idea I was supposed to fasten my seat belt before I got on this ride. The realization that I should have been paying closer attention from the get-go came partway through the novel, but by then it was way too late to hit the brakes and the only option left was to hold on tight until the plot came to a full and complete stop.
In an America of the slightly distant future, an actress who may or may not be manipulating the people in her life to her best advantage, a professor who is also a detective who may also be a wizard, a businessman who is also the ambassador to the planet Woldercan where he learned how to make gold and to disappear at will, and, oh, yeah, the Storm King and the Volcano god (among others), all come together in a play-within-a-play where it’s anyone’s guess who’s really in charge. This is no British mystery with a perfectly-packaged denouement; the ending of Wolfe’s 300-page roller-coaster ride is almost shocking in its willingness to let loose ends remain untied and it will keep your brain cells buzzing. An Evil Guest is a non-stop verbal game of “Who’s On First” and I’m still not sure I have the right answer.
I pulled this book off the shelf because the spine label caught my eye, and the blurbs on the front and back flaps clinched the deal. The praise for his writing would be hyperbolic if not lent some credence by his being a winner of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and his induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and it is not undeserved. Wolfe’s is the kind of writing that flies under the radar, good because it doesn’t get in the way. There is so little impediment between reading the words and seeing the story in your head it is almost like watching a movie – a movie like The Usual Suspects that you watch over and over in an attempt to find out just who is Keyser Söze.
Next time you find yourself staring at the stacks and wondering what to read, definitely give Wolfe a try – just remember to hang on!
If An Evil Guest looks good, here are some other interesting Baker and Taylor Books. . .
- The Grin of the Dark, by Ramsey Campbell.
Call Number: PR6053.A4855 G75 2008
- Misspent Youth, by Peter F. Hamilton.
Call Number: PR6058.A5536 M57 2008
- The Valley-Westside War, by Harry Turtledove.
Call Number: PS3570.U76 V35 2008