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Summary

So begins one of the most celebrated stories in fantasy literature . . . packed full of mystery, deep themes and incredible prose, meet Severian the Torturer and follow him on his journey across the great world of Urth 

Severian is a torturer, born to the guild and with an exceptionally promising career ahead of him...until he falls in love with one of his victims, a beautiful young noblewoman. 

Her excruciations are delayed for some months and, out of love, Severian helps her commit suicide and escape her fate. For a torturer, there is no more unforgivable act. In punishment he is exiled from the guild and his home city to the distant metropolis of Thrax with little more than Terminus Est, a fabled sword, to his name. 

Along the way he has to learn to survive in a wider world without the guild—a world in which he has already made both allies and enemies. And a strange gem is about to fall into his possession, which will only make his enemies pursue him with ever-more determination.... 

Winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, 1981

Winner of the BSFA Award for Best Novel, 1982

©1980 Gene Wolfe (P)2021 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about The Shadow of the Torturer

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A classic in any genre

Not many books are as engaging, or more so even, by the third read/listen but this is one of them. It is frustrating that Gene Wolfe, and this series in particular, is not better known, as in my view this is a masterpiece in any genre, and on the same level as Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy in terms of the unique writing style and incredible world-building, although both are very different.

Anyone expecting a simple action-packed space opera may be disappointed but this book still feels gripping and includes incredible almost hallucinatory scenes and images that stay with you, from Severian being saved by a giant woman underwater to a dual in which the combatants use the deadly leaves of an alien tree as weapons.

The use of obscure words, without clear descriptions about what a particular thing is, actually works incredibly well to conjure up a world so far in the future that it feels ancient and advanced all at once. This, when coupled with Severian’s not entirely trustworthy account of his life, in which nothing is quite what it seems and you question his repeated boast/complaint that he forgets nothing, means that you notice new details and perspectives on each read.

If you typically like fantasy but not sci-fi books, or visa versa, this book will still appeal to you. The narration is very engaging, enhancing the detached and otherworldly style of Severian’s account and giving each character a distinctive voice. Each instalment of the series is excellent and it is one of those series that you wish could be adapted as films or tv but you know that it would be extremely difficult to pull off. The closet comparison may be the classic computer game Planescape: Torment, if for no other reason than they both feel so distinctive and feature a group of amoral protagonists in worlds where science and magic are indistinguishable.

Hopefully they will produce more Gene Wolfe audiobooks, including his Soldier of the Mist series, which is a brilliant take on the world of ancient Greece and Egypt through the eyes of an amnesiac soldier who can see and talk to gods and other mythical creatures.

Anyway, give it a go!

5 people found this helpful

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Expected better story, great narrator

The narrator is the only thing that kept me listening until the end. World and story have potential in beginning, ends up being a story of how a weak boy turns macho, cannot explain feelings and spends much more time describing women's physical properties rather than their character.

3 people found this helpful

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Narrator ruins the story.

This version is read like a Sherlock Holmes story. It ruins the story completely.

2 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

I love this story, remembering it clearly from my youth. The presentation is masterful.

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A romping space opera

I really enjoyed this book, it's a bit tough to get to grips with the language at first. but once you get into the rhythm of it it's fine. One more thing; I'm not sure if it supposed to be the way the character is or if Gene Wolfe is a bit sexually repressed but he can't write women. all we know is their physical looks and their voluptuousness. some of their personality would be nice.

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Dark souls brought me here

Wow
I read an article on the author a couple years back that likened these books to Miyazaki’s rich video game world and dark dreamlike storytelling it delivered in spades at one point literally. He’s got an incredible voicing and breath of language thats rare in fantasy Patrick Rothus and Scott lynch spring to mind but the depth is that of peake and a dreamy almost intangible world that feels almost murakami esq.
this narration is something else too especially a character near the end who really took me by suprise by how hard the narrator went in on the character, really brought him to life. Gonna be grabbing all of these cant wait.

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excellent original story

this is a great creative piece that will capture the minds of many readers with the twisted future world, the strong cast of characters or the beautiful anaology that prevades most of the book.
the only thing that may turn people off is the of the wall rants and turns that can be very hard to decipher what is going on