This is a review of “The Sorcerer’s House” by Gene Wolfe.
Fresh out of prison and with several PhD.’s under his belt, Baxter Dunn isn’t certain what to do at all when he suddenly inherits a magical house. With appearing and disappearing rooms, twins and facefoxes, and a magical land right outside his windows that comes and goes. Throw in his own twin brother George, werewolves and a set of mysterious duelling pistols with silver bullets and everything just turns even stranger.
It is curious to read the entire story through letters. It is different and despite this the author manages to put forth quite a world and quite a set of characters. Baxter is a likable character who takes all the craziness with great calm, and the Black House has a character all of its own. The numerous people and creatures Bax comes in contact with are all rather well written as well, although perhaps one or two of them are a bit flat.
There were three sets of twins altogether in this story, and all three pairs were very much good-twin vs. evil-twin in some bigger or lesser degree. There was a lot of build-up around the evil twins – well, two of the three that is – but the ending ended up being almost disappointing in a way. It was as if the author wasn’t certain how to finish the book or decided suddenly not to want to write it anymore and threw together a hurried ending to the story.
There are also too many female characters around Bax. One would expect more men in the story. The fact that the entire story is written through letters and after the characters have had a chance to think and work through things, the usual sense of danger and adventure is largely lacking. There are no real moments of “OMG what happens next?!” or even tension, just a small bout of occasional curiosity.
Some of the leaps of logic and deductions that Bax reaches throughout the story are also a bit out of the blue, as well as some of the things that happen. Suddenly one person is one thing and then it isn’t, people who suddenly change their personality without much explanation at all. One isn’t quite certain exactly how he went from Point A to Point Z without going through the numerous points in between.
All in all though, despite everything, this is a good book. A bit different to be sure, but a good read nonetheless.
I recommend it.