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Mervyn Peake and Gene Wolfe


New Member
Hey everyone,
I had my eye on a couple of authors and was just wondering what everyone's opinions were. I've heard rave reviews of the Gormenghast books by Peake and I'm also very curious about the The Book Of The New Sun by Wolfe as well as the Wizard Knight series. Any comments are appreciated. Thanks!
Two giants of the genre, everyone must at least try them and while they won't be to everyone's taste (the are heavy-going books), personnally I think both Gormenghast the Book of the New Sun (plus everything else Wolfe has written) are absolute masterpieces.
Thanks Oponn.
To be honest with you, "heavy-going" doesn't sound too bad right now. Sometimes it's nice to get away from some of the fantasy "fluff" out there and read something a little meatier, you know? Since you sound like a Wolfe afficianado, would you recommend that I start with New Sun or read something else first?
Titus Groan is one of my favourite books. The use of language is amazing - it makes me smile with sheer pleasure when I read it. The story itself is surreal but intriguing. Gormenghast, the second book in the trilogy, is also worth reading, but Titus Alone did not have the same impact on me. Try them if you like beautiful English writing.
I have heard that Titus Alone isn't up to par with the other two. Is it bad enough that it's not worth reading? It seems like after you invested that much time in the trilogy you'd want to read the third one. Your description makes me even more anxious to read them! Thanks!
What I've read of the Titus Groan novels has been absolutely wonderful. I'm very happy to own an omnibus of them, which I intend to delve into shortly after I'm done at school.

Anyways, rather than ramble in my usual manner, I direct you to Eric Walker's fantastic website, as he's a fan of both authors and have written some excellent introductions to them. He's very conscientious about never writing spoilers either, so they're quite safe to read.
Mervyn Peake: http://greatsfandf.com/AUTHORS/MervynPeake.shtml
Gene Wolfe http://greatsfandf.com/AUTHORS/GeneWolfe.shtml (rather short, unfortunately)
2 of the absolute masters of speculative fiction. Peake's Gormenghast possibly the greatest work in the genre IMHO.

Regarding Peake:

The tone, and yes the qualiy of the third novel in Gormenghast is poorer due largely to being written from Peake's notes as he was suffering gravely both physically and mentally at this time in his life he suffered from Parkinson's disease and a until later in life the dormant Encephalitis Lethargica (sleeping sickness). The 2 first novels arguably can be said have no peers in fiction IMHO. As with Wolfe, Peake is gifted with one of the most amazing proses in fiction as well.

it should also be noted that a Gormenghast related novella entitled Boy in the Darkness is found in an anthology entitled Somewhere, Never .

Regarding Wolfe:

Him and Peake are simply without question 2 of teh top 10 writers in speculative fiction, and msot likely top 5 IMHO. His Book of the New Sun, his magnum opus, is a masterpiece in the genre as well, the character Severian, a terrific character stemming away from the cliched archetypes the genre was full of at the time. Also highly recommended by Wolfe is his 5th Head of Cerebus, his Lictor novels, and his incredible collections of shorts, including Innoccent's Aboard, The Island of Dr. Death, Endangered Species , Strange Travelers , also look at for his forthcoming Starwater Strains. One must read There are Doors as well, which is pure genius. His Wizard/Knight is a homage, taking more traditional elements and IMHO humbling others who make there trade in that branch. Not his best work IMHO, but even Wolfe's second tier work is excellent as it was rated amongst the best releases in fantasy last year.

I have reviewed The Knight HERE

and The Wizard HERE

They are among my first reviews so admittedly I think they aren't as good as some of my current ones, but I think they are still suitable.

You simply can't go wrong with Peake or Wolfe, both are bonafide masters, not of just SF or Fantasy but of Fiction period.
I liked Titus Groan but never progressed further into the series. I could not finish Shadow of the Torturer, I found it torturous to read. Despite the fact that Gene Wolfe is critically acclaimed and all that nonsense and Shadow of the Torturer is supposedly a Science Fiction classic. I personally could care less about the quality of prose, etc...I'm not an English Professor. To me it's about enjoyment of the story and characters.

If I've learned anything in this life it's the importance of forming your own opinions, even if they conflict with the majority! ;)
Oystein –
Thanks a lot for the great links! Sounds like I should have my hand slapped for calling them the Gormenghast books! Now I know. His little essay only made me more anxious to delve into what sounds like a fascinating world.

Ainvlindale –
From what you told me about Peake's illness and from what I read at the link mentioned above, it seems like a very tragic thing that he wasn't able to finish his overall idea for the books. Who knows how large the world might have become?

I really enjoyed your reviews of the two Wolfe books. Sounds like I'll definitely start with New Sun and move on from there. Looks like I have a lot of great reading ahead of me! Life is good!
My dad is always encouraging me to read the Gormenghast books..I really must. I've read extracts and I've never seen such incredibly atmospheric descriptions.
pwilson said:
Hey everyone,
I had my eye on a couple of authors and was just wondering what everyone's opinions were. I've heard rave reviews of the Gormenghast books by Peake and I'm also very curious about the The Book Of The New Sun by Wolfe as well as the Wizard Knight series. Any comments are appreciated. Thanks!

Gormenghast is simply the best fantasy series ever written IMO. Peake's use of language and atmosphere is unmatched, and add to that he comes up with a cast of brilliantly eccentric characters and a Machievellian plot. Definitely worth reading, a series about the castle Gormenghast and it's rather strange inhabitants. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe is another masterpiece, if not quite on the same scale, but a very well written series in first person about a torturer, Severian, expelled from his guild.

A common mistake with Peake is to assume he's only about the atmosphere and description, which I think puts a lot of people off, but he's also a master humourist. Some of the dialogue and situations he places his characters in are hilarious.
it's all been said already... i have loved the Gormenghast books for such a long time now.. it's not been so long since i replaced my worn set of three books with a nice new all in one version...

the BBC production of the series for tv was brilliant also!