Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
An Evil Guest
by Gene Wolfe,Tor Books, 2008
Reviewed by Brian Giesler
An Evil Guest is the latest novel by Gene
Wolfe, the critically acclaimed science fiction author whose works
usually require careful reading to discern exactly what is
happening. That may sound onerous, but Wolfe's prose is deceptively
easy to ingest (although digesting can take some time).
An Evil Guest revolves around Cassie Casey, a struggling actress
who acts and speaks as if she just stepped out of a '40s pulp
thriller. Early on she is elevated through arcane means into
something both more and less than human. The novel follows her
increasingly baroque encounters with a large cast of characters,
who themselves seem to have been plucked from various literary
works spanning the past century.
The novel itself, which ends poignantly, does not fall neatly
into any one genre - it is science fiction, but also a romance of
sorts, a mystery story, a spy thriller, and oddly, a South Pacific
adventure tale. Woven throughout are Wolfe's trademark themes,
including self transformation, the inevitability of evil and
redemption, and the illusionary nature of past, present and future.
Wolfe manages to meld together such disparate elements, mostly
successfully, by using long stretches of dialogue to advance the
plot. The bulk of the action occurs off-page, and the reader must
often wait for characters to discuss past events to discover what
transpired in earlier chapters.
While An Evil Guest is occasionally jarring, if you enjoy
literary puzzles, you may find it increasingly difficult to put
down this aptly titled novel.
-Brian Giesler is an assistant professor of psychology at Butler