Home Fires ~ by Gene Wolfe (reviewed by John/JD)
A genre-bending novel that combines science fiction, detective story, thriller, love story, noir and pulp fiction.
Set in North America in the far future, the story revolves around Skip, a hot-shot lawyer, and Chelle, Skip’s college sweetheart who is a Master Gunner in the army. Unfortunately her tour of duty takes her to a distant solar system in a war with an alien race. As the months pass for Chelle, years of relative time pass for Skip – and when she returns there is a big age difference between them. But there is much more that separates them.
She has had radical medical treatment after being almost killed in action, and what returns to earth is not 100% Chelle. Meanwhile he has dedicated himself to becoming a highly successful lawyer in a crazy world where the legal system is all powerful, and he has become extremely wealthy. Then there is Chelle’s mother who has been returned to life and now has a strong attraction to Skip. And someone is hell-bent on taking Chelle away again. Through it all Skip is desperate to rekindle their relationship, but he’s full of dread over the impact of the big age gap.
Does that sound like a complex plot? I haven’t yet mentioned the pirates, spies, aliens, kidnappings, adultery, betrayals, voodoo or the beggar with no hands. Seriously – I am not exaggerating.
So, it’s a complicated story with lots of twists and turns and some wonderful futuristic/fantastic ideas. But did I actually enjoy the read? Well, in truth, not as much as I feel like I should have done. The above description makes it sound like a killer novel, and certainly there was much about it that was enjoyable. For me the problem was that I was forever chasing the plot and not quite “getting it”. It was like you always had to know what was going to happen in the next five pages in order to understand the five pages that you’ve just read - I was constantly going back and re-reading sections or trying to find connections to help me make sense of what was happening. A lot of things did become clear in the final three pages, though I still feel like I’m missing pieces.
If you like twisty complex stories where you’re always trying to figure out who’s doing what to whom and why, you’ll love this book. If you like your science fiction mashed up with a variety of other genres, you’ll probably love this book. I certainly liked the book and you have to admire the many futuristic ideas and concepts that Wolfe dreamt up; he has a tremendous imagination. I’d rate it 3.5 stars.
As always John will be addressing any comments on this review, so don’t forget to check the follow up box to get his response. This book was borrowed from our local library. We love ours. Support yours!
Since today is St. Patrick’s day and just in case you do not have enough to read here are several ideas: Last year I collected a bunch of books with Irish themes. If interested check out last year’s Irish Wish post. It’s a mishmash of genres and a tad on the dark side.
Of Blood and Honey ~ by Stina Leicht (a free epub copy instead of a pint of Guinness)
If you like speculative inside a realistic setting and have an ereader, Night Shade Books is offering an EPUB copy of this recently released book. It is set in Ireland with political strife and a connection to fairies – I am thinking they will be the scary kind. Book cover links to the publisher’s page to get your copy.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day!