lundi 23 novembre 2015

Gene Wolfe's Starwater Strains : a review

Well, I would give it two and a half stars if it were possible.
In my opinion (humble or not), Wolfe is a marvelous story teller and one of the four or five greatest writers of the age, in genre or out.
Starwater Strains is his last collection of short stories until now and the last I read, and, more unfortunately, it is perhaps the least too.
First, it is read on the cover that it's a "New Science Fiction Stories" collection; here is a double misstatement : in fact, there are some SF stories, indeed, and some fantasy stories and at least one story which is neither SF nor fantasy story, as far as I can see. Besides, there are some old stories. But it's not the point.
Here is the point.
In Starwater Strains, there are, as usual, a lot of inscrutable stories (Wolfe's favorite saying seems to be why make it easy when you can make it hard): among these, some are good, like “Games In The Pope's Head”, some are less good like "The Fat Magician".
There are some exercises in style, some in the best English like “In Glory Like Their Star” but a little boring for my taste, some in sort of funny dialects like “The dog of The Drops” (this one seems to be a game where you have to replace the wrong or missing letters).
There are some investigation stories where the investigator is a Doctor in religion and folklore (Does this really exist in US ?) like “Lord of The Land” or an (exo)archaeologist like “The Seraph from its sepulcher”.
There is one story it is said to be a SF post-apocalyptic story though it is actually a pretty good fantasy story (“Mute”) and one story it is never said to be a SF post-apocalyptic story but it is (“Petting Zoo”).
There is a couple of stories which could feature in some Best Short Stories of Gene Wolfe, like “Pulp cover” or “The Seraph...” and more stories which could feature in some Wolfe's Worst.
Now, I read all his collections of short stories, with some novellas in there, and I can give a verdict : Starwater Strains is the weakest of his collections, not really bad, but this is definitively not the book to start with if you are to discover Wolfe. I would rather advise a new and genuine reader who prefers short stories (and novellas) like I do to look for his first collection “The island of doctor Death and other stories and other stories” or this other one, by far my favorite, “Storeys from the old hotel”.


Malheureusement, le recueil dont il est question, ainsi que le dernier cité ne sont disponibles qu'en version originale, d'où la chronique en anglais. Si vous êtes intéressé par Gene Wolfe, voici un ou deux liens utiles, en anglais : 
http://www.wolfewiki.com/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=WolfeWiki.Contents
et en français :
http://jeanlevant.blogspot.fr/2014/08/une-lignee-fantastique-lovecraft-borges.html