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‘Beyond the Shores of Urth’
The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
© 2019 James LaFond
Reading from pages 213-413 of Shadow and Claw, 1981, NY Tor
The Claw of the Conciliator is not a stand-alone novel as was The Shadow of the Torturer, but is rather an extension of that work, being part 2 of 4. The four-part Book of the New Son would be followed by The Urth of the New Sun, a prologue to the four-volume Litany of the Long Sun and the three Volumes of The Short Sun. All of these later volumes are only most vaguely hinted at by The Shadow of the Torturer, but with the continued exposition of the character Jonas, introduced at the end of The Shadow of the Torturer, all of the following volumes leap into focus like stars arriving above the shroud of night in the dreamer’s mind.
The Book of the New Sun concerns the plight of the long-dying earth.
The Urth of the New Sun concerns Severian’s separation from man’s home world and his journey both inward into his higher humanity and outward into the universe.
The Litany of the Long Sun features a priest of a cult within a vast generation ship lit by a long central sun.
The Short Sun Saga concerns the child assistant to that priest coming of age as the generation ship passengers settle Blue and adventure on Green, two planets to where mankind has been transplanted among alien intelligences, in which the astral projection of a sorrow-filled soul of Old Urth manages to reach these physical manifestations of his quest.
As addressed by Wolfe in the appendix on social structures, although technologically reduced in many ways and subject to the same human curses, the people of his later day Earth have expanded their metaphysics to accommodate their ancestor’s infiltration of Time, their defeat of the barriers of earth-bound physics and their interaction with powerful extraterrestrial intelligences, and, in the form of Jonas, who is a blessed soul damned to disconnection, transhumanism.
Jonas, as revealed subtly throughout the text, is more than a land-bound sailor with a mechanical hand, but an earthbound starfarer having come home as a member of a machine crew to discover that the home world of humanity no longer has starports, and upon their disastrous homecoming his injuries may no longer be attended by the ship’s depleted store of robotic parts and he is repaired with human tissue. In large measure, the triumph of The Claw of the Conciliator was the triumph of the reverse transhuman character of Jonas.
As in Wolfe’s other works, characters relate stories to each other from their own world of fable and myth, stories which ultimately bear on the text.
The cacogens, creatures from the far stars, are also finally revealed as is the essentially emasculated state of centralized power. The character of secondary importance to Jonas, a cosmetically enhanced-beauty, Jolenta, who the compassionate Jonas seems to take as a kindred soul, provides the centerpiece for the allegorical elements of the strong subtext, her and Jonas’ fate being linked to the structure of this bridging novel as much as the outward journey of Severian, the disgraced Torturer who is destined to accidentally become the supreme ruler of that machine which he failed.
Some of my favorite quotes from the text:
“…there is no other difference between those who are called courageous and those who are branded craven than that the second are fearful before the danger and the first after it.”
“Those ancient families are the newest of all. In ancient times there was nothing like them.”
Some Diction of Note:
-athame, a slashing weapon [possibly an energy weapon]
-baluchither, a beast of burden
-cacogens, “…the cultured Extrasolarians of Hiero-dules.”
-notules [a flying sheet that feeds]
-achico, a type of whip
-Hastarii, spearmen armed with energy spears
Malediction Song: Rise of the Nords: The Prequel to Reverent Chandler and NightSong of the Nords
‘The Wall’
before the rising sun
‘Master of the House of Chains’
search for an american spartacus
into leviathan’s maw
the sunset saga complete
the combat space
shrouds of aryаs
logic of force
barbarism versus civilization
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