Citadel of the Autarch, chapters 20 to 22

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Severian goes to war. And war is hell.

(Actually, I don't have much to say about these chapters, but the battle and run-up to it had a sense of reality to it; the writing was very good.)

Comments

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    The main feature of these chapters was the weirdness of the various forces engaged in the battle. Near-naked infantry, midgets on blind giant humans, peltasts with large glowing shields. And despite the widespread use of energy weapons, the tactics of the battle seemed downright Napoleonic.

    And was anybody else really confused by who was doing what to whom in Ch 20, the attack on gold transporter?

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    My thoughts? It was weird-ass for the sake of being weird-ass. It made no sense whatever.

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    Totally chaotic, and deliberately so on Gene Wolfe's part I think. The oddness for me was in the lack of any understanding of the big picture (and for me this made it, as @NeilNjae says, Napoleonic). Each unit seemed oblivious of the whole, though one assumes there was a cunning masterplan being coordinated somewhere, and there was apparently no equivalent of radio.

    The gold transporter bit, oddly, made most sense, especially on second read - Severian was basically playing two potential enemies off against each other in order to get his own unit out alive. The arrival of the flying girls was the most confusing bit, but I took Guasacht's explanation to mean that they were actually on the same side.
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    edited November 29

    @RichardAbbott - I realize that Wolfe meant it to be chaotic. The fighting units were what made no sense to me. They looked like they came out of a pre-game set up session using random tables of people, mounts, weapons, and accoutrements. I had no problem following what was going on. The tactics were Napoleonic because that's how Wolfe wanted the world. With no radio communications, that's what it gets reduced to.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    >. The fighting units were what made no sense to me. They looked like they came out of a pre-game set up session using random tables of people, mounts, weapons, and accoutrements.

    Yes, that captures it very well. Either warfare in this age makes no sense, or both sides just had some random units in the area and just made it up as they went along!

    I can't square up in my mind the gulf between the super powerful energy weapons we see every so often, and the hand to hand melee occurring in actual battles
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    Chaotic indeed - I like chaotic descriptions of battle - it matches what I see in the better war movies. No wonder soldiers get PTSD.

    On the matter of the flying girls, I'll repost the rather excellent cover picture for this book that I dug up and posted in the most recent newsletter.


    .

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    edited December 1

    Also, the the flying wheels not make you think of Ezekiel? I thought it was pretty cool how they were described.

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > Also, the the flying wheels not make you think of Ezekiel? I thought it was pretty cool how they were described.
    >

    From Ezekiel's first vision:
    "This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around."

    The book cover... a slightly toned down version of Gene Wolfe's description as in the book they weren't wearing bras... but you've also alerted me to the fact that I seem to have missed your latest newsletter :)
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    BTW, not related to this particular group of chapters, but a general point... going for a walk yesterday in our frosty fells here brought home to me again just how good, in an unobtrusive way, Gene Wolfe is at describing a nearly-dead world. Only very occasionally does he remind us of this - one such time is when Severian was coming down the huge cliff face, and GW comments that the terrain is formed not by tectonics, but my the crust shrinking around the planet through age. But seeing lively streams and such like highlighted to me how consistently he makes the world and its natural life seem old and in terminal decline.

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