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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.)
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?
My thoughts? It was weird-ass for the sake of being weird-ass. It made no sense whatever.
@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.
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.
Also, the the flying wheels not make you think of Ezekiel? I thought it was pretty cool how they were described.
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.