The Urth of the New Sun

Book cover of The Urth of the New Sun.
Book 5 of the 'The Book of the New Sun'

Review

The Urth of the New Sun is the fifth and final book in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun tetralogy. It follows Severian as he leaves Urth to save mankind and returns to witness its destruction and rebirth.

I was impressed with how Wolfe was able to maintain the quest narrative structure even while Severian was trapped on a spaceship for a quarter of the book. I really enjoyed Tzadkiel’s spaceship, and Severian’s return to Urth as the Conciliator. However, the trial on Yesod and some of the later sections during the deluge feel simultaneously too philosophical and over-explain some of the mysteries from earlier books.

For example, I had thought the time gaps in the original four books were due to time travel or resurrection, as Severian was in danger and then the narrative jumped forward without recollection. But in The Urth of the New Sun Severian wakes up next to his corpse and the aliens explain everything, which felt heavy-handed.

The Christian allegory was also less subtle in The Urth of the New Sun which made the biblical parallels and Christ-like nature of Severian’s journey feel more overt compared to the nuanced symbolic references in the original four books.

It was fun to see Urth long before Severian’s time, and the starship operating like an age of sail ship. But the book felt uneven overall. The Citadel of the Autarch was a stronger ending to the series in my opinion.