Thursday, 22 November 2007

Latro in the Mist

I've just finished Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe and like his other books its a challenging read. This edition is the compilation of two books Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete which contain the writings of the protagonist 'Latro', an ancient Italian mercenary, who has suffered a head wound during the battle of Platea and as a result cannot remember anything from day to day but has left him with the ability to see and converse with the many gods and spirits inhabiting ancient Greece. Because cannot remember he records everything in a scroll and it is these daily writings that make up the book during which Latro tries to find a way to cure himself of his 'curse'.

The challenge when reading these books however is that Latro is an unreliable witness leading to sometimes ambiguous chapters. In addition he records conversations with mortals and gods but, because he lacks memory, fails to make important connections between people, motives and events, instead this is left for the reader to do. Several times I found myself wondering just what was going on as the narrative seemed to jump track or even contradict itself but usually the answer lay a few chapters further on (but not always).

Of the two books I preferred the first (Soldier of the Mist) more, I even liked its rather inconclusive ending. The second book (Soldier of Arete) was tougher going with another inconclusive ending which this time, to me at least, seemed a little rushed. Overall though both books are a great read and certainly recommended. Soldier of Sidon (a long awaited sequel apparently) is out now. I'll have to pick it up and see what happens next.