After writing about great weird sci-fi The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, I decided to take a closer look at Gene Wolfe’s Novel – Peace. While this book can often be found on sci-fi listings, I believe there is more to it. That in fact it’s an ambitious, wonderfully orchestrated ghost story. Enjoy.
In one of his interviews, Neil Gaiman said, that Peace is not only one of his favorite novels, but also one of a few modern ones which he admires. It comes as no surprise – Gene Wolfe managed to create a complexed, dark story, not unlike those we get from the author of The American Gods. First things first, though – Peace is a challenging book, and its slightly over two hundred thirty pages might be deceiving. At first glance, it tells a story of some older senior citizen – Alden Weer, who can manipulate memories. We get to know some anecdotes from his life – from childhood until the bitter end. It looks like a simple story with fantastic elements, right?. But is it really? While reading Peace, you will often have a weird feeling, that something about this story just isn’t right, but it’s difficult to identify what exactly. What’s actually hidden in the depths of Weer’s memories?
I think that it is worth to pay attention to the title of the novel. The word “peace” means a situation or state in which there is no violence or other disturbing factors. In my opinion, this is the key to discover real ending intended by Gene Wolfe – a dark and blood-chilling one. What is the meaning of the elm planted in front of Weer’s house? What’s wrong with the narrator’s memories? You will have to find out for yourself.
If I were to give some hints concerning the reading of Peace, I advise you not to trust the narrator – he is not always reliable. Also, pay attention to all the details in his flashbacks, especially when it comes to fairy tales – they hide keys needed to decipher Weer’s story and find out the truth about his family.
Similarly to, for instance, Peter Watts’ Blindsight, Peace almost immediately throws us into the deep end – we don’t know most of the characters and their significance. While a little bit confusing, it was intended by the author – the book was written to be read more than once. Otherwise, it might be an arduous task to fully appreciate the ghost story masterpiece created by Wolfe. For my part, I can assure you that it’s worth the effort.
Paradoxically that’s also one of the main drawbacks of Gene Wolfe’s Peace – the entry barrier here is very high. It requires the reader to be focused all the time and read the book at least twice. If you are not looking for a demanding novel, which will make you deeply analyze its content – you will probably get tired with Peace very fast. In other case – you are in for a real treat.
What role do memories play in our lives? Do they, in the end, become some kind of space we can happily return to or maybe a prison which prevents us from moving on? What’s your opinion on the subject? Please let me know in the comment section.
Peace is a unique novel, requiring its reader to devote enough time and energy needed to discover the truth hiding behind Weer’s story. If you are looking for an ambitious ghost story that will make you feel uncomfortable and stay in your memory long after finishing it – don’t hesitate and plunge into the weird world of Alder Weer’s memories.
Have you read Peace by Gene Wolfe? What are your thoughts about this novel?
PS. You can buy the book here: