The Evil Guest, forthcoming from Tor in September, is simply the most enjoyable Gene Wolfe novel I’ve ever read. I’ve read Wolfe novels that might have been more thought provoking or more intellectually rewarding, but this ’30s-style noir novel is a delight.
The story? Cassie Casey is an actress working in Chicago about a hundred years from now. The show she’s working in is a day or so away from its closing night, and she has no clear plans about what she’s going to do next when she’s approached by Dr Gideon Chase, a mysterious private investigator with a strange reputation, who offers to make her a star if she’ll help him wrong-foot Bill Reis, a billionaire with a distinctly shady history. Casey, more than a little attracted agrees, and sets off on an ever spiralling adventure that involves interstellar travel, a volcano love god, her own stardom, and an incredible evil that dwells deep in our oceans.
The publicity material describes The Evil Guest as “Lovecraft meets Blade Runner”, and it’s actually not too far off. The dialog could have been taken from any ’30s noir film – smart, snappy and delivered with wit and sass – and the characters are clever, savvy and very much aware of what’s happening to them. We also glimpse both Lovecraft’s R’yleh and worshippers of the squid god.
Is it good? Wolfe has been both prolific of late, and on something of a roll. I didn’t particularly care for his most recent novel, Pirate Freedom (though many did), but I loved this book. I literally couldn’t put it down, and constantly wanted to get back to it. If you like Wolfe’s work at all, you’ll love this book. If you’ve never tried him, for whatever reason, you definitely can start here. A real highlight of the reading year.
And where to from here? Assuming taxes give me time, having polished of Richard Morgan’s extremely entertaining The Steel Remains, I’ve just started Daryl Gregory’s Pandemonium, which opens really well. it’s good to be reading novels again, though once the taxes are done, it’s back to short fiction!