Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: The Fifth Head of Cerberus

Over the years I’ve read a few books by Gene Wolfe (notably his Book of the New Sun series and his Latro of the Mist series), and have found them all to be great reads.  Last week, while continuing through the list of Science Fiction: the 100 Best Books published in English from 1945 to 1985 I got to his 1972 short story collection, The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

First of all, this is more a novel with three connected parts than it is three separate short stories (although they would all do fine on their own), and in a lot of ways it made me think of Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, in that the structure is three stories, with the second one being from an entirely alien point of view and the first and last ones being told by two different humans.

The stories in The Fifth Head of Cerberus pulled me right in – they take place on twin planets that have been colonized by humans and although the stories are forty-years-old, I don’t really want to give away any more than that, because they’re pretty great.

I will say that rarely have I read science fiction that so clearly touched on themes of post-colonial theory before, and I was glad I had a little background on the concepts from my oldest daughter (who took a class on post colonialism in University last year) even if it was second hand, as I thought I got a little more out of the story because of it.

A really intriguing read.

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