Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun Series #2)

Lake of the Long Sun (Book of the Long Sun Series #2)

by Gene Wolfe

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Lake of the Long Sun is the second volume in the Book of the Long Sun series from science fiction and fantasy master Gene Wolfe

It is the far future, and the giant spaceship, The Whorl, has travelled for forgotten generation towards its destination. Lit inside by the artificial Long Sun, The Whorl is so huge that you can see whole cities in the sky. And now the gods of The Whorl begin to intervene in human affairs. A god speaks to Patera Silk, a clergyman at work in the schoolyard of his church. Silk must go on a quest to save his church and his people.

"Stylistic excellence and topnotch storytelling."--Library Journal

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429966207
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 08/25/2015
Series: Book of the Long Sun Series , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 616,692
File size: 488 KB

About the Author

Gene Wolfe (1931-2019) was the Nebula Award-winning author of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy in the Solar Cycle, as well as the World Fantasy Award winners The Shadow of the Torturer and Soldier of Sidon. He was also a prolific writer of distinguished short fiction, which has been collected in such award-winning volumes as Storeys from the Old Hotel and The Best of Gene Wolfe.

A recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and six Locus Awards, among many other honors, Wolfe was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012.

Gene Wolfe (1931-2019) was the Nebula Award-winning author of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy in the Solar Cycle, as well as the World Fantasy Award winners The Shadow of the Torturer and Soldier of Sidon. He was also a prolific writer of distinguished short fiction, which has been collected in such award-winning volumes as Storeys from the Old Hotel and The Best of Gene Wolfe.

A recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and six Locus Awards, among many other honors, Wolfe was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012.

Read an Excerpt

Lake of the Long Sun

By Gene Wolfe

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1994 Gene Wolfe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6620-7


They Had Scientists

Silence fell, abrupt as a shouted command, when Patera Silk opened the door of the old, three-sided manse at the slanted intersection where Sun Street met Silver. Horn, the tallest boy in the palaestra, was sitting bolt upright in the least comfortable chair in the musty little sellaria; Silk felt sure he had dropped into it hastily when he heard the rattle of the latch.

The night chough (Silk had stepped inside and shut the door behind him before he remembered that he had named the night chough Oreb) was perched on the high, tapestried back of the stiff "visitor's" chair.

"'Lo, Silk," Oreb croaked. "Good Silk!"

"And good evening to you. A good evening to you both. Tartaros bless you."

Horn had risen as Silk entered; Silk motioned for him to sit again. "I apologize. I'm terribly sorry, Horn. I truly am. Maytera Rose told me she meant to send you to talk to me this evening, but I forgot all about it. So much has been — O Sphigx! Stabbing Sphigx, have pity on me!"

This last had been in response to sudden, lancing pain in his ankle. As he limped to the room's sole comfortable chair, the one in which he sat to read, it occurred to him that its seat was probably still warm; he considered feeling the cushion to make sure, rejected the idea as embarrassing to Horn, then (propping himself with Blood's lioness-headed walking stick) laid his free hand on the seat anyway out of sheer curiosity. It was.

"I sat down there for a minute, Patera. I could see your bird better from there."

"Of course." Silk sat, lifting his injured ankle onto the hassock. "You've been here half the night, no doubt."

"Only a couple hours, Patera. I sweep out for my father while he empties the till and — and — locks the money up."

Silk nodded approvingly. "That's right. You shouldn't tell me where he keeps it." He paused, recalling that he had intended to steal this very manteion from Blood. "I wouldn't steal it, because I'd never steal anything from you or your family; but you never know who may be listening."

Horn grinned. "Your bird might tell, Patera. Sometimes they take shiny things, that's what I've heard. Maybe a ring or a spoon."

"No steal!" Oreb protested.

"I was thinking of a human eavesdropper, actually. I shrove an unhappy young woman today, and I believe there was someone listening outside her window the whole time. There was a gallery out there, and once I felt certain I heard the boards creak when he shifted his weight. I was tempted to get up and look, but crippled as I am at present, he would've been gone before I could have put my head out of the window — and back again, no doubt, the moment I sat down." Silk sighed. "Fortunately she kept her voice quite low."

"Isn't listening like that a major offense against the gods, Patera?"

"Yes. Not that he cares, I'm afraid. The worst part of the whole affair is that I know the man — or at least, I'm beginning to know him — and I've liked what I've seen of him. There's a great deal of good in him, I feel certain, though he tries so hard to conceal it."

Oreb fluttered his sound wing. "Good Crane!"

"I didn't mention his name," Silk told Horn, "nor did you hear any name."

"No, Patera. Half the time I can't make out what that bird's saying."

"Fine. Perhaps it would be even better if you had as much difficulty understanding me."

Horn colored. "I'm sorry, Patera. I didn't want to — It wasn't because —"

"I didn't mean that," Silk explained hastily. "Not at all. We haven't even begun to talk about that yet, though we will. We must. I merely meant that I shouldn't even have mentioned shriving that woman. I'm much too tired to keep a proper watch on my tongue. And now that Patera Pike has left us — well, I still have Maytera Marble to confide in. I'd go mad, I think, if it weren't for her."

He leaned forward in the soft old chair, struggling to concentrate his surging thoughts. "I was going to say that though he's a good man, or at least a man who might be good, he has no faith in the gods; yet I'm going to have to get him to admit he listened, so I can shrive him of the guilt. It's sure to be difficult, but I've been examining the matter from all sides, Horn, and I can see no way to evade my duty."

"Yes, Patera."

"I don't mean this evening. I've been entirely too busy this evening, and this afternoon, too. I saw ... something I can't tell you about, unfortunately. But I've been thinking about this particular man and the problem he presents ever since I came in. Seeing that blue thing on the bird's wing reminded me."

"I was wondering what that was, Patera."

"A splint, I suppose you'd call it." Silk glanced at the clock. "Your mother and father will be frantic."

Horn shook his head. "The rest of the sprats'll tell them where I went, Patera. I told them before I left."

"By Sphigx, I hope so." Silk leaned forward and drew up his injured leg, pushed down his stocking, and unwound the chamois-like wrapping. "Have you seen one of these, Horn?"

"A strip of leather, Patera?"

"It's much more than that." Silk tossed it to him. "I want you to do something for me, if you will. Kick it hard, so that it flies against the wall."

Horn gawked.

"If you're afraid you'll break something, throw it down hard three or four times. Not here on the carpet, I think. Over there on the bare boards. Hard, mind."

Horn did as he was told, then returned the wrapping to Silk. "It's getting hot."

"Yes, I thought it would." Silk rewound it about his aching ankle and smiled with satisfaction as it tightened. "It isn't just a strip of leather, you see, although it may be that its exterior actually is leather. Inside there's a mechanism, something as thin as the gold labyrinth in a card. When that mechanism is agitated, it must take up energy. At rest, it excretes a part of it as heat. The remainder emerges as sound, or so I was told. It makes a noise we can't hear, I suppose because it's too soft or perhaps because it's pitched too high. Can you hear it now?"

Horn shook his head.

"Neither can I, yet I could hear sounds that Patera Pike could not — the squeaking of the hinges on the garden gate, for example, until I oiled them."

Silk relaxed, soothed by the wrapping and the softness of his chair. "These wonderful wrappings were made in the Short-Sun Whorl, I imagine, like glasses and Sacred Windows, and so many other things that we have but can't replace."

"They had scientists there, Patera. That's what Maytera Rose says."

Oreb croaked, "Good Crane!"

Silk laughed. "Did he teach you to say that while he was treating your wing, you silly bird? Very well, Doctor Crane's a scientist of sorts, I suppose; he knows medicine at least, which is more science than most of us know, and he let me borrow this, though I must return it in a few days."

"A thing like that must be worth twenty or thirty cards, Patera."

"More than that. Do you know Auk? A big man who comes to sacrifice on Scylsdays?"

"I think so, Patera."

"Heavy jaw, wide shoulders, big ears. He wears a hanger and boots."

"I don't know him to talk to, Patera, but I know who you mean." Horn paused, his handsome young face serious. "He's trouble, that's what everybody says, the kind who knocks down people who get in his way. He did that to Teasel's father."

Silk had taken out his beads; he drew them through his fingers absently as he spoke. "I'm sorry to hear it. I'll try to speak to him about it."

"You'd better keep away from him, Patera."

Silk shook his head. "I can't, Horn. Not if I'm to do my duty. In fact, Auk's precisely the sort of person I must get close to. I don't believe that even the Outsider — And it's too late for that in any case. I was going to tell you that I showed this wrapping to Auk, and he indicated that it was worth a great deal more. That isn't important, however. Have you ever wondered why so much knowledge was left behind in the Short-Sun Whorl?"

"I guess the ones that knew about those things didn't come to our whorl, Patera."

"Clearly they did not. Or if they did, they can't have settled here in Viron. Yet they knew many things that would be very valuable to us, and certainly they would have had to come if Pas had instructed them to."

"The Fliers know how to fly, Patera, and we don't. We saw one yesterday, remember? Just after the ball game. He was pretty low. That's what I'd like to know. How to fly like they do, like a bird."

"No fly!" Oreb announced.

Silk studied the voided cross dangling from his beads for a moment, then let the beads fall into his lap. "This evening I was introduced to an elderly man who has a really extraordinary artificial leg, Horn. He had to buy up five broken or worn-out legs to build it, but it's an artificial leg such as the first settlers had — a leg that might have been brought from the Short-Sun Whorl. When he showed it to me, I thought how marvelous it would be if we could only make things like that now for Maytera Rose and Maytera Marble, and for all the beggars who are blind or crippled. It would be marvelous to fly, too, of course. I've always wanted to do it myself, and it may be that they are the same secret. If we could build wonderful legs like that for the people who need them, perhaps we could build wonderful wings as well for everyone who wanted to have them."

"That would be great, Patera."

"It may come to pass. It may yet come to pass, Horn. If people in the Short-Sun Whorl could teach themselves to do such things ..." Silk shook himself and yawned, then rose with the help of Blood's stick. "Well, thank you for coming by. It's been a pleasure, but I'd better go up to bed."

"I was supposed — Maytera said —"

"That's right." Silk put away his beads. "I'm supposed to punish you. Or lecture you, or something. What was it you did that made Maytera Rose so angry?"

Horn swallowed. "I was just trying to talk like you do, Patera. Like in manteion. It wasn't even today, and I won't do it again."

"Of course." Silk settled back into his chair. "But it was today, Horn. Or at least, today was one of several such days. I heard you before I opened the door. I sat down on the step for a minute to listen, in fact. You imitated me so well that for a while I actually thought that your voice was my own; it was like hearing myself. You're very good at it."

"Good boy," Oreb croaked. "No hit."

"I won't," Silk told the bird, and it lurched through the air to his lap, then hopped from his lap to the arm of the chair, and from the arm to his shoulder.

"Maytera Rose hits us sometimes, Patera."

"Yes, I know. It's very courageous of her, but I'm not at all certain it's wise. Let's hear you again, Horn. Out on the step, I couldn't hear everything you said."

Horn muttered, and Silk laughed. "I couldn't hear you that time, either. Surely I don't sound like that. When I'm at the ambion, I can hear my bray echo from the walls."

"No, Patera."

"Then say it again, just as I would. I won't be angry, I promise you."

"I was only ... You know. Like the things you say."

"No talk?" Oreb inquired.

Silk ignored him. "Fine. Let me hear it. That's what you came to talk about, and I feel sure it will be a valuable corrective for me. I tend to get above myself, I'm afraid."

Horn shook his head and stared at the carpet.

"Oh, come now! What sorts of things do I say?"

"To always live with the gods, and you do it any time you're happy with the life they've given you. Think about who's wise and act like he does."

"That was well said, Horn, but you didn't sound in the least like me. It's my own voice I want to hear, just as I heard it on the step. Won't you do that?"

"I guess I've got to stand up, Patera."

"Then stand, by all means."

"Don't look at me. All right?"

Silk shut his eyes.

For half a minute or more there was silence. Through his eyelids, Silk could detect the fading of the light (the best in the manse) behind his chair. He welcomed it. His right forearm, torn by the hooked beak of the white-headed one the night before, felt hot and swollen now; and he was so tired that his entire body ached.

"Live with the gods," his own voice directed, "and he does live with the gods who consistently shows them that his spirit is satisfied with what has been assigned to him, and that it obeys all that the gods will — the spirit that Pas has given every man as his guardian and guide, the best part of himself, his understanding and his reason. As you intend to live hereafter, it is in your power to live here. But if men do not permit you, ..."

Silk stepped on something that slid beneath his foot, and fell with a start to the red clay tiles.

"... think of wisdom only as great wisdom, the wisdom of a prolocutor or a councillor. That itself is unwise. If you could talk this very day with a councillor or His Cognizance, either would tell you that wisdom may be small, a thing quite suited to the smallest children here, as well as great. What is a wise child? It is a child who seeks out wise teachers, and hears them."

Silk opened his eyes. "What you said first was from the Writings, Horn. Did you know it?"

"No, Patera. It's just something I've heard you say."

"I was quoting. It's good that you've got that passage by heart, even if you learned it only to make fun of me. Sit down. You were talking about wisdom. Well, no doubt I must have spouted all that foolishness, but you deserve to learn better. Who are the wise, Horn? Have you really considered that question? If not, do so now. Who are they?"

"Well ... you, Patera."

"NO!" Silk rose so abruptly that the bird squawked. He strode to the window and stood staring out through the bars at the ruts of Sun Street, black now under a flood of uncanny skylight. "No, I'm not wise, Horn. Or at least, I've been wise for a moment only — one moment out of my whole life."

He limped across the room to Horn's chair and crouched before it, one knee on the carpet. "Allow me to tell you how foolish I have been. Do you know what I believed when I was your age? That nothing but thought, nothing except wisdom, mattered. You're good at games, Horn. You can run and jump, and you can climb. So was I and so did I, but I had nothing but contempt for those abilities. Climbing was nothing to boast of, when I couldn't climb nearly as well as a monkey. But I could think better than a monkey — better than anyone else in my class, in fact." He smiled bitterly, shaking his head. "And that was how I thought! Pride in nonsense."

"Isn't thinking good, Patera?"

Silk stood. "Only when we think rightly. Action, you see, is the end that thought achieves. Action is its only purpose. What else is it good for? If we don't act, it's worthless. If we can't act, useless."

He returned to his chair, but did not sit down. "How many times have you heard me talk about enlightenment, Horn? Twenty or thirty times, surely, and you remember very well. Tell me what I said."

Horn glanced miserably at Oreb as though for guidance, but the bird merely cocked his head and fidgeted on Silk's shoulder as if eager to hear what Horn had to say. At last he managed, "It — it's wisdom a god sort of pours into you. That doesn't come from a book or anything. And — and —"

"Perhaps you'd do better if you employed my voice," Silk suggested. "Stand up again and try it. I won't watch you if it makes you nervous."

Horn rose, lifting his head, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, and drawing down the corners of his mouth. "Divine enlightenment means you know without thinking, and that isn't because thinking's bad but because enlightenment is better. Enlightenment is sharing in the thinking of the god."

He added in his normal voice, "That's as close as I can come, Patera, without more time to remember."

"Your choice of words might be improved upon," Silk told him judiciously, "but your intonation is excellent, and you have my speech mannerisms almost pat. What is of much, much more importance, nothing that you said was untrue. But who gets it, Horn? Who receives enlightenment?"

"People who've tried to live good lives for a long time. Sometimes they do."

"Not always?"

"No, Patera. Not always."

"Would you believe me, Horn — credit me fully without reservation — if I told you that I myself have received it? Yes or no."

"Yes, Patera. If you say so."

"That I received it only yesterday?"

Oreb whistled softly.

"Yes, Patera."

Silk nodded, mostly to himself it seemed. "I did, Horn, and not through any merit of mine. I was about to say that you were with me, but it wouldn't be true. Not really."

"Was it before manteion, Patera? Yesterday you said you wanted to make a private sacrifice. Was it for that?"

"Yes. I've never made it, and perhaps I never will —"

"No cut!"

"If I do, it won't be you," Silk told Oreb. "Probably it won't be a live animal at all, although I'm going to have to sacrifice a lot of them tomorrow, and buy them as well."


Excerpted from Lake of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe. Copyright © 1994 Gene Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Gods, Persons, and Animals Mentioned in the Text,
Chapter 1: They Had Scientists,
Chapter 2: Lady Kypris,
Chapter 3: Company,
Chapter 4: The Prochein Ami,
Chapter 5: The Slave of Sphigx,
Chapter 6: Lake Limna,
Chapter 7: The Arms of Scylla,
Chapter 8: Food for the Gods,
Chapter 9: In Dreams Like Death,
Chapter 10: On the Belly of the Whorl,
Chapter 11: Some Summations,
Chapter 12: Lemur,
Chapter 13: The Caldé Surrenders,
About the Author,
Tor books by Gene Wolfe,

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