the morning’s New Sun

The interesting thing about a proper first person narrative is the reading difficulties and plot pleasures it can cause. Most first person narratives act as substitutes for third person narration – as in the protagonist narrating the story acts more like a third-person narrator than someone living through a part of their life that they shouldn’t be able to see the entirety of when retelling it.

Whereas a first person narrative that pivots on the POV of the protagonist, that is unreliable, that jumps from one moment to the next, starting every moment in medias res, leaving it up to the reader to decipher the continuity unfolding, is overall much more enjoyable and rewarding to decipher and remember.

The science fantasy novel The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe has been a revelation in that regard. It’s mature for its genre in the same way Joyce’s Ulysses is a mature read for literature. At its surface level and some twenty fathoms beneath, the story feels clever without any perception of the cogs the author has put in place to keep the story turning. And that’s because of how the first person narration constructs the story.

Whereas for the savvy reader, one can look deep below the surface to where the cogs and levers constructing the story are found and can realise that the organic feeling of the story is carefully constructed, the plot and dialogue skilfully selected, and the clues to the overarching mystery placed with subtlety. It’s quite good and a most enjoyable read. Perhaps even an all-time fav with the promise it’s showing.