Gene Wolfe Books in Order (including the Solar Cycle Reading Order)

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks!

Gene Rodman Wolfe (1931-2019) was a prolific American science fiction and fantasy writer, a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (like Frank Herbert or Octavia Butler) known for his short stories and his award-winning novels

In fact, Wolfe is best known for his Book of the New Sun series which formed the first part of his “Solar Cycle”–like The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun. He also wrote The Soldier of the Mist series, The Wizard Knight series. Reading Gene Wolfe is an experience as Neil Gaiman described it, he even gave some recommendations for a better reading experience.

How to read Gene Wolfe’s Books in Order?

Follow the Solar Cycle Reading Order

We are taking a look at the Solar Cycle publication order. Only the novels! If you want to explore the cycle more expertly, read this article.

The Book of the New Sun Series

  1. The Shadow of the Torturer (1980, collected in Shadow & Claw) – The tale of young Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession – showing mercy toward his victim – and follows his subsequent journey out of his home city of Nessus.
  2. The Claw of the Conciliator (1981, collected in Shadow & Claw) – Severian is in possession of a gem considered to be “The Claw of the Conciliator”, a powerful relic of the Master of Power, a legendary figure of mythic proportions. Armed with his sword, Terminus Est, and the Claw, Severian continues his journey to Thrax, the city of his exile. Bizarre apes, strange cannibalistic rituals, and the foreigner named Jonas all lie in his future.
  3. The Sword of the Lictor (1982, collected in Sword & Citadel) – Beneath the dying sun the disgraced torturer, Severian, at last comes to his place of exile – Thrax, the City of Windowless Rooms. But Severian’s journeying is not ended, and high in the Earth’s ancient mountains he draws closer to his destiny.
  4. The Citadel of the Autarch (1982, collected in Sword & Citadel) – All his travels move Severian inexorably toward a grander fate, a destiny that he dares not refuse. For a devouring blackness gnaws at the heart of the Old Sun, and the fate of Urth rests in the return of the Conciliator, the New Sun long foretold.
  5. The Urth of the New Sun (1987) – We return to the world of Severian, now the Autarch of Urth, as he leaves the planet on one of the huge spaceships of the alien Hierodules to travel across time and space to face his greatest test, to become the legendary New Sun or die.

The Book of the Long Sun Series

  1. Nightside the Long Sun (1993, collected in Litany of the Long Sun) – While struggling to satisfy the gods aboard The Whorl, a giant spaceship sent out from Urth to colonize a distant planet, Patera Silk unwittingly discovers a new god and nearly sets off a revolt.
  2. Lake of the Long Sun (1994, collected in Litany of the Long Sun) – When the gods of the Whorl speak to him about the future, clergyman Patera Silk begins a quest to save his church and his people, the citizens of a giant spaceship on a generations-old voyage to a forgotten destiny.
  1. Caldé of the Long Sun (1994, collected in Epiphany of the Long Sun) – Inspired by the gods, young Silk fights for survival against the shadowy rulers of the city of Viron, who command the technological wonders of the future.
  2. Exodus from the Long Sun (1996, collected in Epiphany of the Long Sun) – The Whorl, the huge generation starship sent out from Urth, is discovered to have already reached its destination, and now Patera Silk and the other inhabitants are confronted by an alien race.

Book of the Short Sun Series

  1. On Blue’s Waters (1999) – Though life is hard on the newly settled planet of Blue, Horn and his family have made a decent life for themselves. But Horn is the only one who can locate the great leader Silk, and convince him to return to Blue and lead them all to prosperity. So Horn sets sail in a small boat, on a long and difficult quest across the planet Blue in search of the now legendary Patera Silk.
  2. In Green’s Jungles (2000) – Horn recalls visiting the Whorl, the enormous spacecraft in orbit that brought the settlers from Urth, and going thence to the planet Green, home of the blood-drinking alien inhumi. There, he led a band of mercenary soldiers, answered to the name of Rajan, and later became the ruler of a city state. He has also encountered the mysterious aliens, the Neighbors, who once inhabited both Blue and Green.
  3. Return to the Whorl (2001) – Horn has traveled from his home on the planet Blue, reached the mysterious planet Green, and visited the great starship, the Whorl and even, somehow, the distant planet Urth. But Horn’s identity has become ambiguous, a complex question embedded in the story, whose telling is itself complex, shifting from place to place, present to past. Perhaps Horn and Silk are now one being.

Follow the Solar Cycle Reading Order with short stories

  1. The Shadow of the Torturer (1980)
  2. The Claw of the Conciliator (1981)
  3. “The God and His Man” (collected in Endangered Species)
  4. The Sword of the Lictor (1982)
  5. The Citadel of the Autarch (1982)
  6. “The Castle of the Otter” (collected in Castle of Days)
  7. “The Cat” (collected in Endangered Species)
  8. “The Map” (collected in Endangered Species)
  9. “The Boy Who Hooked the Sun” (collected in Starwater Strains)
  10. “Empires of Foliage and Flower” (collected in Starwater Strains)
  11. The Urth of the New Sun (1987)
  12. “The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin is the Sun” (collected in Innocents Aboard)
  13. Nightside the Long Sun (1993)
  14. Lake of the Long Sun (1994)
  15. Caldé of the Long Sun (1994)
  16. Exodus from the Long Sun (1996)
  17. “The Night Chough” (collected in Innocents Aboard)
  18. On Blue’s Waters (1999)
  19. In Green’s Jungles (2000)
  20. Return to the Whorl (2001)
  21. “From the Cradle” (collected in Starwater Strains)

The Soldier of the Mist Series

Aka the Latro series.

  1. The Soldier of the Mist (1986) – Greece, in 479 B.C., when the gods walked the Earth. Latro, a mercenary soldier from the north, has suffered a head wound in battle and has been separated from his compatriots. He has not only lost the memory of who he is and where he is from, he has also lost the ability to remember from day to day and must live out of context in an eternal present, every day rediscovering the shreds of his identity and the nature of the world around him, aided only by a written record that he attempts to continue daily and must read every morning.
  2. The Soldier of Arete (1989) – Simultaneously cursed with the inability to remember his past and blessed with the ability to speak with gods, a soldier formerly in service to the Great King of Parsa (Persia) seeks answers to his many questions amid the fractured, war-torn landscape of the ancient world. Latro’s second-hand view of reality lends a dreamlike quality to a story that mirrors the struggle of human consciousness to explain events beyond its comprehension.
  3. Soldier of Sidon (2006) – Latro now finds himself in Egypt, a land of singing girls, of spiteful and conniving deities. Without his memory, his is unsure of everything, except for his desire to be free of the curse that causes him to forget. The visions Gene Wolfe conjures, of the wonders of Egypt, and of the adventures of Latro as he and his companions journey up the great Nile south into unknown or legendary territory, are unique and compelling.

The Wizard Knight Series

  1. The Knight (2004) – A young man in his teens is transported from our world to a magical realm that contains seven levels of reality. Very quickly transformed by magic into a grown man of heroic proportions, he takes the name Able and sets out on a quest to find the sword that has been promised to him, a sword he will get from a dragon, the one very special blade that will help him fulfill his life ambition to become a knight and a true hero. Inside, however, Able remains a boy, and he must grow in every sense to survive the dangers and delights that lie ahead in encounters with giants, elves, wizards, and dragons.
  2. The Wizard (2004) – Able returns to Mythgathr on his steed Cloud, a great mare the color of her name. Able is filled with new knowledge of the ways of the seven-fold world and possessed of great magical secrets. His knighthood now beyond question, Able works to fulfill his vows to his king, his lover, his friends, his gods, and even his enemies. Able must set his world right, restoring the proper order among the denizens of all the seven worlds.

Both books are also collected in one volume, The Wizard Knight (2005).

The Borrowed Man Series

  1. A Borrowed Man (2015) – E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human. A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated.
  2. Interlibrary Loan (2020) -Being a piece of property, E. A. Smithe can be loaned to other branches. Which he is. Along with two fellow reclones, a cookbook and romance writer, they are shipped to Polly’s Cove, where Smithe meets a little girl who wants to save her mother, a father who is dead but perhaps not. And another E. A. Smithe… who definitely is.

Other Books by Gene Wolfe

This list is non-exhaustive as Gene Wolfe’s books are sometimes unavailable, some have been recollected in omnibus editions. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment about the ones missing.

  • Operation Ares (1970) – In a dystopian future where the United States is controlled by an anti-technological leftist regime. The story traces protagonist John Castle’s conflict with the government and his increasing involvement with a rebellion backed by a Martian colony that has severed its ties to the U.S. government.
  • The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) – Far from Earth two sister planets, Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix, circle each other. It is said that a race of shapeshifting aliens once lived here, only to become extinct when human colonists arrived. But one man believes they still exist, somewhere out in the wilderness.
  • Peace (1975) – The melancholy memoir of Alden Dennis Weer, an embittered old man living out his last days in a small midwestern town, the novel reveals a miraculous dimension as the narrative unfolds. For Weer’s imagination has the power to obliterate time and reshape reality, transcending even death itself.
  • The Devil in a Forest (1976) – He lives deep in the forest in the time of King Wenceslas, in a village older than record. The young man’s hero-worship of the charming highwayman, Wat, is tempered by growing suspicion of Wat’s cold savagery, and his fear of the sorcerous powers of Mother Cloot is tempered by her kindness. He must decide which of these powers to stand by in the coming battle between Good and Evil that not even his isolated village will be able to avoid.
  • The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (1980) – A collection of science fiction and fantasy stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories is a book that transcends all genre definitions. The stories within are mined with depth charges, explosions of meaning and illumination that will keep you thinking and feeling long after you have finished reading.
  • Bibliomen (1984) – A collection of one- or two-page stories about individual characters.
  • Free Live Free (1984) – “Free Live Free,” said the newspaper ad, and the out-of-work detective Jim Stubb, the occultist Madame Serpentina, the salesman Ozzie Barnes, and the overweight prostitute Candy Garth are brought together to live for a time in Free’s old house, a house scheduled for demolition to make way for a highway.
  • Storeys from the Old Hotel (1988) – This book includes many of Gene Wolfe’s most appealing and engaging works, from short-shorts that can be read in single setting to whimsical fantasy and even Sherlock Holmes pastiches.
  • There Are Doors (1988) – The story of a man who falls in love with a goddess from an alternate universe. She flees him, but he pursues her through doorways-interdimensional gateways-to the other place, determined to sacrifice his life, if necessary, for her love. For in her world, to be her mate . . . is to die.
  • Endangered Species (1989) – A volume of over 30 unforgettable stories in a variety of genres– SF, fantasy, horror, mainstream-many of them offering variations on themes and situations found in folklore and fairy tales, and including two stories, “The Cat” and “The Map.”
  • Castleview (1990) – In the town of Castleview, Illinois, Tom Howard is murdered at the factory he manages-on the same day that Will E. Shields and his family, newly come to Castleview, arrive with a realtor in tow to see Howard’s house. From an attic window, Shields glimpses the phantom castle that has given the town its name. They are discussing the house with Sally Howard when the police arrive bearing the dreadful news. Then, driving back to the motel, Shields nearly hits a gigantic horseman in the rain…beginning a series of collisions with the mythological.
  • Pandora by Holly Hollander (1990) – The box is heavy, locked, and very old. The only clue to its contents is the name written in gold upon its lid: PANDORA. Holly Hollander, a bright teenage girl in Illinois, is understandably curious about what’s inside, but when the box is opened, death is unleashed… leaving Holly at the center of an intricate mystery that only she can solve.
  • Castle of Days: Short Fiction and Essays (1995) – This volume, Castle of Days, joins together two of his rarest and most sought after works–Gene Wolfe’s Book of Days and The Castle of the Otter–and add thirty-nine short essays collected here for the first time, to fashion a rich and engrossing architecture of wonder.
  • Strange Travelers (2000) – Strange Travelers contains a whole decade of achievement. Some of these stories were award nominees, some were controversial, but each is unique and beautifully written.
  • Innocents Aboard (2004) – Highlights from the twenty-two stories include “The Tree is my Hat,” adventure and horror in the South Seas, “The Night Chough,” a Long Sun story, “The Walking Sticks,” a darkly humorous tale of a supernatural inheritance, and “Houston, 1943,” lurid adventures in a dream that has no end.
  • Starwater Strains (2005) – The twenty-five science fiction stories. Their diversity makes them otherwise impossible to characterize as a group, so a few tantalizing samples will have to suffice: “Viewpoint” takes on the unreality of so-called “reality” TV and imagines such a show done truly for real, with real guns, and a real government clawing at the money. Wolfe has loved dinosaurs since he was kid, and in “Petting Zoo” he imagines the reunion of a man and an aged dinosaur who look back together on a day when they were much much younger, and much freer. “Empires of Foliage and Flower” is a special treat.
  • Pirate Freedom (2007) – As a young parish priest, Father Christopher has heard many confessions, but his own tale is more astounding than any revelation he has ever encountered in the confessional . . . for Chris was once a pirate captain, hundreds of years before his birth. Fresh from the monastery, the former novice finds himself inexplicably transported back to the Golden Age of Piracy, where an unexpected new life awaits him.
  • An Evil Guest (2008) – Set a hundred years in the future, An Evil Guest is a story of an actress who becomes the lover of both a mysterious sorcerer and private detective, and an even more mysterious and powerful rich man, who has been to the human colony on an alien planet and learned strange things there. Her loyalties are divided–perhaps she loves them both. The detective helps her to release her inner beauty and become a star overnight. And the rich man is the benefactor of a play she stars in. But something is very wrong. Money can be an evil guest, but there are other evils.
  • The Sorcerer’s House (2010) – In a contemporary town in the American Midwest where he has no connections, an educated man recently released from prison is staying in a motel. He writes letters to his brother and to others, including a friend still in jail. When he meets a real estate agent who tells him he is the heir to a huge old house, long empty, he moves in, though he is too broke to even buy furniture, and is immediately confronted by supernatural and fantastic creatures and events.
  • Home Fires (2011) – A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person-while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman, but eager for her return.
  • The Land Across (2013) – An American writer of travel guides in need of a new location chooses to travel to a small and obscure Eastern European country. The moment Grafton crosses the border he is in trouble, much more than he could have imagined. His passport is taken by guards, and then he is detained for not having it. He is released into the custody of a family, but is again detained. It becomes evident that there are supernatural agencies at work, but they are not in some ways as threatening as the brute forces of bureaucracy and corruption in that country. Is our hero in fact a spy for the CIA? Or is he an innocent citizen caught in a Kafkaesque trap?

Gene Wolfe also published a lot more, a career worth of short stories and other types of works…

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *