The Lost Pilgrim by Gene Wolf
Section: Mazes and Traps
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5 Rating
That was strange…
About the author:
Gene Wolf has been called the best living American writer regardless of genre. Some of his awards include the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Rhysling Award (for poetry), and the British Science Fiction Association Award as well as eight nominations for the Hugo Award. “The Lost Pilgrim” was first published in the anthology The First Heroes (edited by Harry Turtledove) in 2004.
Gene Wolf may be considered one of the best living America writers, but I highly doubt his supporters use this story as proof of this fact. The Lost Pilgrim has in interesting premise and plot, but I found it hard a times to follow exactly what was going on, and the story felt to move rather sideways and diagonal with tangents many times.
Our time-traveller has been sent back in time to help out with some event – what that even is, he cannot remember right now. All he knows is that it will requite him getting on a ship and helping two cultures of people to meet. While he is on a beach, a ship with barely clothed men comes up and meets with tribe of bronze plated warrior women. Our time-traveller interacts with them, thinking it may be the case. He soon realized it is not, but finds out a name of a man on the ship that he believes is the name of man whom is a part of what he is supposed to be there to help with. With this new knowledge, he decided to join the ship and hopes that their journeys will help him to remember what he is supposed to do, and take him to where he should go.
I am very unsure of how much to reveal about this story. I kind of think that even saying where or when the story takes place would be a spoiler to it. Naming some of the character’s our narrator comes across definitely would be. It is revealed somewhat earlier into the story (and if your a sharp reader you can probably figure it out after the first couple pages), but our time-traveller has been sent back into the time of Ancient Greece.
Him on the ship actually did remind me of The Odyssey. This is NOT a retelling of that story (best as I can tell), but this story is about our time-traveller trying to get to where his destination is (Odysseus returning home) but the ship he is on, keeps getting side tracked and he finds himself in many different and dangerous situations, that have nothing to do with his ultimate quest.
The story is written in the first the first-person as a type of diary that our narrator promised to make as he went along on this trip. He mentions “Pukz” that relate to his entries – which are essential pictures. We do not see them in the story, but our narrator mentions them in his diary with what they would be of, and I thought they added well to the authenticity that it was a diary.
What I did not think added well the story was how the story was told. Since right from the begging, the narrator has forgotten what he supposed to be doing, and it is in all his writing, I was confused just as much as anything about what was going. As our narration was just going along to see what was happening, so was I as the reader, waiting to pick something up about what the heck was going on.
Part of what makes this so confusing, beside the narrators own confusion rubbing off, was it is very fuzzy where we are, the names are difficult to pronounce, and many named characters come in out and without any really introduction or context.
When I finally did realize what he was supposed to do, it did help a little bit – but our narrator was still going off, doing his own random things (it felt like the story kept going off on tangents and kept getting sidetracked); not remembering exactly what he was suppose to do, but just going with the flow and getting caught up in time he was in (he still want to do his mission, so he says, he actions speak otherwise); and the reveal of the actual time and place we are, do add the confusion a bit too.
What did I think was really cool was the ending, where all is revealed.
Spolierific Speculations: (Highlight to read)
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If you haven’t guessed it by now, I thought this was a very strange story. I think that if I were to read it twice, knowing who the characters are now, what happens in the story, and what our narration mission is, I would enjoy this a lot more. (But this is a 17 pages story – and if you saw how small the font is on this hardcover, you would realize that is quite long – so that’s not going to happen).
I don’t believe Wolfe is anywhere near the best writer after reading this, but I DO want to still badly read his The Book of the New Sun series. I know that is highly well-regarded.
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See you next Thursday for Palindromic by Peter Crowther