The Time Traveler’s Almanac: The Lost Pilgrim by Gene Wolf


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)



If your comments contains a spoiler, please type “SPOILER:” at the start of your comment to alert fellow readers and comments. Thanks!

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.

Be sure to check out my fellow time-travelers’ reviews!

Alesha Escobar
H.M. Jones
Laurel’s Writing Desk
Timothy C. Ward

3/5 Rating



Follow along on Twitter with #TimeTravelThursday

To see a full list of The Time Traveler’s Almanac reviews and reading schedule, visit The Time Traveler’s Almanac Page

Feel free to join in any join time! Just leave a comment down below 🙂

See you next Thursday for Palindromic by Peter Crowther

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8 thoughts on “The Time Traveler’s Almanac: The Lost Pilgrim by Gene Wolf

  1. And you still gave it a 4/5 rating!? 🙂

    Yes, it was a long one, but I think that the Ursula le Guin story trumps it! But yes, I won’t be rereading it in a hurry. I grumped about it to my husband, and his comment was “Well, I won’t buy you any more books then!” – I said this is just ONE story in an entire tome that’s difficult to read, not the whole tome!

    Yeah. I really did lose it some at times – the giants, the king, but in some senses it was good fun too.


  2. Bookwraiths says:

    When you do read Gene Wolf’s more renowned series, I’m betting you will feel the same way that you do right now. When I tried him years ago, I was damn confused and could not imagine how he garnered all the praise he had. Not to say he didn’t have some great ideas and a unique style, but “The Book of the New Sun” was terribly confusing to read, completely turning me off from ever reading him again.


    • Oh no… that NOT what I wanted to hear 😦 When it come to author like this, with older series that praised are amazing, but I don’t like nowadays, it usually always comes down to wiring itself, not plot or characters. I guess some prose styles simply don’t age well?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think I would like this. I can never get the feel for “confused” characters, so I never get to care too much for them or their story. Happened to me recently with another story about a character who lived in a world where long-term memory was taken away.


  4. josephusbt says:

    Pipin’ in four years after the last post, but better late than never.

    What bugged me the most is just how pointless it all became in the end (when it finaly came). The Pilgrim dies (i suppose…), he’s not found, nothing makes sense, his life is meaningless, along with his story.
    His motivation to do anything was perplexing. Why would you join an attack on anyone? Why would you draw lots to die with the king? Why not jump away into a different time? Why would you not go home if you have difficulties?

    I’m a fan of greek mythology, but not of writing like this one


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