The Land Across

The cover of "The Land Across": a railway through rocky terrain, coloured red

There’s a lot going on. But then there’s always a lot going on in a Gene Wolfe book.

This was my first read of The Land Across, and it’s going to require addi­tion­al read-throughs for me to pick up on some of the puz­zles. But even on a sur­face lev­el, this book is very “all things to all people”.

Grafton, an Amer­i­can trav­el writer[1]Well, that’s what he claims to be, and why would­n’t we believe him?, trav­els to an unnamed coun­try in East­ern Europe, the land across the moun­tains, intend­ing to write the first trav­el book about the nation. Very quick­ly he becomes entan­gled in the local law, Kafkaesque bureau­cra­cy, and a con­spir­a­cy that grows to include a haunt­ed house, at least one love tri­an­gle, a buried trea­sure, and a Satan­ic cult. Strange fig­ures come and go[2]For exam­ple: was that Drac­u­la?, seem­ing­ly at ran­dom. Some of the ghost­ly events turn out to have mun­dane expla­na­tions; oth­ers are in fact ghosts.

To quote one of the police offi­cers in the first chapter:

All maps are wrong. If the [ene­mies] come, they will be lost.”

—Gene Wolfe, The Land Across

I’ve found a cou­ple reviews of this nov­el from 2013, when it was pub­lished: Char­lie Jane Anders wrote about it for io9, and Mordi­cai Knode’s review for sug­gests fur­ther reading—for instance, Flann O’Con­nor’s The Third Police­man.

I’ve also found this guide, full of spoil­ers, which I plan to use when I get to my sec­ond read of the nov­el. (This note is most­ly for me, but if it helps you out too, I’m glad.)


1 Well, that’s what he claims to be, and why would­n’t we believe him?
2 For exam­ple: was that Dracula?

My head’s swimming now

I recent­ly fin­ished my re-read of Gene Wolfe’s Fifth Head of Cer­berus. Feel­ing pret­ty smug, think­ing I’d caught a lot more than I’d picked up on first read­ing it, I Googled fifth head of cerberus analysis, which led me to a pas­sel of arti­cles on Ultan’s Library, includ­ing Prov­ing Veil’s Hypoth­e­sis [warn­ing: many, many spoil­ers] . And… wow.

I had no idea.

I still have no idea.

But I’m glad there’s at least one writer out there as sub­tle, as sneaky, as sly, as Gene Wolfe.

Series: Gene Wolfe

The entire series: The Gold­en Sen­tence; A les­son in a line; Inde­scrib­able; My head­’s swim­ming now; The Island of Dr. Death.

Writing Retreat 2017

The Office -- writing at my friends' cabin

As is rapid­ly becom­ing tra­di­tion, I spent most of the last week of July in a friend’s cab­in up at Minnedosa. (Thanks, Karen & Ed!) My goals for the week are post­ed here, and here’s how it went:

Beat sheets for the major characters in Translations

I have a com­plete out­line for the POV’s arc, which is the most crit­i­cal as it’s nar­rat­ed in the first person.

Also, I had a major epiphany about the POV char­ac­ter, one that will shake up the last ⅔ of the book.

10,000 words in Translations

I wrote 12,500 words in Trans­la­tions, the bulk of it writ­ten as I sat on the deck, pret­ty much all alone in the cot­tage area.

At least a few shots of the Milky Way

Yeah, that turned out okay.

The Galaxy

Hav­ing access to a car this year real­ly helped me get to the dark places (lit­er­al­ly) so that I could get some great pho­tos of the night sky.

Also, I sold a print of one of my pho­tos to a friend. (Thanks, Bri­anne!) Does that mean I’m a pro now?

Lots of bike riding

Well. My bike’s left ped­al arm has been com­ing loose more and more fre­quent­ly. It’s got to go into the shop. On my first ride in Minnedosa, I had to stop twice to tight­en the ped­al arm, both times on my way up a hill. So after that, feh to bike rid­ing. (At least, my bike in its cur­rent condition.)

For­tu­nate­ly, I had access to a kayak (thanks, Car­la!), so I put in about 15 km of pad­dling time, going up and down the lake.

Stretch goals

I read James S. A. Corey’s amaz­ing Leviathan Wakes, cour­tesy of my pub­lic library’s e‑book pro­gram. I’m now hooked, and need to read the rest of the Expanse saga.

I also re-read the first ⅔ of Gene Wolfe’s sub­tle and mys­te­ri­ous The Fifth Head of Cer­berus, which, I’m not gonna lie, prob­a­bly had at least a lit­tle bit to do with my afore­men­tioned epiphany. (It’s also the first Wolfe nov­el I’ve re-read, and it’s amaz­ing how much less con­fu­sion I feel, how much more I’m pick­ing up.)

And we bought a sec­ond car, which is why I could have a vehi­cle to go gal­li­van­tin’ around the coun­try­side, look­ing for dark loca­tions to get pho­tos like this:

The Galaxy

I think that went well.