Soldier of the Mist

by Gene Wolfe

Paperback, 1987



Call number




Futura Orbit (1987), Paperback


Latro, a mercenary soldier from the north, has suffered a head wound in battle but has developed the ability to see and converse with all of the invisible gods, goddesses, ghosts, demons, and werewolfves that inhabit the land.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Psycho_Milt
This came out shortly after I'd taken a couple of Classics papers dealing with the period it covers, and Wolfe's portrayal of it is just genius. Apart from that, it's a great story.
LibraryThing member hjjugovic
completely baffling and impossible with the most disappointing ending I could imagine. Torturous.
LibraryThing member vegaheim
a little confusing (as i read several other reviews this came up also, phew and here i thought i was dense) all in all good and interesting.
LibraryThing member iayork
A fractured tale, beautifully rendered: Anybody who has seen the recent movie "Memento" knows the premise: the protagonist (in this case a wounded mercenary) has lost his longterm memory, and so can only remember what happens to him for one day. In both the movie and this book, he tries to
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compensate by writing down what he needs to know. Gene Wolfe's fine novel, however, far predates "Memento", and the world it describes, Greece in the 5th century BC, is a far more exotic and alien place.

As a piece of craft, this is a wonderful book--full of apt and elegant descriptions, sparely but deftly rendered characters, and eruptions of violence that pack surprising power. Wolfe is a writer who transcends the genre he happens to be working in, which is something of a miracle in today's pigeon-holed, dumbed-down publishing climate. My only complaint is that he perhaps takes his conceit too far, throwing in one or two too many shifts in time and place (and, in the case of one character, even gender) so that the plot remains less involving that it might have been.

All in all, this is a remarkable achievement.
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LibraryThing member edomor
Historical fiction is rarely, *rarely* this good. The author often (and understandably) errs by projecting the stuff of the present into the past. Or the research is insufficient. Or the story lacks vitality somehow, because the author doesn't quite raise the story out of its entrenched history --
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after all, it has already happened. Not so with Wolfe. He seems as divinely inspired as his protagonist in his portrayal of such a bygone age, which he manages so briskly, with such deftness and unfailing honesty, that my jaw dropped routinely during the reading.

Don't expect a Hollywood ending to this one. The protagonist, Latro, founders from beginning to end -- his short and long-term amnesia causes much trouble for the reader, and largely because of Wolfe's deadly accurate narration, one vicariously experiences the mist that Latro wanders through until the very last page. The narrative is brutally honest, and reminded me a bit of the story of Job.

Probably deserves 5 stars once I get around to a second read. (Wolfe is one of the very few writers who reads better the second time around.)
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LibraryThing member victorianist
Read This Each Day is the title of the first chapter in Soldier of the Mist.
Latro has sustained a head injury in battle and now has only short term memory lasting 12 hours at best. Each day begins anew for him, having forgotten the previous day and who he is. The healer gives Latro a scroll on
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which he is to write the events of each day so that he can remember his name and those of the people around him. Latro's quest is to find the shrine of the earth goddess where he sustained his injury and ask her to heal him. Along the way he gathers an entourage; the black man who communicates through gestures and becomes his best friend, little Io, a slave girl given to him by the golden god, Pendaros, the poet and Hilaeira, the courtesan. Each day they must remind Latro who they are and who he is. It's not long though before we find out that Latro has some very special qualities. And someway down the line he is forced to chose one wish out of three; to have him memory restored, be returned to his friends or returned to his home. Latro's choice is an interesting one.
The plot is complex but highly accessible. It is steeped in the traditions of ancient Greece and has the feel of ancient Greek mythology. Wolfe's prose is airy, sparse and lyrical and his humor subtle. It doesn't make you laugh out loud but you find yourself smiling joyfully at times.
The story and the characters are captivating. Highly suggested for those readers of literary fiction who might want to branch off into quest fantasy for a bit.
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LibraryThing member raschneid
Considering that it's been two months since I started that book (and it's not long), I think it's safe to assume that I'm not going to finish that one.

Soldier of the Mist wasn't dreadful - it has a great premise, a narrator who has anterograde amnesia (a la Memento), blundering through a Persian
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War-era Greece and becoming increasingly in touch with the Greek otherworld of gods and monsters. Wolfe is a fine stylist and historical writer, and I initially enjoyed reading this.

I lost interest because, as with his much later book The Sorceror's House, most of the characters felt unreal to me. The complex mechanism of Wolfe's plot drives everything, which could work if only I sympathized with any of the characters. The dialogue is usually okay, but the characters have shallow motivations and flat personalities, and their interactions sometimes feel unnatural. Our protagonist is understandably passive and mysterious - as an amnesiac, he doesn't know who he is or what exactly is happening to him - but he doesn't seem to have normal motivations or desires and often has weirdly unemotional reactions. In one striking and bizarre scene, a prepubescent girl who has attached herself to his entourage tells him that she and an older woman have both been raped while imprisoned. The narrator doesn't seem to understand what she's saying and doesn't show concern. I'm not sure if this WTF moment was an intentional attempt to alienate us from the narrator, but it read as unbelievable.

Since The Sorceror's House had an identical problem - unlikable, unreal characters - I got the feeling that this wasn't just the tone that Wolfe had chosen for his book, it's the way he writes, with books full of people who aren't people. I drifted away from the book and don't think I'll be returning.
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LibraryThing member jkdavies
I just didn't get engaged with the intriguing concept, in that a man loses his memory and must write down his experiences so he knows what he is doing, but it made for a disjointed story. And (stupid to say, what with all the Greek gods popping up in the story) a little too deus ex
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LibraryThing member robinamelia
I felt like I was in as much of a mist as the character who had lost his short term memory. It was hard keeping track of names and places and what was happening, but it did make me want to continue reading. Definitely not as compelling as his science fiction books.
LibraryThing member elucubrare
I wish it had been the first Wolfe I had read, or that I’d read it instead of The Wizard-Knight, because there is a definite Pattern to Wolfe’s books: a young man doesn’t know (has forgotten) (has lost) his position in Society; the book is dedicated to him finding out what that position is;
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there is no real plot. Of the two, Soldier of the Mist is better than The Wizard-Knight, though that might be influenced by my own predilection for Greek mythology. Wolfe’s use of the mythology is very good, and he has the appropriate degree of awe before the gods. Still, Wolfe’s formula is wearing, especially due to the lack of plot. Four stars because it's beautifully written, and for the treatment of the gods.
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LibraryThing member ritaer
Latro has no memory but sees the gods
LibraryThing member ben_a
This book manifests the Gene Wolfe enigma. Such tight prose, such subtlety. The conversation between the Spartan and the Athenian Stratgist outside Sestos for example -- it's as elegant as a rapier duel. And the evocation of an alien, god-haunted world -- it's really strange and powerful. And all
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through, you feel you are getting hints and crumbs of meaning, shards of some larger design you should be able to piece together. But in the end, what is it all in aid of?

Glad I read it. Vivid, memorable, and strange. But there's a part of me that just wants a narrative, and meaning, right there on the surface and not veiled in mist.
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LibraryThing member quondame
Latro, as he is called by the people around him when he starts recording his daily memories on a scroll, forgets each day after a head injury in a battle near a temple at the battle Plataea (called Clay in the text). He sees gods and demi-gods not visible to his companions and is told that he must
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request forgiveness from the Great Mother if he is to be healed. We read what he has written, somewhat broken and intermittent, and it ends as his party attempts to escape the siege of Sestus on the Hellespont.
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Nebula Award (Nominee — Novel — 1987)
Locus Award (Finalist — Fantasy Novel — 1987)
World Fantasy Award (Nominee — Novel — 1987)


Original publication date


Physical description

320 p.; 6.85 inches


0708882250 / 9780708882252
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