My second anthology of the week.
Gene Wolfe may be the great living American writer. He's certainly the greatest American writer of speculative fiction. Wolfe's work is wonderfully layered and complex, without ever dragging or stumbling. Reading Wolfe requires work. He does not spoonfeed his readership. Pay close attention.
Let's start with the wrappings: this anthology has a delightful cover and a great title. I actually didn't notice the pun until I'd looked at the cover several times. Innocents Aboard perfectly captures the spirit of these short works, which often feature ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The theme, if there is one, is the sense of wonder and strangeness evoked.
From the introduction I learn that Gene Wolfe is old enough to have a grandkid. This makes sense, but disappoints me, as my mental image of him is pegged at about 37 and smoking hot - a little bit like Neil Gaiman. Ah well, another fantasy down the tubes.
Inventive, clever, delightful, touching. Almost all allowed me to have that joyous moment of insight, the 'ah-ha!' moment when you figure it all out.
I'm still in awe at his craftsmanship, the way he gives his characters so distinctive a voice so quickly.
My favorite story was 'The Lost Pilgrim', but 'Queen' is the one that has stuck in my head the most.