Over at the Guardian, Alison Flood has been reading some science fiction and fantasy classics, and has gotten around to Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series — the first half of it, anyway. She is impressed, as she should be. But I have never been quite sure how highly to rate this series. It’s brilliant in so many ways, but I have always suspected that Wolfe never really grasped the essence of his own design — that he followed an imaginative trail that was very rewarding in many ways, for him and for his readers, only to find that it concluded in a dead end. To shift metaphors, there seems to be no heart to the series, no core or center — just a magnificent series of images and events that add up to nothing in particular.