We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
The Shadow of the Torturer Audiobook

The Shadow of the Torturer: The Book of the New Sun, Book 1

Regular Price:$24.05
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Publisher's Summary

The Shadow of the Torturer is the first volume in the four-volume epic, the tale of a young Severian, an apprentice to the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession - showing mercy towards his victim.

Listen to more in the Book of the New Sun series.

©1980 Gene Wolfe; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The best science fiction novel of the last century." (Neil Gaiman)

  • World Fantasy Award, Best Novel, 1981
    • Favorite Audiobooks of 2010 (Fantasy Literature)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (1345 )
5 star
 (466)
4 star
 (341)
3 star
 (267)
2 star
 (138)
1 star
 (133)
Overall
3.7 (1014 )
5 star
 (381)
4 star
 (249)
3 star
 (189)
2 star
 (106)
1 star
 (89)
Story
4.0 (1010 )
5 star
 (463)
4 star
 (276)
3 star
 (150)
2 star
 (59)
1 star
 (62)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    R. L. Cooper 06-04-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "narration too quiet"

    like the dramatic stuff, but audiobooks are best for when one is in the car or other noisy places, and this narration was often too quiet to hear, necessitating frequent changes in volume or earsplitting sections after trying to hear a quiet bit. story was excellent however.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Oren 03-01-15
    Oren 03-01-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I tried to like this book"

    I tried to like this book, the story and characters interested me, but I couldn't finish it. Jonathan Davis was excellent but even he couldn't pull this one off for me.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 04-24-14
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 04-24-14 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    365
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    269
    75
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    23
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "just not entertaining"

    I have no doubt that Gene Wolfe, the author, created a well thought through and populated universe and that his attention to detail was genre defining. But in the end that mattered very little to me, because this book is pretty boring. Here we have the story of a Torturer, raised amongst others of his guild. Then he commits the unthinkable act of having mercy on his victim. He should be killed, but instead is evicted, and this begins his four novel ourney. You can bet that I won't be joining him in the other three.

    He's not a very interesting person and his inner thoughts have very little imagination. They are, instead, formulaic and trustful of the world's status quo. His adventure is also not very adventurous. Sure, there's a battle with deadly plants (I kid you not) but the hours and hours that pace without action wore me down. Sorry.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Houston, TX, United States 03-22-13
    William Houston, TX, United States 03-22-13

    As a Software Architect and Developer, I enjoy listening to audio books while programming. My favorites are high fantasy, epic fantasy and philosophy. For some reason, they don't have many technical manuals on audio!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    278
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Trite Postmodern crap"
    What disappointed you about The Shadow of the Torturer?

    Note: I have listened to this four times in succession from differing points of view on each listen just to give ample benefit of the doubt to the glowing reviewers, accolades, awards and positive criticisms of this work.

    The only possible meaning I could find in this work is that Gene Wolfe is the torturer and the reader is the one being tortured. When read from that perspective, the book takes on a whole new meaning and even borders on comedy, as if you are on the inside of a private joke that nobody else gets.

    The author makes a convention of being unconventional. Linguistically, there is a palpable lack of any and all common phrases, as if this book exists alone as the only oral work or written text ever conceived. Wolfe goes painfully out of his way to accomplish the feat of completely isolating this work from any other.

    There is a dearth of plot and character building in exchange for uniquely engineered prose which serves to distract the reader from the fact that there is quite literally, no story ever presented in the book.

    It is a postmodernists wet dream realized. In short, there is no reason for the existence of this book other than to say, "I make pretty sentences which refer to other pretty sentences I have penned in the same work, but there is no real meaning to be found there, just the illusion of it." It definitely has a *feeling*, an *ambiance* and is no slave to predefined literary techniques or grammatical constructs, but it is in reality a finely wrapped present with nothing inside.

    This work is far more concerned with the method of writing than with storytelling.

    There are commentaries on critics, how to interpret works, how to read works and references which loop back and forth giving the illusion of deeper meaning, but which just cycle back on themselves. It is a perfectly executed piece of postmodernism, but one which has no reason to exist because there is no actual story, just an exercise in saying, "Look at me, I made the perfect postmodern book".

    If you are an intellectual elite, philologist, literary critic or are into self-mutilation of your brain matter, then this may very well rank highly on your list of preferred texts. If you, on the other hand, possess an ounce of common sense and have the wisdom to not run with pointy sticks, then this is likely not for you.

    However, if you want the literary equivalent of saying, "Hey Bob, hold my beer", before doing something truly insane like juggling a weed-whacker, a chain saw, a nail gun and two flaming bowling balls while guzzling a jar of jalapeno peppers, then I can think of no better way to impress your friends than to savor every word of this novel.


    Has The Shadow of the Torturer turned you off from other books in this genre?

    There is no genre presented in this work, only themes which are loosely and indirectly hinted at and skirted around.


    What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Not once did Mr. Davis interject with, "Sweet baby Jesus, I'm not getting paid enough!" That alone is miraculous enough, but he faithfully delivered every sentence in the manner in which I believe it was intended. I don't fault the orator at all and came to have a deep respect for his talents.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, from the linguistic point of view, it borders on brilliance. The sentence structure is compelling, haunting and most certainly gives a "feel" and an "atmosphere " which us undeniably unique, deep and foreboding.

    Think of it as an Aliens movie where they just keep walking around, seeing blips on their handheld life detectors, hearing noises behind the walls, having tension between characters and all shot in that dark, claustrophobic manner complete with spooky soundtrack... but nobody ever dies, sees an alien... nothing... they just keep wandering around getting a "feel" across to the audience.


    Any additional comments?

    If this book were food, I would lick my cats butt to get the flavor out of my mouth.

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julius 02-26-12
    Julius 02-26-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    53
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    455
    27
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very Intellectual, very not Actionful."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    If you like a good read with very little action.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Gene Wolfe? Why or why not?

    .......if I run out of books that move a bit faster yes.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    I am not sure the book had pace, I thought it slept in the corner and woke up and shifted every now and then. The narrator did do a good job, although every now and then whispering and comments were to low to be clear when you listen the first time around.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    yes, because they would cut out some of the conversation that was just too much sometimes.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam F Forest, VA, United States 03-20-10
    Pam F Forest, VA, United States 03-20-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    86
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    260
    63
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    1
    Overall
    "A strange, strange, story."

    Even though I listened all the way through, I never did figure out the purpose of the story. It was just too flat feeling. There was not enough information about the setting or background of the characters to help me connect with them or understand/empathize with their actions.

    It was like reading the diary of someone from another planet. The protagonist's encounters where interesting and some were quite exciting. But the book just felt flat and unconnected.

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geert Erpe-Mere, Belgium 01-30-10
    Geert Erpe-Mere, Belgium 01-30-10 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    57
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Morbid and slow"

    I am afraid I have to rate this as 'poor'. The narrating is fine. The story is ..euh next to non-existent for me. The main character is a morbid and cold young man, with a very twisted view on his world. Could have been a great scenario, but -for me- it wasn't at all. No one to identify with, no suspense in this very slow paced story, and a lot of superficial characters on the side. I will have to pass for the rest of the series.

    6 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katelyn Ward 04-07-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    55
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Shadow of the Torturer"

    The writing was too complicated. It was like a different language almost. It went back and forth from present to past, from present to the setting, and from present to past thoughts to present thoughts and back to the present again. Sheesh, I could not enjoy this book.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandon Carney MOSES LAKE, WA, US 03-31-16
    Brandon Carney MOSES LAKE, WA, US 03-31-16 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dramatic Pauses"

    I listened at 1.25 time speed because of the actors over use of dramatic pauses.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve 03-09-16
    Steve 03-09-16 Member Since 2017

    Dudka

    HELPFUL VOTES
    25
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    39
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Abysmal Mess"
    Would you try another book from Gene Wolfe and/or Jonathan Davis?

    I can't say I would ever pull a Gene Wolfe book again. Jonathan Davis whispered way too much for me to hear anything. Honestly, give the sound clip a shot.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Gene Wolfe again?

    I just don't get the fascination with Gene Wolfe. Agreed the novel is not for everyone, but it really requires the reader/listen to work... and not in a fun way.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Jonathan Davis’s performances?

    I will never listen to Jonathan Davis again. He has good range but choose to whisper and destroy all voices. Maybe because it was a first person narrative. Either way, it was horrible.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I was angry at myself for being stubborn and not just getting a refund. I said, "oh no, it's me. People love this guy, it must get better." Wrong wrong wrong.


    Any additional comments?

    There is a reason no one mentions what the story is like in their reviews. First part is Severian leaving the guild (mildly entertaining). The second part is his travels up North (muddled mess). The ending follows suite with a bunch of circus nonsense. Honestly, billed as Sci-Fi... he rides a horse with a sword. No space, no ships, no lasers...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.