The Fifth Head of Cerberus

by Gene Wolfe
Reviewed date: 2003 May 11
277 pages
cover art

The Fifth Head of Cerberus turns out to be a novella, and it is published with two other novellas, also by Gene Wolfe.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus: It's a pretty good story, although perhaps a little dated in its style. But it was only published in 1972, so I guess that's just a style thing. And I just realized that nowhere in the novella do we learn the name of the main character; interesting--and significant, now that I think about it.

A Story, by John V. Marsch: This story sucked.

V.R.T. is a cool story and now I understand the significance of A Story, by John V. Marsch.

The premise of three novellas is that two twin worlds, Saint Anne and Saint Croix, were first settled by the French. Then when the French lost the war there was discrimination and the French were made second-class citizens or slaves. But the novellas really focus on the conjectured existence of the aboriginal people of Saint Anne, who, it is sometimes thought, killed the original settlers and then mimicked the settlers so well that eventually they forgot they were from Saint Anne and thought they were the settlers from Earth. I guess the abos were shapeshifters or something. But of course, there is no proof whatsoever of this, or even that the abos even ever existed. So yeah, it's a pretty interesting set of stories. There are lots of references in the first two stories that won't mean anything to you until you read the third one.

However, I can't recommend it without reservation. You really can't read the stories independently, and the middle story kind of sucked, even though a lot more of it made sense after reading the last story.

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