Many reviewers of EMPIRE OF SILENCE have remarked on the analogies with DUNE so I want to spell out those with BOOK OF THE NEW SUN. Intertextuality not originality is the question (and Wolfe’s saga itself borrows elements from LORD OF THE RINGS):

1) The Chantry/the torturers’ guild,

2) Hadrian kills a Sun to win the war/ Severian kills a Sun to bring the New Sun,

3) First person self-justifying narrator Hadrian/Severian,

4) Bildungsroman of protagonist fleeing a future career as a torturer

5) Highmatter sword gifted to Hadrian/the sword Terminus Est gifted to Severian,

6) Tallness of palatine ruling class/Tallness of exultant ruling class

7) Energy lances

8) Shadow of the executioner/Shadow of the torturer

The count’s shadow might as well have been that of the executioner” (EMPIRE OF SILENCE page 289)

9) Lictors

10) Hadrian’s ring heavy around his neck/Severian’s Claw heavy around his neck

11) Hadrian’s mission at the end is conciliator/Severian becomes the Conciliator

Ligeia glanced a moment at Lord Balian, who only shook his head. Her voice now carrying a fraction of its earlier forcefulness, she said, “What, then? Conciliation? Surrender?” “No one is saying anything about surrender, ma’am,” said old Sir William Crossflane from his place beside the tribune” (EMPIRE OF SILENCE, 568).

12) Both books are only approximately translated from a not yet existing future language

13) Apostrophe to the reader at the end. Compare:

If what I have done disturbs you, Reader, I do not blame you. If you would read no further, I understand. You have the luxury of foresight. You know where this ends. I shall go on alone” (EMPIRE OF SILENCE, 578).


Here I pause. If you wish to walk no farther with me, reader, I cannot blame you. It is no easy road” (THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER, 210).

14) Meditation on symbols as our masters:

 “We think ourselves the masters of such symbols, but they are our masters” (EMPIRE OF SILENCE, 437).


We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges” (THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER, 14).

Again I must emphasise that I am talking primarily about parallels and intertextuality, not derivation and originality.


  1. I feel very conflicted about reading this Empire of Silence novel. Dune and Book of the New Sun are two of my favorite novels, and I wonder if Empire of Silence is so derivative that it is distracting. How’s the prose?


    • I liked the book enough to finish it and to want to read the sequels, but it cannot rival with DUNE and BONS, which are favorites of mine too. The prose is competent and readable, but one-dimensional compared to these models. I first heard of it from critical reviews, rather than the dithyrambic ones, so I did not have unrealistic expectations, and so was not too disappointed.


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