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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Close reading of "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" by Gene Wolfe

Published in Orbit 7
Collected in The Best of Gene Wolfe

Theme: A common complaint of SF has been that it is escapist.  Gene Wolfe embraces this definition and makes that a positive thing.  (The entire story is up for discussion here.)

Summary:  "You," a young boy named Tackie, escapes into a world where our hero, Ransom, battles Dr. Death.  At the moment, though, Ransom is a prisoner of Dr. Death and soon to be the subject of the doctor's experiments.  Meanwhile, the boy lives with his single mother who has a boyfriend that stays the night.  They throw a party and Dr. Death leads Tackie to discover his mother, arms marked up with needle tracks.  Dr. Death asks Tackie what's the matter and he says he doesn't want Dr. Death to die.  Tackie can "start the book again [and] we'll all be back.... It's the same with you, Tackie."

Important Quotes:

  1. "Ransom and I are a bit like wrestlers, under various guises we put on our show again and again--but only under the spotlight."
  2. "I am going to demonstrate my technique to you.  It is so seldom that I have a really appreciate audience." -- in context Ransom is about to watch a beautiful woman be operated on before it's Ransom's turn.
  3. "to illustrate something of your own fare."
  4. "fastened in place straps of the same kind as those that held Ransom pinned to the wall." 
  5. "This is my third trip.  Not a good trip, but not a bad trip. But I should have had a monitor--you know, someone to stay with me."
  6. Mother is inside on the bed, and Dr. Black is standing over her filling a hypodermic.... and all you can think of is Dr. Death bending over Talar on the operating table."

This story was nominated for a Nebula award.

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