People interested in short science fiction and fantasy often ask for help picking an SF/F magazine to subscribe to. After four years of reading and reviewing, Rocket Stack Rank is in a good position to offer some advice, and the start of the year is a good time for it, since people are making (or trying to live up to) their New Year’s resolutions.
“It is possible I already had some presentiment of my future.” So opens The Shadow of the Torturer, the first volume of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. These first eleven words of a thousand-page cycle accomplish a great deal. Of course they establish a first-person narrator, and establish that he or she is looking back on their life, but they also help set a scene and construct a voice. Those first three words, “It is possible,” are perfectly correct, but they’re a little formal, even stilted. “It’s possible” would be much more colloquial, but would fail to establish Severian’s archaic and deliberative voice. Similarly, the multisyllabic Latinate “presentiment” is both less foreboding than the more familiar “premonition” and more evocative of Urth and its antiquity than “idea” or “sense” would be.