A tale woven from Blade Runner, noir, and Lovecraft.
I think it’s the rare author who doesn’t like to genre-bend. After all, there’s an entire sub-genre called slipstream that is based on combining SF, fantasy, horror, and/or something else altogether. Every writer I know of, professional or not, either has published or is hiding in their drawer something that crosses the borders. Why? Because it’s damn fun, that’s why.
It’s also difficult to do well. Genres have their own tropes that, even in the most diffident of their members, defines them. Some of these tropes do not, in the hands of the unwary writer, combine well. Crossing genre not only takes serious kneading but also a love of and deep interest in each of the genres being combined. And because it’s genres that are being blended here, their tropes must be understood and dealt with by the author—otherwise it’s just a mess. ((Also known as literary fiction. Okay, sorry. I’m sorry. Hey, put that down! I’m sorry!))
Gene Wolfe, now, is a master of story-telling. These days he’s such a master that his stories can be enjoyed by anybody—and still by those of us who are looking, or re-reading, further. An Evil Guest is such a book, and like the very best of genre-bending, it’s unbelievable to describe: it’s not just the tagline that’s “Lovecraftian Blade Runner Noir”, but that’s also precisely what this book is.
My favorite characteristic of An Evil Guest is how all these genres are subtly orchestrated. We start with a hint of Lovecraft but mixed with a detective (oh, what a detective! I would die for Gideon Chase’s love, although that’s sort of a turnabout, which you’ll know once you’ve read this book) who is more Lovecraftian than based in noir. Then we cross over into the noir characters with an actress and a master villain, who also braids into Lovecraft. Under all this is the bass of a future setting that seeps Blade Runner. It truly is like reading music, each genre a theme in the overture.
The ending is truly epic, and yet also personal. It is a sad but truthful ending, but a perfection summation of all the themes. Gene Wolfe truly is a master composer.
And let me just say: hubba hubba Gideon Chase. But I think that’s just me.