The Detective of Dreams • 1980 • Fantasy short story by Gene Wolfe

★★

Meta: isfdb. This fantasy short story by Gene Wolfe was published 1980 in the anthology Dark Forces. I read it as part of the collection The Best of Gene Wolfe.

Synopsis

A French psychic detective is hired to investigate who is behind recurring dreams unsettling various people in Bavaria/Austria. It ends in a special take on Christ’s Eucharist.

Review

The story is a pastiche of a Gothic 19th century detective story – abstracting and anonymizing names and places with their initials in the style of those works, probably reminiscent of Chesterton or Poe.

It probably isn’t surprising that the dreams are variations of biblical parables, e.g. the Unmerciful Servant. Wolfe seemed to have climbed emotionally very deep into this story, and delivered – maybe as a consequence – a heavy-handed Christian story with nearly no room for interpretation left. But read Marc Aramini’s interesting essay.

I don’t quite understand why Gene Wolfe wrote this story for the horror anthology Dark Forces, as I can’t see any horror elements in it at all – especially the dreams weren’t frightening for me at all.

 

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