The four-volume series - actually one long, sustained novel split into four volumes due to length - is widely-regarded as one of the pinnacles of science fiction and fantasy literature, once described by The Guardian newspaper as SF's answer to Ulysses. A dense and complex tale, The Book of the New Sun follows the journey of a torturer, Severian, across a fantastical landscape to a distant city. Along the way he becomes a powerful figure, and the book suggests that Severian is an unreliable narrator who is changing aspects of his story for unknown purposes. The series has inspired significant discussion of its themes and complex characterisation since it was first published in 1980-83.
Handling the movie version will be veteran Hollywood director Michael Bay. Despite being best-known for his action movies featuring numerous and impressive explosions, Bay claims that the films will be extremely faithful to the books, and he will not sacrifice the books' subtle narrative aspects in favour of spectacle. "Plus I'm never going to get that Best Picture Award if I keep making films about Marky Mark talking to Optimus Prime, you know what I'm saying?"
Author Gene Wolfe has reported that he is happy with the script he has read, acknowledging that of course some changes are to be expected to make the dense work a better fit for the big screen. "Although I must admit I was initially unsure about the scene when Severian salvages an ancient helicopter gunship equipped with rotary laser miniguns and uses it to engage in battle with triple-headed mutants, Michael explained to me the deep thematic resonance of how the scene reflects the inherent nobility of the human spirit. Or something."
Early concept art suggests the film will feature a 'fresh interpretation' of the sword Terminus Est.
Bay confirms that Wolfe has been consulted at all levels of the project, including casting. "For the role of Severian I was initially considering Taylor Lautner, but Gene was determined that we get an experienced, method actor who could really embody the role's complexity. We compromised on Jack Black."
Black confirmed that he did, "Not have a f*****g clue what is going on," in the script but took the project on because the books' artwork "Totally looked like heavy metal album covers."
The Book of the New Sun: The Shadow of the Torturer will be released in cinemas the day after hell freezes over.