It is a familiar charge of modern atheism that the existence of pain argues against the existence of God. “For some time it has seemed to me,” Wolfe insists, “that it would be even easier to maintain the position that pain proves or tends to prove God’s reality.” The tale of Severian, apprentice to the Order of Saint Katharine of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence, is the tale of a man reared in the state-sponsored infliction of physical agony who comes to discover over his life’s adventures that the power of pain ultimately points to something deeper. Expelled from his own guild when he shows mercy to one of their “clients,” he is sent into exile as a disgrace to his guild. His adventures lead him to the estate of an order of religious women from whom he unwittingly comes into possession of an ancient relic, called the Claw of the Conciliator.
Unaware of its seemingly magical powers, Severian comes to realize that he can sometimes—not always—heal people with a touch from the glowing artifact. Only gradually does it become revealed to the reader that the Claw is believed to be a relic of Christ, the Conciliator, also known as the New Sun, who will one day return, bringing not only peace but a rebirth of the dwindling red orb in Urth’s daylight sky. Severian eventually returns to the Guild from which he has been exiled, assumes the throne of the Commonwealth, and silences the machines of torture.
Claim to fame - My brother and I met Gene Wolfe at Harlan Ellison's bookstore when I was in law school. For such a lyrical writer, his physical appearance reminded me of a steel worker.