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The Death of Doctor Island by Gene Wolfe

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“The Death of Doctor Island” is a 1973 science fiction novella by Gene Wolfe. It is about a mentally disturbed teenage boy who is sent to a very high tech rehabilitation center.

Perfect Therapy?

Have you ever been to therapy? I have, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone!) and I found it incredibly useful. However, after reading this story I very much wished that I could visit the doctor/island in this story. Now that is what I call awesome therapy! Oh, except for the homicidal guy – yeah, he was a little bit scary.

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

Garie Beach Fire Scribbles by alexkess, CC 2.0 license

Nicholas Kenneth de Vore has just been transferred to the island, and what a lovely place it is! A beautiful, tropical island that talks to and helps Nicholas, and it is nearly deserted. Yeah, there are 2 other people on the therapeutic island – but everyone on it is crazy in their own special way. (How fun is that!) But the island (Dr. Island, by the way) has a plan to help them. The only problem is that the plan doesn’t end so well – but did it help anyone? Hmm… good question.

My Two Cents…

  • Doctor Island was a very cool idea – in both a psychological and science fictiony kind of way.
  • I really enjoyed the character of Nicholas / Kenneth. Both his personality and his past were quite interesting to read about.
  • This is a classic Gene Wolfe story, which could be good or bad for you. It is very descriptive and starts out slow, but the ending is both strange and cool. If you like his other stuff then you’ll probably like this one too.

Interesting Tidbits About This Story:

  • Page Count: 51
  • “The Death of Doctor Island” won the 1974 Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novella, and was also nominated for the Hugo Award.
  • Did you know that Gene Wolfe is a convert to the Catholic faith? Yep. You can learn more about this amazing author at Wikipedia.

Where You Can Find The Death of Doctor Island:

Craving More Science Fiction Short Stories?

If you liked “The Death of Doctor Island” then you may enjoy Memorare, about a man making a documentary of the dangerous tombs built in asteroids, also by Gene Wolfe.

7 thoughts to “The Death of Doctor Island by Gene Wolfe”

  1. I loved Memorae. Have not read this one though. I liked Wolfe’s Fifth Head of Cerberus, but other than those two I tend to think that Wolfe is overrated. Ill have to give this one a try though.

  2. Yeah, I thought “Memorare” was awesome! I’ve heard good things about Fifth Head of Cerberus, so I’ll have to give that one a try.

    This story was good, but not my favorite Gene Wolf. There were several things I liked about it though – especially the ending! If you try it let me know what you think.

  3. Wolfe is a talented author, but the thing that I really don’t like about him is that so many of his stories have that fantasy or supernatural feel to them. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not my cup of tea. Do you know what I mean, Rusty? What do you think?

  4. Yep, I agree that Wolfe is a talented author, but I know of several people who don’t like his writing style – either for the reason you mentioned or because his stories sometimes feel unfocused. However, since reading The Book of The New Sun series I have absolutely loved his style. I enjoy the supernatural feel of his stories, but I know that not everybody does. Anyway, it seems people who like his other stories will like this one, and people who don’t won’t. Either way is good, and I try to read and recommend a variety of stories while knowing this.

  5. Is the Book of the New Sun a generational starship story? Someone recommended that one to me recently; they said it was great too. Is it science fiction or science fantast?

  6. No, the generational starship story is The Book of The Long Sun. The Book of The New Sun is about an apprentice torturer named Severian, and it is mostly science fiction, but there is some fantasy stuff in there too. It is one of my all time favorite series. However, if you don’t like Gene Wolfe’s other stuff then you probably won’t like it either – so take my recommendation with a grain of salt.

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