The Fifth Head of Cerberus Three Novellas

Gene Wolfe

Orb Books



Trade Paperback

256 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Wolfe skillfully interweaves three bizarre novellas to create a mesmerizing pattern: the harrowing account of the son of a mad genius who discovers his hideous heritage; a young man's mythic dreamquest for his darker half; and the bizarre chronicle of a scientist's nightmarish imprisonment.

Like strands in an intricately braided knot, these narratives at last unfold to reveal astonishing truths about a strange and savage alien landscape. The Fifth Head of Cerberus is "a subtle, ingenious, poetic, and picturesque book; the uncertainty principle embodied in brilliant fiction . . . Wolfe is so good he leaves me speechless" (Ursula K. Le Guin).


Praise for The Fifth Head of Cerberus

"Wolfe is unique. If there were forty or fifty of this first-rate author—no, let's be reasonable and ask Higher Authorities for only four or five—American literature as a whole would be enormously enriched."—Chicago Sun-Times

"One of the major fictional works of the decade . . . Wolfe's book, with its elusiveness and its beauty, haunts one long after reading it."—Pamela Sargent

"A richly imaginative exploration of the nature of identity and individuality."—Malcolm Edwards, The Science Fiction Encyclopedia

"SF for the thinking reader. The style is highly literate and the ideas sophisticated and handled with sensitivity."—Amazing SF

"One of the 100 best science fiction novels . . . A truly extraordinary work. One of the most cunningly wrought narratives in the whole of modern SF, a masterpiece of misdirection, subtle clues, and apparently casual revelations."—David Pringle

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,
That eats the she-wolf's young.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge—"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

When I was a boy my brother David and I had to go...

Read the full excerpt


  • Gene Wolfe

  • Gene Wolfe has been called "the finest writer the science fiction world has yet produced" by The Washington Post. A former engineer, he has written numerous books and won a variety of awards for his SF writing.

  • Gene Wolfe