Skip to main content
US Macmillan Tradebooks for Courses

The Fifth Head of Cerberus

Three Novellas

Gene Wolfe

Orb Books

The Fifth Head of Cerberus Download image

ISBN10: 0312890206
ISBN13: 9780312890209

Trade Paperback

256 Pages



Request Desk Copy
Request Exam Copy


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

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...

About the author

Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe (1931-2019) was the Nebula Award-winning author of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy in the Solar Cycle, as well as the World Fantasy Award winners The Shadow of the Torturer and Soldier of Sidon. He was also a prolific writer of distinguished short fiction, which has been collected in such award-winning volumes as Storeys from the Old Hotel and The Best of Gene Wolfe.

A recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, and six Locus Awards, among many other honors, Wolfe was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012.

Gene Wolfe