A largely colorless, stolidly explicatory finale for the epic travelogue The Book of the New Sun. (The Shadow of the Torturer, 1980; The Claw of the Conciliator and The Sword of the Lictor, 1981.) Emotionless, robot-like hero Severian, now stricken with fever, stumbles upon a hospital run by the Pelerines, to whom he intends to return the magical Claw--though Severian himself isn't sure where the Claw's apparent power to raise the dead comes from. The Pelerines aren't interested, however, so Severian leaves the Claw under an altar; and during a long convalescence, he listens to his fellow-patients swap tall tales. Next, after a visit to eccentric hermit Ash, who exists in an alternate future, Severian drifts into joining the war to repulse the invading brainwashed Ascian hordes. Then he encounters the Autarch at last, but their aircar is soon shot down: mortally wounded, the Autarch offers a potion that will transfer to Severian the thousands of personalities and wealth of experience contained in the Autarch's brain; Severian accepts, becomes the new Autarch. And the ending, concerning the promised advent of the New Sun, slides off into heavygoing, over-elaborate, metaphysical explanations involving cosmic beings, time-travel, black holes, and much more. Dreary stuff for the most part--the rather smug, often static narrative doesn't help--and likely to disappoint even series devotees.