The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a collection of three novellas by science fiction and fantasy writer Gene Wolfe. In the title story, a narrator looks back on his boyhood and imprisonment on the planet of Sainte Croix. The second novella, “A Story,” by John V. Marsch, is a tale from the viewpoint of an anthropologist from Earth. The final novella, V.R.T. is a collection of interviews and reports on the fictional Marsch.

The title novella was published independently in Orbit 10 in 1972, the same year this collection was originally released. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novella that same year. Science fiction author and editor Gardner Dozois once said that it was the best novella written in the ’70s.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe, a former engineer that helped invent Pringles chips, is a prolific writer that has received extensive praise from other genre writers. Harlan Ellison called him “one of the finest, most original writers in the world today.” Ursula LeGuin described him as the Herman Melville of fantasy and science fiction. In 1996, Wolfe won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.

This edition, which features a cover by British painter Bruce Pennington, was published in 1983 by Arrow Books. Pennington began creating covers in 1967, when he was commissioned to create a cover for Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. From that point on, he painted covers for many other fantasy and science fiction titles, including John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Frank Herbert’s Dune books.

In the 70s, Pennington began painting horror covers for books by writers like H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and Clark Ashton Smith. He used this experience to create a book of his own, Eschatus, a visual interpretation of the prophecies of Nostradamus. While Pennington is retired today, he still draws and paints his own original works.