Home Fires


Home Fires PS Publishing Jacket
PS Publishing
Limited Edition
Home Fires Tor Hardcover Jacket
Tor Hardcover
  • First publication by Tor Books (hardcover), 18 January 2011; jacket design by Jamie Stafford-Hill (ship photograph by Brandon Herman/Photolibrary/Corbis)
  • Limited edition jacketed hardcover and traycased hardcover by PS Publishing (Subterranean Press US distributor),
    January 2011; jacket painting by David Gentry



Complete plot summary -- SPOILERS


  • The title is probably from this popular WWI song, written in 1914:
    Keep the Home Fires Burning,
    While your hearts are yearning,
    Though your lads are far away
    They dream of home.
    There's a silver lining
    Through the dark clouds shining,
    Turn the dark cloud inside out
    'Til the boys come home.
  • Meanings of names
    • Coleman Baum -- the last name is most likely a reference to Lyman Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. (On the Coleman/Lyman connection, artificial coal can be made from sulfite lye.)
    • Boswash, NAU, where Skip lives, is the colloquial name for the Boston-Washington megalopolis of the obviously fictional North American Union.
  • The book opens on day 178 of the year (Chelle is due to return "this coming Saturday" on day 180), and it's snowing outside in Boswash. In the Gregorian calendar day 180 equates to June 29th. The NAU goes by a different calendar system based on 100-day periods and 400-day years. See other cultural differences.


Venus on Half Chelle -- SPOILERS
Cultural Differences -- SPOILERS

Unresolved Questions

  • Who shot Skip in the head when he tried to rescue Chelle? Skip seems to think it was Charles, but Susan won't tell him (and probably isn't a very good shot herself) and Rick Johnson makes an odd comment about Chelle having "a guilty conscience."
  • Skip thinks part of Jane Sims's brain was transplanted to Chelle, but Chelle maintains that the only part of Jane Sims she got was her arm. Who's right? If Chelle is right, is Chelle haunted (refer to statements made by the Voodoo priestess), faking (perhaps on a secret mission concocted by her father to reveal spies), or suffering from PTSD-induced multiple personality disorder?


  • From Macmillan:
    Gene Wolfe takes us to a future North America at once familiar and utterly strange. A young man and woman, Skip and Chelle, fall in love in college and marry, but she is enlisted in the military, there is a war on, and she must serve her tour of duty before they can settle down. But the military is fighting a war with aliens in distant solar systems, and her months in the service will be years in relative time on Earth. Chelle returns to recuperate from severe injuries, after months of service, still a young woman but not necessarily the same person—while Skip is in his forties and a wealthy businessman, but eager for her return.

    Still in love (somewhat to his surprise and delight), they go on a Caribbean cruise to resume their marriage. Their vacation rapidly becomes a complex series of challenges, not the least of which are spies, aliens, and battles with pirates who capture the ship for ransom. There is no writer in SF like Gene Wolfe and no SF novel like Home Fires.