Operation Ares

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Operation Ares
First edition
Author Gene Wolfe
Cover artist Paul Lehr
Country United States
Language English]
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Berkley Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 208
OCLC 225240530

Operation Ares is Gene Wolfe's first novel, published as a paperback original by Berkley Books in 1970. While no later editions were issued in the United States, a hardcover edition was released in the UK market by Dobson Books in 1977, followed by a Fontana paperback in 1978.[1] The title is sometimes rendered Operation ARES.

The novel began as a short story written by Wolfe in 1965. He submitted the story to Damon Knight, who suggested that Wolfe expand it into a novel.[2] Wolfe completed the novel, then titled The Laughter at Night[3] in 1967, and sold it to Berkley Books. Wolfe and his editor, Donald R. Bensen, cut about 20% of the manuscript's 100,000-word length for publication.[4]

Operation Ares depicts a dystopian future, with the United States controlled by an anti-technological leftist regime. The story traces protagonist John Castle's conflict with the government and his increasing involvement with a rebellion backed by a Martian colony which has severed its ties to the U.S. government.[4] While occasionally cited as a libertarian text, Wolfe himself attributes its politics to his being "much more a doctrinaire conservative when I was a good deal younger.[5]


Joanna Russ found the novel unsatisfying, saying "I know what Mr. Wolfe can do when he sets his mind to it; Ares is far below his best. She described it as "a convincing, quiet, low-keyed, intelligent book which somehow fades out into nothing" and, despite praising Wolfe's technique, concluded it was "a failure, shadowy and inconclusive."[6]

Larry McCaffery characterized Ares as "a generally undistinguished first novel."[7]

Wolfe himself says "I wasn't really skillful enough to write a good novel at that time. I don't think Operation Ares is a very good novel."[8]


  1. ^ ISFDB publication history
  2. ^ Joan Gordon, Gene Wolfe, Starmont House, 1986, p. 17.
  3. ^ Robert Frazier "Gene Wolfe - 'The Legerdemain of the Wolfe'" (interview), in Shadows of the New Sun, ed. Peter Wright, Liverpool University Press, 2007, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b Peter Wright, Attending Daedalus, Liverpool University Press, 2003, p. 5.
  5. ^ James B. Jordan, "Gene Wolfe Interview", in Shadows of the New Sun, ed. Peter Wright, Liverpool University Press, 2007, p. 104.
  6. ^ "Books", F&SF, April 1971, p.69
  7. ^ Larry McCaffery, "On Encompassing the Entire Universe: An Interview with Gene Wolfe"
  8. ^ Melissa Mia Hall, "An Interview with Gene Wolfe", in Shadows of the New Sun, ed. Peter Wright, Liverpool University Press, 2007, p.41