Zelazny's Amber

The thread on reviving authors had several people mention that they felt that the Amber series by Roger Zelazny had several loose ends and seemed like there should be/were to be more books forthcoming.

I was just hoping that people could comment on this. While I agree that the history of Oberon and the whole setup is certainly still vague enough that you could write more without retreading the same territory, I didn’t feel like either series left any vast chasms that must be filled for anything to make sense.

I like the serieses well enough that of course I’d gladly wish for a third foray, I’m just wondering why people feel that one is necessary?

I’d like more backstory myself; more on the young Dworkin, moving to Oberon’s life in the courts, the creation of the pattern.

And please don’t mention that ‘authorized’ pre-quel dreck written by that Betancourt guy. The horror, the horror!

And I would like to know how it played out after Corwin got let out of the prison he’d been put in by Dara.

More backstory would be good, but I’d definitely like more on Corwin. I felt that his story really got left hanging.

I’m sure that the decision to write two five-book series was a deliberate one, made by Zelazny with his editor and publisher. It almost certainly made much more sense in the publishing environment of the day.

If he were writing today, however, I feel equally sure he would have been encouraged to write each as one big fat book. That would have reduced the padding and duplication of the original, and forced him to clean up the plot lines, the backstories, and the continuities. Maybe he would have been forced to cut the number of unreadable hellrides.

I liked the original Amber series greatly, but I always felt it marked his descent into sloppy prolificness for the sake of full-time income. His books were never quite as interesting or experimental or daring as his first few, written when he had a full-time job to support him.

A single volume Amber done right… That would have knocked his considerable reputation into the most rarefied heights. It’s one of the big "what if"s in the field.

I gradually lost interest after the Corwin books. Someone supposedly wrote a Master’s Thesis in Literature about Zelazney entitled, “The Dastardly Bastard as Protagonist.”

More importantly, and I considered writing Zelazney about this, seeking Lord of Light and not finding it in the house, I walked over to the old trailer where I kept less important stuff like old text books and Shakespeare. Not there. I walked back to the house, and there LOL was on the bookshelf. So, did I walk into a shadow world where I hadn’t lost LOL, or back into the true world where I hadn’t? OTOH, Corwin may have walked by, inadvertently fixing my problem as he passed.

Slight hijack but I have a question for you Zelazny fans.

The first stories I’ve read by him were For a Breath I Tarry and Rose for Ecclesiastes and I loved them so much I went and bought all ten of the Amber books (in one softcover). Now you guys are saying his pre-Amber books are better. So there are books by him actually better then the Amber series I’m currently reading? I have no idea what other books he has written (never had the time to research this author). Can you recommend some to this Zelazny newbie?

*Lord of Light *and *Creatures of Light and Darkness *are his two best books; *Roadmarks *and *This Immortal *are also good. But Zelazny wasn’t really that great a novelist; like many science fiction writers of his generation, he excelled mainly in short story format. Pick up any of his collections (Last Defender of Camelot, Fire and Ice, Unicorn Variations, Four for Tomorrow, etc.), and you’re gold.

According to the Amber Role-Playing Game, there were, at one point, plans for more books, at, more or less, a deeper level of reality.

Full Zelazny bibliography

I agree that the short works are better and more important than the novels. (Some of the collections listed on that page are poetry rather than short stories.) The one collection for a beginner to get is The Doors of His Face, The Lamp of His Mouth, with 17 of his best.

As for the early novels:

This Immortal was a dynamite first novel. It actually tied with *Dune *for best novel in the first Nebulas. (Mostly because This Immortal had been serialized in a magazine first and *Dune *appeared in December in a small hardback edition, but still.) It introduces the themes that Zelazny would explore for the rest of his career: immortality, a flawed superhuman protagonist, the effects of mythology of society, lost love.

The Dream Maker is really a novella. It is a psychological exploration of some of these themes, but not as strong.

Lord of Light is his masterpiece. It uses eastern religions to the best effect of any sf writer, but is set on a distant planet where the protagonists set themselves up as the gods. A must read.

Damnation Alley is much to-the-twenty-third power better than the movie. It’s pure adventure and a good read in the best sense.

Creatures of Light of Darkness is Lord of Light with Egyptian mythology. Most Zelazny fans consider it an experiment that failed.

Isle of the Dead returns him to power. Another superhuman immortal, another planet, but a new and interesting take on the subject.

You can pick and choose from among the books that he wrote after starting Amber. They’re varied in tone, in subject, and in quality, but are all readable. I like *Madwand *and its sequel *Changeling *because Zelazny gives an explanation of how magic works that I’ve never seen anywhere else, and uses his variant on magic for fun battle scenes. *Roadmarks *was moving along well, setting up a major conflict between hero and villain until you turn the page and find that the conflict is settled, as if 100 pages had been cut from the manuscript for space. There’s too much of that kind of thing in late Zelazny for me to rank those book with the early ones.

The collaborations are all readable but not major work.

You’re welcome.

And you’re out of milk, too.

Looks like I have a lot of reading to catch up on. I thought it was just my imagination that his short stories were better so it’s nice to see others saying the same thing.

I’ve heard that Zelazny basically revisited Amber primarily as a way to get some cash – kids in college, or somesuch. I suspect that is why the second chronicles are so different in feel (and quality, IMO).

Merlin’s chronicles, however, set up a number of plotlines that are left dangling – far more than Corwin’s chronicles, which actually have very few hanging plotlines (mainly, Corwin’s Pattern). Fr’ex:

  1. Spikards. It is implied that there are costs to using them, and that using one was affecting Merlin somehow.
  2. Merlin’s mysterious presumed-dead uncles (Osric and Finndo?), who were doing something with spikards and the Pattern-Logrus conflict.
  3. The Pattern-Logrus conflict itself – they were trying to make Merlin choose sides, which he never did, although apparently becoming King of the Courts of Chaos was a victory for one of them.
  4. Corwin’s Pattern and its pattern-ghosts – what was it up to?
  5. Mandor’s and Dara’s plans for Merlin had been thwarted, but it was clear that they were not out of the picture in the scheming Courts of Chaos.
  6. Merlin’s childhood vampirish girlfriend from the Shadow near the Courts of Chaos.
  7. Luke/Rinaldo, was always up to something, never resolved.
  8. Frakir, left tied in a knot in Castle Amber.

Now, some of these were “resolved” in later short stories. But some of those stories just introduced more hanging plotlines (e.g., the folks on the other sides of mirrors).

Corwin compares the mercenaries iin The Guns of Avalon to college students. Something like, “Sorry guys, I mean inexperienced in the world and easily duped by the likes of me.” Perhaps the correct quote will soon follow, this being the Dope.:slight_smile:

That was Nine Princes in Amber, and he compared them to high school freshmen. “Sorry, kids, but what I mean is they were loyal, devoted, honest and too easily screwed by bastards like me and my brother.”

Hey, hey! John happens to be a friend of mine. He asked a lot of advice from members of my Amber board, I was one of his proof readers, the Chaosian Lady Portia is a nod to one of my Amber DRPG characters (The Baron Yorlum is a hat tip to another of the members of my Amber board), and thanks me in his Acknowledgments. I’m rather annoyed that the publisher up and died and his replacement didn’t want to pay out the licensing fee Zelazny’s estate asked for, so we never got the last book, though he did share with his quite a bit of what he had done on it.

So, :stuck_out_tongue:

Granted, he didn’t take all the advice we gave him…