18 August, 2013

Five books; two reviews

Roger Zelazny

I stayed with Chen and Tony for the weekend, and while she was showing me her books Chen and i talked a bit about this series, how i encouraged her to start it one time when she was bored, how i had read it with Kathy White back in the summer of 1980 on the Oyster River farm, how it is so good and easy to read. I remembered the opening lines of Nine Princes, or thought i did, and opened it to take a look, and i was hooked, again.

It is surely a sign of a classic that i can remember the first time i read this series, the events surrounding that reading, when and where i bought the books, as well as the appearance of the first ones i read and the set i bought ~ which is, sadly, a part of the huge collection we have “temporarily” left in the US ~ and at least one other time i read the whole thing. I have, on at least one occasion, gone on to reading more, beyond the original five, which Zelazny added some years later, but did not find them of the same compelling quality; i know, for example, that i have read more, but i don't remember how many, nor am i certain where i got them, nor when (those two are close to the same, libraries depending on geography and personal history for me), nor anything about them other than a certain disappointment. That lack of compulsion, the relative loss of memory about the sequels, tends to show me that the subsequent books are of a lower quality; understandable, as the originals are so high, but disappointing nonetheless.

So, looking at the opening lines, as i say, i was immediately drawn in, as i suspected, if i am honest, i would be. The books read so quickly that i really had no difficulty in racing through them, finishing three of the five in the fortyeight hours or so i was in Cardiff. As well as the conversations, the walk to the city, the music we listened to, the films we watched. What is it, then, which makes these so easy to read? Part of it has to be the plot, which is fairly simple, but quite compelling; who doesn't understand family strife, the desire to change situation or circumstances, and the struggle to better ourselves? Another part is clearly the language; Zelazny is not prone to complex grammar or sentences, nor is his vocabulary awkward or specialised, which makes the whole easy going. The characters, too, are a part of the attraction, as it is possible to see truth in all of them, their interactions, their different facets. Overall, whatever the reasons, this is a series i love, and it was delightful to be able to renew acquaintanceship with it again.

Roger Zelazny

Visiting Chenowyth again, so reading more of her collection of Zelazny's Amber Chronicles, finishing them, in fact, and liking them in just the same measure and way as i have previously. I have always found certain portions of the novels a bit too florid, confusing, ultimately pointless, for my taste. Zelazny has Corwin, his narrator give several descriptions of what he calls hell-rides, and he describes Chaos on one or two occasions as well; to my mind they are unnecessary and distracting ~ to be perfectly honest, i often skip them altogether, leaving me a slight feeling of guilt ~ and more about showing that Zelazny is more than just a story-teller, that he can write exciting prose too. There are more of these passages in the final book, The Courts of Chaos, than in any of the others, and ~ coincidence? probably not ~ it is the weakest book. Not actually weak, though; the whole pentology is excellent, despite one or two untied loose ends which are probably because the whole is so complex that there simply would have been too much to pull everything together and answer every single question properly. Or maybe Zelazny just missed some. I just wish that the later books lived up to these five.

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