Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Roger Zelazny”

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #45-54: The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny

AmberTarget: Roger Zelazny’s The Great Book of Amber (Amber Chronicles #1-10)

Profile: Epic Fantasy, Modern Fantasy

Where have you been hiding you ask?  No posts for two weeks?  Nothing to report?  Well here’s your answer.  I was reading all 7000+ pages of Homestuck.  Well, that was one week.  The other week was spent devouring the 1200+ page omnibus of the Chronicles of Amber.  It was actually the webcomic that prompted reading Amber top to bottom again.  The two projects have a lot in common: an expansive multiverse, complex time travel shenanigans, protagonists tied to classic fortunetelling tropes.  And they’re both more than a little confusing in the end.

The Chronicles of Amber span ten books in five book sets.  The first five books deal with Corwin, exiled prince of Amber, and the second five tell the story of Merlin, Corwin’s son and scion of the combined houses of Amber and Chaos.  I am going to segment the review a bit because the two stories are very different from one another.  Corwin’s books feel like a classical fantasy, with some interesting modern elements added for shenanigans sake.  Merlin’s is much more a coming of age story combined with some deep metaphysical conflicts.

Read the rest of the review…

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #5: Chronicles of Amber Volume II by Roger Zelazny

The second book of Amber was even more complicated than the first, but overall I enjoyed it. The theme is family, and this is a big, complicated family. To recap the first book, Amber is the only real place in all the world. Everywhere else is a Shadow – an imperfect reflection of Amber. The people living in those Shadows don’t know that, of course. The only people who can leave Amber and travel to different Shadows are the royal family, Corwin and his brothers and sisters. They’re immortal, and can change the fabric of their realities by adjusting the Shadow world they’re in. The problem with immortality is that when your dad is the king, and he doesn’t ever die, you don’t get a turn at the throne. The family can be killed, but not easily. They’re strong and they heal fast. In the first book, the dad disappeared and one of the brothers, Eric, seized the throne. Our protagonist Corwin seized it right back.

Book two follows Corwin’s rocky reign. His brothers all want a turn to play king, and his sisters are skulking around making very fickle alliances with whichever brother looks strongest. Corwin’s wondering where Dad actually went, and if this king business is all worth it. There are deep philosophical discussions about the people in the other Shadows, what happens if you reach the end of Shadow, what if Amber isn’t really real either and is only a Shadow of something else, if it’s really okay to thrash and assassinate siblings as often as possible, etc. The first book was a more average fantasy novel – quests, fights, creatures, magic, destinies. This one was more about Corwin’s inner journey – the true meaning of family, the wise use of power, fighting for power versus earning it.

Of course, there’s all sorts of crazy details in there too: extra family members, a mysterious black road teeming with demons that’s disrupting Amber and all the Shadows, quadruple- and quintuple-crossings, a weather-wielding Jewel of Judgment, a purple griffin creature, a wise old teacher who might be trying to kill the siblings, and the missing patriarch. The book made my head hurt, a little, but in a good way.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #4: Chronicles of Amber Volume I by Roger Zelazny

This is a tough plot to summarize. There are nine immortal princes with limited magical powers, and they come from a city called Amber. (There are four or five sisters, too, but the women never matter in fantasy novels, do they? Sigh.) Amber is the only real city on the only real world, but many other worlds exist in Shadow. Here, I’ll let the main character Corwin explain:
“Amber casts an infinity of shadows. A child of Amber may walk among them, and such was my heritage. You may call them parallel worlds if you wish, alternate universes if you would, the products of a deranged mind if you care to. I call them shadows, as do all who possess the power to walk among them. We select a possibility and we walk until we reach it. So, in a sense, we create it.”

Corwin has been living on the Shadow that is our Earth for a few centuries, with a mysterious case of amnesia. He knows he’s not your average human, but he doesn’t know who he is. After a car accident jolts some clues loose in his brain, he goes on a quest to find out who he is and where he’s from, and remembering oh yeah, I was just in the middle of starting a war with my brother to take the throne of Amber. It’s a very complicated family, with all the brothers (and the sisters who bother to show up) either choosing sides or deciding to take the kingship themselves. None of them are written very sympathetically, but their lives span so much time and so many worlds that you kind of understand how cavalier they are about everything. For example, Corwin recalls one battle for the throne where he and a brother go into another Shadow world, recruit a race of what sounds like red Ewoks who think the princes are gods, and take the whole population of them into another Shadow to serve as cannon fodder for a war they’re pretty sure they’re going to lose anyway. Not exactly heroic, but to this family, all other worlds are basically imaginary, so they don’t see it as wiping out a whole group of beings, but as a large-scale game of toy soldiers.

However, Corwin’s long convalescence on Earth teaches him humanity. He makes friends with Lancelot in an Avalon Shadow (time is as fluid as the rest of reality), Sigmund Freud on the Earth Shadow, and other less-famous allies. He starts thinking maybe other folks have a right to survive. He regains his memory, recruits some sympathetic siblings, and starts the journey to Amber, where his wicked brother Eric has named himself King after their father’s long-ago disappearance.

And this is all just skimming the surface. There are long detours into other Shadows, repercussions of family curses, philosophical musings on the family’s ability to walk in Shadow (no one but the royal family can do it), an underwater mirror image city of Amber called Rebma, magical Tarot cards that let the siblings talk to each other, five years in a dungeon, and heaps of weirdness.

It’s mostly good weirdness. I definitely wasn’t bored, even when I was confused. Sometimes I rooted for Corwin to win, and sometimes I wondered why the citizens of Amber didn’t just revolt and get rid of all these jerk princes. It took me a while to get used to Corwin. He throws in random “thees” and “thous” and sometimes talks like a Renaissance Festival worker, and other times sounds like he should be working at a disco (the book was written in 1970). I think it’s meant to show the breadth of his lifetime and experience, but yikes. For example: “And his eyes were wide with amaze and his voice heavy with that which men call sarcasm, and I can’t think of a better word, as he replied…” I mean…what?

I thought I’d need a break from Amber by the time I got through the final battle, but the second book was in my to-read stack and I’ve already started it. The first one took me a while to get into, but now I have to know what happens.

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