Once upon a time, when I was in…high school maybe? Junior High? I read Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber and really liked it. I was very much looking forward to reading the second book in the ten book series (I think book 10 had just come out). Fast forward 30+ years and I find myself rereading the first book without ever having read further. I’m planning to change that. I recently acquired the complete series in a monster omnibus.
Funny enough, when I read it, it was like I couldn’t get away from amnesia-based stories. No wonder two of my early written efforts started with characters suffering from memory loss. Between this, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, P.N. Elrod’s Vampire Files series, some random D&D novel, and more, it was like every other book I read started with someone waking up after some unknown trauma, not knowing where they were or why. The mystery of memory loss in this ends up being much more strange than expected, and really does play into the greater whole.
Zelazny captures some of Michael Moorcock’s trippy ambiance while also tapping into some distinctly American sensibilities. I could almost imagine a Douglas Sirk era Rock Hudson playing our narrator. My visualizations of the happenings in the novel often had a 1970s Hollywood flare. I could imagine William Friedkin directing a film version.
The story starts off with a sort of conspiratorial thriller vibe, but then quickly morphs into head-scratching, mind-altering Fantasy. It takes the reader down some very strange paths. Eventually it arrives at some weird family drama (good for you George R.R. Martin fans out there), strange metaphysical concepts, and wild action scenes. There are also plenty of colorful characters to enjoy. And all this is in under 200 pages. Oh, what editing and efficiency of storytelling can do for a book.
I’m definitely curious to find out where this series goes. Considering the ground covered in the first book and how fast things got so strange, I’m excited to see that continue. When your main cast of characters are essentially gods, and the multiverse is their playground, things are bound to get really crazy.
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