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SFF Author: Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny(1937-1995)
Roger Zelazny won three Nebula awards (nominated 14 times), six Hugos (nominated 14 times), two Locus Awards, and a few others. The epic sci-fi/fantasy series The Chronicles of Amber is his most famous work, but most of his awards are for other works (and there are many!). You can see a list of them here.



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This Immortal: Flamboyant New Wave SF with Greek mythic overtones

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

The Earth has been mostly depopulated as humans have discovered more sophisticated and comfortable cultures elsewhere in the universe. Much of its infrastructure was destroyed during “The Three Days,” and most of the mainland areas are still “hot.” Genetic mutations have caused the birth of creatures previously thought to be only myth. Now Earth is a strange and dangerous place, fit only as a tourist attraction and a vacation spot for the Vegans.

But some people still love Earth, including long-lived Conrad Nomikos, Commissioner for the Arts.


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He Who Shapes: A short rich read from one of the strongest voices in SF

He Who Shapes by Roger Zelazny

In the mid to late ‘60s, the sci-fi world was Roger Zelazny’s oyster. Possessing an abundance of fresh ideas delivered with a deft hand, the author took the genre by storm — This Immortal, Lord of Light, and Creatures of Light and Darkness gained notable attention and won awards. Published amidst these unique novels was, however, a book of an entirely different range and frequency. More personal and cerebral than mythic or heroic,


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Lord of Light: The peak of imaginative literature

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

The scholar Brian Attebery in his book Strategies of Fantasy writes that works of science fantasy can be divided into two categories: the beautiful and the damned. No middle ground to be had, technology and the supernatural remain relative to the era, and combining them is disastrous to the point of comedy or successful to the point of being a mind-opening experience. Falling into the latter category, Lord of Light, unlike many of Zelazny’s other works of science fantasy,


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Creatures of Light and Darkness: Not Zelazny’s best

Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

In the early part of his career, and in an indirect sense throughout it, Roger Zelazny combed Earth’s cultures, religions, and legends for story material. His brilliant Lord of Light and This Immortal riffing off Hindu/Buddhist and Greek mythology respectively, he established himself as a writer who combined the classic themes of myth and legend with more modern, imaginative tropes of science fiction and fantasy. His 1969 Creatures of Light and Darkness is no exception.


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Nine Princes in Amber: Still fresh and original today

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

“I’d get what I needed and take what I wanted and I’d remember those who helped me and step on the rest. For this, I knew, was the law by which our family lived, and I was a true son of my father.”

When Corwin wakes up in a private hospital after driving his car over a cliff, he has no idea who he is. When he realizes that he has healed too fast and that he’s being drugged so he’ll stay unconscious,


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The Guns of Avalon: Never trust a relative

The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny

Warning, from me: If you haven’t read Nine Princes in Amber yet, don’t read this review.

Another warning, from Corwin:  “Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers.”

Corwin has escaped from his brother’s prison and he’s ready for revenge. He doesn’t have the manpower that Eric has, so he needs a technological advantage. Traditional firearms don’t work in Amber, but Corwin once noticed that a jewelers’ rouge from the shadow world of Avalon,


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Sign of the Unicorn: Continues Corwin’s swiftly moving adventure

Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny

The usual warning: Review contains spoilers for previous book.

Sign of the Unicorn is the third novel in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER. At the end of the previous novel, The Guns of Avalon, Corwin finally got what he wanted: Eric off the throne. Corwin is now the regent of Amber by legitimate claim and he holds the Jewel of Judgment which has powers over the weather and, as Corwin learns,


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The Hand of Oberon: A lot of revelation

The Hand of Oberon by Roger Zelazny

The Hand of Oberon, the fourth book in Roger Zelazny’s CHRONICLES OF AMBER, continues exactly where the previous book, Sign of the Unicorn, left off. The story was originally serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction and later printed in approximately 180-page installments. Each, therefore, is short and ends at some dramatic moment. These days, we’d probably be annoyed with an author who did this (why buy 10 books when you could just buy two?).


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The Courts of Chaos: Corwin’s psychedelic hellride

The Courts of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

The Courts of Chaos is the very short last installment of the CORWIN CYCLE of THE CHRONICLES OF AMBER and the fifth volume of the entire series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ve got no business here — go away. I don’t want to ruin it for you. Go read the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, and continue on from there.

OK. So Oberon is back and we learn that he’s been manipulating events all along.


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Trumps of Doom: Begins the Merlin Cycle

Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny

Trumps of Doom (1985) is the sixth novel in Roger Zelazny’s immensely popular AMBER CHRONICLES. It does not stand alone. You need to read the previous books first, starting with Nine Princes in Amber, and you’ll need to read the rest of the series if you want to get the full story.

The first five AMBER books, which are more popular than the latter five,


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Blood of Amber: Nice try, Wheaton.

Blood of Amber by Roger Zelazny

It’s at this point in Roger Zelazny’s AMBER CHRONICLES that things start going downhill. Don’t even try to pick this up if you haven’t read the previous six books. It will make no sense. Expect spoilers for those earlier books in this review.

Blood of Amber (1986), the seventh book, begins right where Trumps of Doom left off. Merlin, like his namesake, is trapped in a crystal cave. Then he escapes. During the rest of this short story,


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Sign of Chaos: A really bad soap opera

Sign of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

Note: You must read the previous seven AMBER CHRONICLES before picking this one up. Expect spoilers for those previous books in this review.

Sign of Chaos (1987) is book eight in Roger Zelazny’s ten-book AMBER CHRONICLES. It starts right where book seven, Blood of Amber, ended: with Merlin and his frenemy Luke in the midst of an LSD drug trip that has conjured up the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. (Zelazny delights in literary allusions.


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Knight of Shadows: I don’t care anymore

Knight of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

The usual spoiler warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous novels.

This penultimate novel in Roger Zelazny’s famous AMBER CHRONICLES is a mercifully short continuation of the lackluster drama that this series has become since the POV changed from Corwin to his son Merlin.

The story opens after Merlin is fighting a sorcerer named Mask and realizes that Mask is actually his dead girlfriend, Julia. I have to admit that I was surprised at this,


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Prince of Chaos: It’s over!

Prince of Chaos by Roger Zelazny

Prince of Chaos is the final (hooray) novel in Roger Zelazny’s AMBER CHRONICLES. I really liked the first five AMBER books. These are often referred to as the Corwin Cycle because they detail events that happened to Corwin, one of the nine princes in the “real” world of Amber (our world is just a Shadow world that they visit). The remaining five books are called the Merlin Cycle because their protagonist is Merlin, son of Corwin.


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The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth: Of interest for Zelazny fans

The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth: And Other Stories  by Roger Zelazny

My experience with Roger Zelazny has been hit or miss, and while I consider The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Moutha miss, it’s not terrible. The main fault of these fifteen stories is that characterization remains uniform throughout. The same cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking, detective noir Joe Cool hero populates the main character role of seemingly every story. Though the type is likeable, this lack of variety gets monotonous.


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Jack of Shadows: A forgotten classic that cries out to be remembered

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

In 1971, Roger Zelazny penned a wonderful mix of fantasy and science fiction that I think rivals his AMBER books for sheer imagination and exciting action. Jack of Shadows is set on an imaginary world, similar in some respects to our Earth, vastly different in others. One side of the planet (which does not rotate) is always in light, while the other is constantly at night. The “dayside” is much like 20th century Earth, with science ruling and the inhabitants enjoying the fruits of modern industry and technology.


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Deus Irae: A way-out scenario from Dick and Zelazny

Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick

Of the 36 science fiction novels, nine mainstream novels, one children’s book and over 120 short stories that cult author Philip K. Dick produced before his premature death at age 53, in 1982, only two creations were done in collaboration with another author. The first was 1966’s The Ganymede Takeover, which Dick co-wrote with budding writer Ray Nelson. An alien invasion novel that deals with the snakelike telepathic inhabitants of the Jovian moon as well as the Terran rebels who resist them,


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Roadmarks: The Road must roll

Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny

Roadmarks (1979) is a fragmented, experimental type of novel, tied together by a Road (with a capital R) that leads to all times and places and alternative timestreams in our world’s history, for those who know how to navigate it (a certain German named Adolph briefly pops up in an early chapter, eternally searching for the timeline where he won). The other constant is the character of Red Dorakeen, who has been traveling the Road for years, trying to find something, or somewhen. Sometimes he’s in company with Leila,


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A Night in the Lonesome October: An annual October ritual for fans

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

During the entire month of October, in the late 1800s, in a year when the full moon falls on Halloween, strange forces gather in a village outside of London. Various iconic characters ― who will be familiar to fans of Victorian literature and classic horror movies ― create shifting alliances, gather herbs, instruments of power and the odd eyeball and femur, and prepare for a mystery-shrouded event that will take place on Halloween night.

A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) is narrated by the aptly-named Snuff,


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SHORTS: Zelazny, Reisman, Stufflebeam, Silverberg, Moraine

Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we’ve read that we wanted you to know about.

“A Rose for Ecclesiastes” by Roger Zelazny (1963, text and audio free on EscapePod, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). 1964 Hugo nominee (short fiction)

In this classic and much-anthologized tale of life on Mars, Gallinger, a brilliant linguist and poet with an antagonistic personality, is part of an Earth mission to study the humanoid Martian natives.


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The Best of Analog: A high-quality collection

The Best of Analog edited by Ben Bova

The Best of Analog is filled with high-caliber stories by all-star writers: Alfred BesterRoger ZelaznyGeorge R.R. MartinVonda McIntyreGene Wolfe, and more. Published in 1978, this anthology contains three novellas, ten shorts, and one poem — pieces that have by and large stood the test of time on both feet. It is a collection of bright, interesting sci-fi shorts, some of which won awards.


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Wild Cards: Try this in audio format

Wild Cards edited by George R.R. Martin

Sept 15, 1946: Wild Card Day. When aliens from the planet Takis wanted to test their newly developed virus on a species that is similar to them, naturally, they brought it to Earth. Though they were thwarted by one of their own princes, a foppish alien who has become known to Earthlings as Dr. Tachyon, the virus fell into the hands of evil Dr. Tod, a Nazi sympathizer who, thinking it a biological weapon, decided to drop it on New York City. His archenemy, Jetboy,


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Aces High: There’s always something fresh and new in WILD CARDS

Aces High edited by George R.R. Martin

Aces High is the second volume of George R.R. Martin’s long-running WILD CARDS anthology. In the first volume, Wild Cards, we learned how aliens from the planet Takis decided to test their new virus by using humans as their guinea pigs. In the 1960s, they let loose what has now become known as the Wild Card virus on Manhattan. Much of the world population died and many of the survivors became grossly deformed and are now referred to as “Jokers.” A much smaller proportion of those who were infected gained one or more superpowers and are now known as “Aces.” In Wild Cards,


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Down and Dirty: Lacks cohesion, but still entertaining

Down and Dirty edited by George R.R. Martin

Jube: Hear who won the Miss Jokertown Beauty Pageant last week?
Croyd: Who?
Jube: Nobody.

I continue to listen to the new audiobook version of the WILD CARDS books as they are released by Random House Audio. Down and Dirty, the fifth volume, was published a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read the previous volumes (Wild CardsAces High,


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Black Thorn, White Rose: So many wonderful stories

Black Thorn, White Rose edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Black Thorn, White Rose is the second in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling‘s series of adult fairy-tale anthologies. I’d have to say that this is my favorite of the bunch; most of the volumes are good, but this one has so many wonderful stories that have stayed with me for years. A few highlights:

“Stronger Than Time,” by Patricia C. Wrede , is a sad but hopeful take on “Sleeping Beauty,”


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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)

The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology is an excellent collection of 23 stories picked from the treasure trove of short fiction that’s been published in the eponymous magazine over the past 60 years. Editor Gordon Van Gelder — also the editor of the magazine since 1997 — has done an admirable job, picking stories that illustrate the diversity of both the genre and the magazine.


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Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don’t like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you’d expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They’re just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don’t read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time.


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Next SFF Author: Sarah Zettel
Previous SFF Author: Yevgeny Zamyatin

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