Michael's Reviews > Nine Princes in Amber

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
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Jul 15, 10

bookshelves: 1970s, fiction-that-speculates, most-popular-reviews
Read from June 28 to July 02, 2010

Roger,

No, it would be no problem at all! I'd be happy to respond to the first draft of your new fantasy novel.

Lets start with the good: I enjoyed your method of immersing the reader in your fantasy world. The protagonist's case of amnesia makes it so he must learn all the same things the reader needs to know. Protagonist Corwin regains his memory gradually, creating a sense of mystery throughout the first hundred pages that is quite entertaining.

Then. . . well, you lost me. I mean, it's so esoteric. SHADOW REALMS, one for every combination of things that could be. Nine princes who can travel at will between these Shadow Realms. But there's really only ONE REAL WORLD, the world of Amber, of which all the other worlds are shadows. All of these princes want to be the king of Amber, and they struggle against each other for the throne . . .

Well, one issue I have is that I'm not sure why I should side with Corwin. I'm not entirely convinced he's the "good guy." It's sort of like voting for Zeus instead of Hera. They're all egomaniacal wackjobs.

And then you tell us, most of the way through the novel, each one of these brothers could technically make their own perfect reproduction of the original world of Amber, and ALL be kings of identical territories, AND COMPLETELY BYPASS ALL OF THIS FIGHTING TO THE DEATH?! So WHY. The FUCK. Should your reader care? As Tim Gunn would say, "This part has me worried."

Before attempting to get this published, I HIGHLY recommend reconsidering how omnipotent this set-up will make your protagonist. At the very least, don't point out to your reader how ludicrous this whole war is.

Another big issue I had was with your voice in this novel. I mean, sometimes you're all "If thou will help me to smote down ye evyl brother Eric, your noble brother Corwin shall be beholden to you." Then, a scene later, you're all, "I snuck out of the prison because I'm just that good. Dig? Solid." Are we casual? Are we not casual? Let's just decide. Either could work, but both don't.

Also, you should know my interest tapered off drastically at the exact moment when things should've started getting exciting. The actual battle over Amber seemed . . . well, dull. First off, it's narrated kind of like an eight-year-old would narrate an action figure battle: "seven of the big furry red guys were killed. Three of their soldiers died. Seventy of the goodguys got blown off the snowy mountain. I stabbed some guy in the neck." You start a hell of a lot of sentences with "I did this." I was distracted by this. I could not visualize much of anything. I was tempted to skim.

I'm sure this is your rough draft, despite the artificially yellowed pages and cool imitation 70's cover, mostly because of the excessive typos. My personal favorite: "the doors of good food." Did you mean Odors? I think so. I would fix that, and also doublecheck your punctuation. Commas seem like an unpredictable force in this book, happening sporadically and without logic. So, as I tell all my writing students, allways proofread. By the way, I loved the ironic quip on the front about "Hugo and Nebula Winning." After a few more drafts, that may become a reality, but remember my mantra: revise, revise, revise!

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Comments (showing 1-32 of 32) (32 new)

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message 1: by Kelly (last edited Jul 02, 2010 06:11PM) (new)

Kelly Ah, if only a few more fantasy writers had encountered such a letter! :) Alas, with regard to most fantasy I come across these days, I find myself thinking along the lines of Flannery O'Connor: "Everywhere I go, I'm asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."


Michael Yes, so true! Maybe it's because of the comforting good vs. evil dichotomy that has always been an undercurrent in fantasy. It DOES seem like fantasy gets more than its share of hack writers, and it makes sense to me that shallow writers would like the idea of firmly placed good-guys and bad-guys.

Although I'm tempted to get crotchety about all the lame-ass urban fantasy coming out these days, I can't really say it's any worse than the days of Dragonlance or Robert Jordan. It's probably just a different kind of lame.


message 3: by Michael (new)

Michael Alexander To be the lame-o who takes this seriously, some of these issues actually get addressed as the books go on. Corwin realizes he was kind of a giant dick, and that said family has been really stupid for being so incredibly greedy over said throne, and as a result allowed Really Bad Things to happen. But honestly, the Amber books are Zelazny writing fun fluff for 13-year-olds (especially 13-year-olds who fence and know that his swordfighting terms are pretty accurate. cough, geeky teenhood). If you catch them as an adult you will never feel that page-turning compulsion.

For the record's sake, his SF short stories are like they're written by this entirely different person full of linguistic minor brilliance and mainlining a syringe of distilled '60s post-scarcity mythic future. "Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth", "The Keys to December, and "24 Views of Mount Fuji" just blew my mind when I was first discovering all those New Wave writers and discovering that literary technique was actually something usable in fantastic genre fiction.

And, take it or leave it, his non-Amber novels seem like they're written by the arithmetical average of the dude in your review and the dude in my preceding paragraph. So even if it turns out you like those short stories, proceed with CAUTION.


Michael Huh, in that case, I'll have to track down some of his short stories.

I may or may not read more books of Amber later (after all, it was a fun enough read, just not super-memorable). I'm certainly going to track down Lord of Light, which sounds much more complex than this teen fic stuff. That said, I'll keep an eye out for collections of his short fiction too. Thanks, fellow Michael!


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Alexander Yeah, Lord of Light is the one novel he really got right. There are at least three or four OTHER novels about being a mythic immortal that are kind of weird semi-photocopies of that one, and I suggest you not leap into those.


message 6: by diaphanousbro (new)

diaphanousbro Hah, this was enjoyable even if I don't agree. My favourite part (I laughed out loud):
First off, it's narrated kind of like an eight-year-old would narrate an action figure battle: "seven of the big furry red guys were killed. Three of their soldiers died. Seventy of the goodguys got blown off the snowy mountain. I stabbed some guy in the neck."


Michael Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! Since I'm a book "reviewer," I might be undercutting myself by saying this, but most books are good at different times in your life, too. I might've loved this book if I'd read it for the first time when I was younger, or even if I read it when I was in the mood for something like it.


Erik Erickson Yeah, I'm with C, great, hilarious review. I don't agree with all your points or ultimate score but I totally get where you're coming from.


Michael I'm sorry you can be so easily made ill by book reviews, random internet David who doesn't know the difference between "affect" and "effect." I try to communicate my ideas in unexpected and humorous ways, and I also have no qualms with saying when I found a book mediocre. If you want someone who writes standard book reviews and only says nice things, there are plenty of them on Goodreads. But I'm not one of them.


Michael You try to communicate your ideas in an unexpected and humorous way? You failed miserably!

Since you give no evidence to support this claim, and since the comments and 'likes' on this review indicate many people disagree with you, I may just have to assume you don't think the joke is funny. That's fine, but it doesn't mean the joke actually isn't funny.

You sound like someone that looks down on others when you write! We "random internet" people are turned off by that.

No, I don't look down on others! At least not all of them! This is why I write to entertain. I have made fun of everyone in my reviews, from authors, to reviewers on Goodreads, to book critics, to myself. But I am most concerned with writing reviews that I find entertaining--and that my friends on Goodreads find entertaining--than I am the random passers-by. I'm not trying to be a diplomat, since that job sounds very boring.

You can be way more educated than your reader but when you flaunt it you just come off as a prick.

You got this from "No, it would be no problem at all! I'd be happy to respond to the first draft of your new fantasy novel"? Which of these words did you have to look up?

I'll tell you what. I like being trolled as much as the next random internet Michael does, but if we're going to continue this conversation, you're gonna have to be more specific about where my annoying East-coast snobbery is shining through. Since I live in the Southwest, I find the Hudson comment especially funny.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

ERMERGERD MICHAEL YOU ARE TOTES UNFUNNY AND AN ELITIST SNOB FROM NEW YORK OR SOMETHING. YOU R PLANE CONDESCENDING.


Michael YOU R PLANE CONDESCENDING.

I know you are serious, Ceridwen, because you are in capitols!

But I will have you know that I have just as much respect for planes as the next NYC hipster intellectual from Arizona! Planes carry people over the Hudson ever day, which is important for diversity! PLANES FLY WITHOUT FLAPPING THEIR WINGS! THIS IS TOTES BADASS!


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

I AM THE CAPITAL OF SRS.


message 14: by Joel (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joel I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD GET A CLEAR WIFI SIGNAL ALL THE WAY UP IN THAT IVORY TOWER.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Man, way to go eat worms. It's a cheap shot, I admit, mirroring your spelling error, but you have to admit coming in here barfing and calling Michael some kind of snob is seriously over the top. It's rad you love this book, but Michael not exactly digging it doesn't harm you or this book in any way. And acting like Michael's implying that you're reading it wrong is just ironic.


Michael I DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD GET A CLEAR WIFI SIGNAL ALL THE WAY UP IN THAT IVORY TOWER.

The stick up my ass probably helps with getting good TV reception since it's aluminum, but the wifi can be spotty.

but you have to admit coming in here barfing and calling Michael some kind of snob is seriously over the top.

I'm used to people barfing in my reviews. What I really can't stand is when someone says something and then deletes it later, making the rest of us look like we're talking to ourselves. We've all been annoying on the internets, I'd imagine, but you can at least have the humility to deal with your less-well-thought-out moments and not delete them.

We should try to communicate better instead of just acting as though negative conversations never happened. Doing so can help the lesser people become more articulate and thoughtful. That way, they can be more like me and the other tweed-clad liberals in my ivory tower.


message 17: by Joel (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joel remember the ABQTs: always be quoting trolls. they can't delete your posts!


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I have never been annoying on the Internet.


Michael I meant other than you, Ceridwen. I was mostly talking about Joel.

remember the ABQTs: always be quoting trolls. they can't delete your posts!

Good thinking. From now on, I'm gonna just copy and paste the whole damn message. There are always hidden gems in troll messages that you don't notice until the second or third re-read. They're like great books in that way.


message 20: by Joel (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joel YOUR MOM'S ANNOYING ON THE INTERNET.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I swear, I should learn the ABQT lesson every time this happens, and I never do. Just last week some dude called me an obdurate illiterate and some other really awesome stuff, and then deleted all his posts! Crying shame, really.


message 22: by Joel (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joel obdurate is a really good word too!


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

I know! The posts were all full of pedantic puns too. It was really great, and I can only remember the one phrase that stuck in my mind.


Michael Emond Thank you so much for this hilarious take down of a book I am gobsmacked that so many people rate as five stars (really? one of the best books you have read? really?). It was very cathartic to find someone else who read the same book I did and noted all its many flaws and weak writing.


message 25: by Mr. (new)

Mr. Voshell lol I always preferred critical reviews. They tend to give better descriptions. This review makes me want to read the book. :p


Martin Wilson Oh man, this review. It is just perfect. Yes. This book was recommended to me by someone who read it, I think, when he was 13, and is convinced it is the best book ever. I've really enjoyed his other recommendations but this one...

Really not sure how people can get over the unsympathetic Godlike main character. Really seems like a killer to me.


Deary Darling I am so glad I read this book if only so that I could clap like a crazed chimp when I read your review. Your description of the war .. well I just really want to hug it and squeeze it and twirl around with it for a bit.


message 28: by diaphanousbro (new)

diaphanousbro Hahahahah okay this review has amused me once again (I see that I enjoyed it roughly two years ago), not only because of the original content (I laughed out loud again at the action narrative part) but also because of the comments. It makes me sad that much of the trolling has been deleted. Good work everyone


message 29: by Alexandra (last edited Mar 31, 2014 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alexandra I don't know what's wrong with me - maybe it's like when I love bright yellow furniture just because it's so damn ugly - but your critique contained a lot of the things that I loved about this book. Especially the part about how they're all a bunch of Grecian-style egomaniacal wackjobs acting like children fighting over the same toy ("you are omnipotent, you can create a completely identical world" "but I want THAT one!!!"). Something about that makes me giggle. I feel like the whole thing is slightly tongue-in-cheek.


Aleric Lalonde Well, he's dead... So rough draft or not, it's not going to change. I thought the book (and the following four) were fantastic, and that 90% of your problems with it seem to be personal issues, and the remaining 10% is just you being a prick.


Andrew You seem to forget that all these recreations of Amber are just that, recreations, shadows as they are called in the books. There is only one true Amber, and there can only be one king of Amber.


Martin Wilson Andrew wrote: "You seem to forget that all these recreations of Amber are just that, recreations, shadows as they are called in the books. There is only one true Amber, and there can only be one king of Amber."

What is the practical difference between the recreations and the real Amber? Not only are they described as being imperceptibly different, since there are infinite AUs, there are just as many "shadows" of the recreations as there are of the original Amber.


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