Sep 25, 13
Read from September 20 to 21, 2010 — I own a copy
[Originally read September 20-21, 2010]
I should start by noting that I didn't read the full version of this novel -- instead, I read the abridged one that first appeared in two parts in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is the actual version which won the Hugo Award, and as much as I would have liked to find the full version, my library system didn't have it, so I had to settle for the abridged one, found in Volume 2 of the Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny: Power and Light.
All that being said, I just finished the book, and I'm tired, but I still pulled myself out of bed and turned the computer on so I could write this review. 'Cause damn it, Zelazny was so good that he's worth the extra bit of effort.
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. If you'd asked me if I liked sci-fi half a year ago, I would have told you to take your phaser and shove it up your (_(_). (Set phasers to: buns!) Ok, I may not have been that aggressive about it, but the idea of spaceships and aliens didn't really appeal to me. Then I started reading Zelazny's brand of SF, starting with Lord of Light, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, and now this. I can now say I'm a sci-fi fan, and it's all Zelazny's fault.
I think the important thing about Zelazny's brand of SF is that it's not about the blasters, or the spaceships, or the bizarre alien races. It's about people. It's about how they interact with other people, who may or may not be human. It's about what could happen if the Earth were a little different, or if we were on a planet that was just a little different than Earth. I guess it's more subtle SF, and that's what makes it good.
Zelazny once again creates a story that makes no goddamn sense to me for the first five pages, but becomes a work of art by the end. (And then, when I'm finished, I read those 5 pages again and suddenly all is clear.) While it's true that all of his protagonists seem to have some amount of similarity, I'm OK with that, because I like the archetype: an intelligent, powerful guy who sticks up for what he believes in and won't take crap from anybody. But he's also got a soft side, on occasion.
Conrad is made even more memorable than some of Zelazny's other characters simply because of his physical appearance. Two differently colored eyes, a fungus on his cheek that looks like a "map of Africa," a right foot that wears a reinforced boot because that leg is too short, and some other details I'm probably forgetting. Conrad just doesn't look like your standard hero, and that's part of what makes him so interesting.
Although I was left a little unsure of exactly what's going on throughout the book, by the time the denouement rolled around, I was quite pleased with how things worked out. Mind you, that's not a spoiler, because I like happy endings just as much as the tragic ones. So it could be either, and you won't know until you read it. =P
All in all, a great book. If you've read it before but haven't read the version from Power and Light, I'd recommend doing so -- Power and Light (once again, the 2nd volume in the Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny) has some awesome notes at the end of the story that just give it even more layers of delight.
Oh, and did I mention that Zelazny once again blended SF with fantasy and mixed in a heap of mythology (this time Greek)? 'Cause he did. And it was awesome, just like it was in Lord of Light.
RIP, Roger. Thanks for all the great stories.
[Re-reading September 21-24, 2013]
Still an awesome book. Still love Conrad.