Whitaker's Reviews > The Great Book of Amber

The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny
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Mar 10, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: fantasy-scifi, would-kill-if-thrown, 2011-read
Read from February 14 to March 11, 2011

Update (Please read this first before complaining about my rating)

People keep complaining that my 1 star is unfair because some books were better than others. Here's how I see this work. I don't see it as different books the way one would read say an Agatha Christie novel. Each Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple mystery is a stand alone even if characters recur from book to book. They are meant to be read as stand alone novels and should be treated as such.

This book, on the other hand, is clearly a single narrative telling one story. The fact that was published as separate books does not change that. The Count of Monte Cristo was published as a serial. Should I give each chapter of that book a separate rating? Similarly, War and Peace is, in the text, divided into several books. Should it be rated on the basis of each book too?

We would never presume to rate Hamlet on the basis of each act, nor a symphony on each movement. We understand that these are works that have to be treated as a whole. The publishing or writing decision to split a work into several parts does not change how I approach that work.

My view is that a work stands or falls by all of its parts. If I'd wanted to rate each book separately, I would have given a GR rating to each individual book (Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, etc) listed here and not this edition. I didn't because I didn't read this in parts with each part a stand alone work. Given that the entire narrative is treated as a whole, I think it only fair to the author to treat his work as one whole. Some books benefit by that approach: an apparently weak beginning or middle may be improved when seen in the context of the ending or as a whole. This one, sadly, did not.

I am sure there are those who will disagree with this approach. You are certainly welcome to rate books how you please. There is, however, a reason to my rating this work this way.

Original Review

Seriously? One star? WTF??

Yep, one star. Okay, admittedly, the first half of the series is not bad. I'd have given it 3 stars for its twists and turns and fairly well constructed plot. The second half is so bad, I just have to wonder if the writer of the second half is the same as the writer of the first half. Maybe the second half was written by some pattern-construct or a shadow Zelazny twenty five tiers down. What did I object to? Let's see, where to start.

1. The inconsistent and wooden characterization--characters change as the plot requires and not through some natural evolution. (view spoiler)
2. The clunky dialogue that made all the characters sound like they were American actors in a bad soap opera despite the fact that they live in some totally foreign and exotic environment like the Courts of Chaos. (view spoiler)
3. The multiple rabbits that get pulled out of a hat. (view spoiler)
4. The plot! The plot that was like yesteryear's stale soap opera. The mad stalker ex-girlfriend, the family feud, the controlling mother, the best friend cum enemy, the possessed friend. Honestly! The only clunker it didn't have was a Bobby Ewing moment. Actually, wait a minute…

Ugh! I feel like I just watched a year's worth of Jerseylicious reruns with this book. Shudder!

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04/02/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Terence (new)

Terence A shadow Zelazny?

Yes! That would explain the quality of the Merlin-focused books!


message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris I don't feel so alone now. :)


Whitaker Thanks, y'all!


message 4: by Richard (new)

Richard I think 1 star for the whole set of ten is pretty harsh, since the first five are much better than that, but I might be unduly swayed by my memory of this being the first great series I was introduced to as a SF reader. For years I was on tenterhooks waiting for the next volume.

But I know what you mean about one-star reviews. I feel that way about The Road by McCarthy.


Whitaker Richard wrote: "I think 1 star for the whole set of ten is pretty harsh, since the first five are much better than that, but I might be unduly swayed by my memory of this being the first great series I was introdu..."

That is an excellent point, Richard. And a fair question, one that is certainly open to debate. Should I rate it as an entire work or as 10 separate works? Tough call, that.

The thing about this work that calls for treating it as a single work is that, except for the Merlin-Corwin break, each "book" ends on a cliffhanger that segues into the next "book", so they act more like chapters rather than books that stand on their own. Maybe if I'd read the Corwin-half first, then five years later the Merlin-half, I'd treat them as two separate works.

Of course, the other reason is that I bought the thing as one huge thick volume, and so I read and regarded it as a single work. And honestly treated as a single work, I felt that the plot in the Merlin-half so entirely undermined the plot in the Corwin-half, that one star was justifiable.

But it's certainly interesting to hear from someone who had a different reading experience. I recall a comment someone once made about a comic series that told a single epic tale but did so on a daily basis. That method forced each day's strip into a certain format, which (presumably) worked. But the reader felt that the daily strips collected into one book didn't work as well as reading it each day.

It's an interesting idea, that: that the act of how you read it has an impact on how you experience it, and hence, presumably, how the creator structures it.


Milo Though I don't completely agree with the review that doesn't stop me from liking it. Maybe I am enjoying the book more than you because I haven't seen enough soap opera's...


Mars "a shadow Zelazny twenty five tiers down" - what took you a few weeks to read took him ~22 years to write, so yes, the style changes considerably by the end.

I'm not particularly enamored with the last few books myself (although I'm a huge Zelazny fan), but giving the entire series a "1" for it seems a bit harsh.


Whitaker Mars wrote: ""a shadow Zelazny twenty five tiers down" - what took you a few weeks to read took him ~22 years to write, so yes, the style changes considerably by the end.

I'm not particularly enamored with th..."


Mars, thanks for posting. I'm glad that for you, "it was amazing". Finding a book to love is always a joy. I unfortunately "did not like it" and the GR one star rating was a honest reflection of that feeling. One man's meat can sadly be another's poison. But like I said, I'm glad you found a book to love.


message 9: by Jocelynne (new) - added it

Jocelynne Broderick Instead of giving one star overall, perhaps breaking them down book by book in your review might be more helpful. Just a thought...


message 10: by Whitaker (last edited Sep 27, 2012 07:34PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Whitaker Jocelynneb wrote: "Instead of giving one star overall, perhaps breaking them down book by book in your review might be more helpful. Just a thought..."

War and Peace is, in the text, divided into several books. Should it be rated on the basis of each book too? Should I rate Hamlet (5 acts) as an entire play or on the basis of each act? Is a symphony (four movements) better understood and rated as a whole or should I rate each movement? Would it be better to critique each part of Mona Lisa's face or the entire work.

My view is that a work stands or falls by all of its parts. If I'd wanted to rate each book separately, I would have given a GR rating to each individual book (Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, etc) listed here and not this edition. I didn't because I didn't read this in parts with each part a stand alone work. Given that the entire narrative is treated as a whole, I think it only fair to the author to treat his work as one whole. Some books benefit by that approach: an apparently weak beginning or middle may be improved when seen in the context of the ending or as a whole. Others do not.

I presume you disagree, but do consider that I did indeed have reasons to approach the rating this way.


message 11: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Whitaker wrote: "Yep, one star. Okay, admittedly, the first half of the series is not bad. I'd have given it 3 stars for its twists and turns and fairly well constructed plot. The second half is so bad, I just have to wonder if the writer of the second half is the same as the writer of the first half. Maybe the second half was written by some pattern-construct or a shadow Zelazny twenty five tiers down."

Love.


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