Roger Zelazny discussion

This Immortal
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message 1: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (last edited Sep 03, 2009 03:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments This Immortal by Roger Zelazny is one of my all time favorites. If you looked up every allusion & metaphor in this book, I think you'd get a pretty complete classical education.

No Spoilers, please! Go to: for the spoiler topic.

Chris pointed to the Wikipedia article on it that says there are several versions of it available. One has 10 more paragraphs on Conrad's history.

Have you read it? Which version?

message 2: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I just got the 1966 Ace edition of "This Immortal" & have requested a 1973 version as well. Both are by Ace, so I'll try to see if there are any differences or not, eventually.

I like the book, but I'm not sure I like it well enough to go over it with a fine tooth comb twice. I believe I've always had the 1973 edition before though. I should recognize the difference without too much trouble.

message 3: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments I dont re-read books often but this one is one of those books you want to read at least twice to go over things,relive the story again.

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I've requested This Immortal and Lord of Light off of PBS. According to what I could find, the edition I'm getting was published in 1989, so I'm hoping its the full version. :)

message 5: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Becky, I think my 1993 edition of it is the 1966 edition of it. I hope you have better luck.

Here is the link to the Wikipedia article that Chris found:
Note that it does have spoilers but you don't have to read that far.

message 6: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I read the missing 10 paragraphs in Power & Light last night. It contains the story in the original published form.

Actually, all that was missing are the last sentence of the first paragraph mentioned & 9 short paragraphs after that. They really don't add to the story or history. All they do is sum up information that is available in the rest of the book.

I'm actually quite happy that they were left out of the 1966 Ace edition. It added more mystery as to who Conrad is without them & we find out anyway.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

So now that you've Piqued my interest.... Which version of This Immortal would you recommend?

message 8: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I think the 1966 Ace edition is fine & I'm glad I read it first. If you feel Zelazny leaves you in the dust too often & for too long, you might want to read a complete copy, though. I liked the mystery, but it's a personal choice.

Grimward | 20 comments Kind of agree. There isn't enough content in the extra 9 paragraphs to make much difference. And regardless of which I read, it's always great (one of my all time RZ favorites).

message 10: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments Heh such a small difference. Since i have the 60s copy too i was wondering how big part of the story that was missing.

message 11: by ckovacs (new)

ckovacs | 142 comments It appears everyone has misunderstood or not read the relevant section of the biography that I wrote. THIS IMMORTAL is dealt with on page 520-521 of Volume 1 of the COLLECTED STORIES: THRESHOLD. The relevant part is this:

"The expanded THIS IMMORTAL led readers to mistakenly conclude that the magazine version had been lengthened for publication as a book, when in fact the reverse was true: the book had been abridged by the editor for its appearance in F&SF. Unfortunately, not all of the cut material was restored to the Ace edition, but Zelazny didn’t realize this until over twenty years later when he reviewed the text for a Book Club edition. He explained, “I didn’t know for years that I was missing some scenes, until it became an SF Book Club choice and the editor there told me that after looking at the magazine version and the book version that a bunch of stuff was missing and then asked me if I could go over the text and produce a definitive version.”13 This writer reviewed digital texts of the abridged version from F&SF and the Ace Books edition and found the Ace edition to have over 10,000 more words. A digital text was not available for the Book Club edition, but its length appears to be at least 12,000 words longer than the F&SF version. Furthermore, the section that recounts the history of the Radpol—added to the F&SF version—was overlooked and has never appeared in any of the book publications of THIS IMMORTAL."

Now if that isn't clear, the original manuscript was cut for its appearance in F&SF. The summary section of 9 paragraphs was written as an EXTRA for F&SF to explain the backstory and is *not* what Zelazny was referring to as missing scenes in the book. When Ace printed THIS IMMORTAL, they restored some but not all of the cuts made by the magazine. Plus the editor of the book made other changes without Zelazny being aware at the time. Zelazny later restored some or all of these scenes to a later Book Club edition. The 9 summary paragraphs written for F&SF were left out of all editions of THIS IMMORTAL but they hadn't been written for the book version anyway. As to which book club edition contains the more complete text, I am not certain because it would require an exhaustive comparison of several editions to the Ace version (the SFBC, the Goodchild Book Club, and the Easton Press editions).

Some of the other changes that Zelazny was annoyed about include this example. When Cassandra reappears at the end to save the day, Conrad in his trying-to-stay-cool-and-collected way says, “Uh—hi, Cassandra. How’ve you been?” This is completely in keeping with Conrad's character and humor. The editor of THIS IMMORTAL didn't like that, didn't understand why Conrad would react that way, and changed what Conrad says to a simple "Cassandra!" Although Zelazny hated that change, he forgot to fix it in any of the book editions of THIS IMMORTAL. There are other editorial changes like this which altered Conrad's speaking voice and removed some of his sardonic wit.

If you have any edition of THIS IMMORTAL and compare it to the two-part "...And Call Me Conrad" as printed in Volume 2, you will see how even relatively intact scenes were cut. For example, the party near the beginning of the novel (where Conrad needs to navigate across the room to speak to someone) is significantly longer in the book than in the serialized version. Other scenes are completely gone in the serialized version. As to which is the better version, that has been argued by critics. The shorter serialized version is considered tighter and better written (and it is the version that won the Hugo) whereas the longer book version is considered by many to be too long, wandering, and with too many extraneous plot elements thrown in. Personally, I like both versions.

I have a copy of the original manuscript of this novel so it is possible that a fully complete version of this novel will appear someday.


message 12: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I'll try to remember to create a spoiler topic for this book tonight & type in the missing material. It's not that much, so it shouldn't violate any laws.

message 13: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (last edited Sep 03, 2009 03:31PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Chris, somehow I missed your post twice today! Thank you so much for the definitive answer.

I have created the spoiler topic here:
& will post the back story piece that Chris refers to.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I found an Ace copy of 'This Immortal' '66 version... I will be looking forward to reading it & "A Night in the Lonesome October"

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I just started reading this today, and I am a bit lost, to be honest! I'm going to stick with it and see where it goes, but I feel like I'm only being given every other word to read... LOL

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Mind you, I'm only 18 pages in. I'm sure it will all come clear in the end. :)

message 17: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments It will. This is a book I appreciate more on re-reads because then I know the basic story & don't have to concentrate on it.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Yoou mean there's concentration involve??? Oy

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) LOL I don't mind books which require concentration, but this one jumps around quite a bit at the beginning and seems to just assume that the reader knows exactly what's going on and who's who -- or at least that they are patient enough to find out later!

message 20: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Becky, the discovery of what is going on is one of Zelazny's trademarks. He said that he wasn't selling anything & went through all his stories to see what the problem was. He decided he was telling too much. He decided to treat the reader as he would like to be treated, not like an idiot. Since he was a genius, sometimes I think he went a bit far in the opposite direction. It's one reason why I re-read his books with so much enjoyment. I'm not that smart & it takes me a couple of tries to get it all.

Some of it is just style. Doorways in the Sand is confusing at first because he starts EVERY chapter in the middle of the action, works back to the beginning & then ends the chapter on a cliff hanger. Turns a good SF detective story into a really good one, though.

Roadmarks, which deals with a road that travels through time, is another tough one to figure out at first. He has chapters, but they are marked as either 'I' or 'II'. All the 'I' chapters are from the hero's POV & are in a time linear fashion, but the 'II' chapters deal with other events, outside of his knowledge.

Zelazny wrote the story in linear fashion, the pulled all the 'II' sections out & tossed them in the air. He then randomly inserted them in between the 'I' sections & was pleased with the result. While it does really make the reader feel the intricacies of time travel issues, it makes the first read somewhat confusing until they figure that out.

"This Immortal" is relatively straight forward, though. You're not quite to the part where the main point of the story gets explained, but close.

message 21: by Becky (last edited Sep 17, 2009 10:07AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) That makes sense. But that's a fine line to tread considering that some people might just toss aside a book that doesn't give the reader a lot to hook them. It seems to assume, or hope maybe, that the reader will be intrigued and want to continue rather than just being confused and moving on to something else.

Not that I think that's a bad thing. I've barely started, and this is my very first Zelazny, so I can't really make a fair judgement. Just observations. :)

Do you think that this is a good book to start with regarding Zelazny's writing? Or do you think that a different book would be better?

message 22: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I think the Amber series might be the best to start on or Damnation Alley, if you like post-apocalyptic stories. They're the most straight forward of all his books.

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I do have the Amber series, as you know, but I'm a bit daunted by the page count, as I have so many other long books to read at the moment!

That's actually why I chose to try This Immortal -- its short! LOL

I think I will stick with it. Even if I don't end up liking it as much as I'd hoped to, I own it and can always read it again later. And I also own Lord of Light, so I have a back-up shorty if needed. ;)

message 24: by Mohammed , Dilvish The Damned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mohammed  (mohammedaosman) | 83 comments Jennifer wrote: "Jim wrote: "I think the Amber series might be the best to start on or Damnation Alley, if you like post-apocalyptic stories. They're the most straight forward of all his books. "


There is an Nine Princes of Amber spoiler free topic ;)

I know exactly what you mean i read Amber book 1 for the first recently. I was totally clueless at what was happening at first.

message 25: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments No worries. It's pretty obvious from the first page & what a first couple of pages! I liked the blank cusses too. You probably want to stay out of the spoiler topic until you're finished with the book. You really do NOT want to know what happens. I envy you the first read experience.

message 26: by Erich (last edited Sep 22, 2009 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 22 comments I had the same problem Becky when I first read 'This Immortal'. I was really confused at the beginning, but I when I was a little more than half way through the book I decided to just start over and read the book over again... and wow am I glad I did! Everything made a lot more sense the second time around; I was then just able to kick my feet up and flip through the pages madly with excitement!

I would have never have done that however if I hadn't read 'Lord of Light' before hand (being one of my all time favorites), with that book alone showing me Zelazny's genius and knowing he could do no wrong in literature and opening my mind to places I didn't even know existed.

Also, Becky it may help if you don't already know, but the hero Conrad Nomikos is the demigod Hercules. When I found this out, the book held my interest and enjoyment more so because of that.

message 27: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Erich, I never would have thought to start re-reading a book from the middle. Glad it worked for you.

I'm not so sure about Conrad being Hercules, but I think I'd rather discuss that in the spoiler topic.

Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann (erichfranzlinnerguzmann) | 22 comments Thanks Jim! I actually have some questions about that that I hope some members can clear up for me, but yeah probably best to discuss that one in the spoiler section.

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I did have to put it down actually -- too many other commitments at the moment, plus I was sick this weekend. And being sick it just wasn't holding my attention.

I will come back to it soon, however, and hopefully I will have the epiphany moment you describe! :)

message 30: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Feel better, Becky!

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Thanks Jim! :D

Jackie (thelastwolf) I'm starting this later tonight. See you when I'm done in the Spoiler section.

message 33: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments Enjoy!

Jackie (thelastwolf) You know I will.

message 35: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I've worn out several paperbacks of this book. It's brilliant & well worth multiple re-reads. There's always a new tidbit to find, but it's also just a wonderful journey. Zelazny poetically & subtly uses classical references to draw a 'fantastic' post-apocalyptic world. On its face, the book is a good, straight SF story. If you have a decent familiarity with the classics & Greek mythology, it is much, much more. Especially on a re-read, it's easy to find the subtle references to the fantastic side - is he really the great Pan? The subtexts & foreshadowing are so masterful, too.

When I saw there was an audio version, I HAD to listen to it. I thought the reader, Victor Bevine, was horribly slow at first, but now I'm appreciating his slow rhythm more. He has a fairly deep voice which fits the story well since it is first person, past tense.

message 36: by Jim, Keeper of the Pattern (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 975 comments I finished the audio book. Wow! It was a fantastic way to go through this again. My review is here:

If anyone would ever like to do a group read of this book, I'd love it. I think it would be as good as
A Night in the Lonesome October.

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