Here we are already. I'll probably cover the Merlin books in one post and then move on to some of Zelazny's other work. Lord of Light or Jack of Shadows is probably next. LoL because I found an audio version of it, Jack of Shadows, because it's next chronologically.
I downloaded the Audible app for my phone on Friday. I'd had a membership a while back, but the files are in some weird format that wouldn't play on my cheap mp3 player, so I canceled it. I had only opened it in the first place because that was the only place I could find Lord of Light on audiobook.
When I installed it on my phone, it prompted me for my password, so I signed in using my old account and there was Lord of Light!
Anyways, back to this review. I think Courts is the second weakest of the Corwin Chronicles. It has its moments, but for some reason it doesn't appeal to me as much as the earlier books. I think it's the lack of mystery. I don't know if I'd call it noir precisely, but I don't think it's a stretch to claim that Amber had its roots in some of the same antecedents that inspired Raymond Chandler. Corwin never knows who he can trust for the first four books. He knew, for really the first time, what was going on, and the steps that need to be taken to fix things and this is just going through the motions. It seems like the interesting part of the story was that mystery and that's why CoC is a bit of a letdown for me.This felt like a protracted denouement.
The other problem is structural. It was serialized in Galaxy magazine over the course of four months and it shows. Reading it light of this knowledge, it seems more liked four linked novellas than one complete work. We get the drumbeat of chapter-chapter-chapter-
The books never feel like they are set in a specific era, but rather the eternal now. Amber herself is timeless and Zelazny shrewdly keeps mum about details on shadow earth, so as not to date the books with some unforeseeable anachronism (My Name is Legion, I'm looking at you and your punch card computers) and it's not so much the substance but the style that makes Courts seem like a period work. All the psychedelic weirdness with the talking ravens and talking trees and talking jackals makes it seem like 1970s to me.
It really is a decent book, and as Jake said elsewhere, even Zelazny on an off day is best than most writer's best work. So I'll quit bitching about the stuff I didn't like and focus on the stuff I did.
The inscribing of the Pattern is beautiful. I recall not liking free verse of the hellrides, and the the first time I read Courts and when I saw that this chapter was going to be more of that, I just skipped to the end. Now, though, it's one of my very favorite passages
. . Cassis, and the smell of the chestnut blossoms. All along the Champs-Elysies the chestnuts were foaming white . . . .
In general I didn't care as much for Brand in CoC as I did in the earlier books. In Oberon, he had some of best lines in the whole saga, and now he's just crazy.
Corwin and Borel.
Corwin's first fight in the chronicles is kicking another dude in the crotch. His final fight is the one everybody remembers.
Drawing Grayswandir, I leaped after him. I caught him just as he had brushed my cloak aside and was struggling to rise. I skewered him where he sat and saw the startled expression on his face as the wound began to flame.
"Oh, basely done!" he cried. "I had hoped for better of thee!"
"This isn't exactly the Olympic Games," I said, brushing some sparks from my cloak.
That's Corwin in a nutshell.
"I saw Deirdre in black armor, swinging an ax." As far as I know, this is the only reference to Deirdre's martial prowess or preference for an axe, but by god, in from fan-produced material about Deirdre, you'd think she sleeps with that axe.
And Benedict, the gods know you grow wiser as time burns its way to entropy, yet you still neglect single examples of the species in your knowledge of people. Perhaps I'll see you smile now this battle's done. Rest, warrior. Another lovely turn of phrase.
And the man clad in black and silver with a silver rose upon him? He would like to think that he has learned something of trust, that he has washed his eyes in some clear spring, that he has polished an ideal or two. Never mind. He may still be only a smart-mouthed meddler, skilled mainly in the minor art of survival, blind as ever the dungeons knew him to the finer shades of irony. Never mind, let it go, let it be. I may never be pleased with him.
The wikipedia summary claims that there "They contact Gérard, who tells them that the multiverse is fine, although seven years have passed." I didn't remember that and it's an awfully specific. , so I reread the final chapters very carefully. The closest thing I found to that line was: Random's last act after defeating the storm was to join with me, drawing power from the Jewel, to reach Gerard through his Trump. They are cold. once more, the cards, and the shadows are themselves again. Amber stands. Years have passed since we departed it, and more may elapse before I return. The others may already have Trumped home, as Random has done, to take up his duties. But I must visit the Courts of Chaos now, because I said that I would, because I may even be needed there.
I always read that as metaphorical, that it felt like years. On reflection, I suppose a literal reading is more likely, but I don't know where he gets seven. It's such a specific claim that I wonder if it's mentioned in the book he cites as a source.
And we have come to the end of the Corwin saga. I'll be back in a day or two with more Zelazny blogging.
Good-bve and hello, as always.