The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny are a fantastic resource, but not one I consult when writing these reviews, simply because the commentary there is so incisive that it would be too easy to unconsciously incorporate the observations there into my own work if I started reading it before I had an idea of the form a particular entry will take. So, if I read it at all, it's right before I publish, to see if I overlooked something blindingly obvious.
That's what I did this time around and I saw that I had pretty much said the same things about it that people have been saying since its release at the end of the 80s and that Chris Kovacs already covered the points that I was going to make when he looked at it in the "And Call Me Roger..." segment.
I'm not sure I even consider it a proper Zelazny book. The book was written by Neil Randall and Roger Zelazny, though Zelazny's contributions seemed to be limited to answering the questions Randall posed to him. I don't feel that's a role to which he's entirely suited, because by his own accounts, he makes up his worlds as he goes along, often having no idea how a story will end when he begins writing it. And it's possible for him to reverse engineer it to an extent, by remembering what he's written, determinging what would lead to that state of events and projecting where they might go in the future, but it's not as if Amber had been rigorously planned from the beginning.
Randall plugs his Amber choose-your-own-adventure books (Black Road War & Seven No Trump) a couple times but I'm okay with that because I happened to like them. My biggest complaint is that I read Black Road War right before I started The Hand of Oberon for the very first time and Zelazny casually mentions that Oberon is Ganelon in the introduction.
It's probably the best semi-canonical work in regards to giving the neglected princesses some real character. Sometimes it's a mess, when it suggests that Gérard played defensive tackle for a college team. We never get an official age in the books for any of the princes, except for Benedict, who by Corwin's account is "several" millennia old. Gerard was at least a young adult when Corwin was banished to the London during the plague and that was several centuries ago. I suppose it's possible that Gérard played football as an undergrad on some adjacent shadow, but a more likely explanation is that Randall or Zelazny just didn't think that one through.
Showing how each royal decorates his or her room was really clever. I like maps of the room, and the little details, like Julian's bearskin rugs or Fiona's Scandinavian decor. I was amused by the account of Bleys's chess match with Tlingel the unicorn, though it's not something I'm inclined to treat as canon. I especially like the characterization of Diedre as an urbane Manhattanite and "the first to comfort the grieving Yoko Ono", and I will forever after imagine her as Audrey Hepburn wearing a black turtleneck.
I really liked the art in the book with a few exceptions. (Why, exactly, was Fiona's head so flat? Why did you give the unicorn those horrifying goat eyes? Gérard looks like he's really enjoying that goblet of wine.) It got me thinking about the perennial pastime of Amber fans, the casting of the hypothetical Amber movie.
I'm terrible at this, but I have a couple of suggestions:
If the artist is to be believed, we should absolutely go with Timothy Dalton as Corwin. I like him in The Lion in Winter (one of my favorite movies), but he's just too young in that role to play Corwin.
Eric Bana as Eric, naturally.
Christopher Walken as Julian. In my most recent reading of the books, Julian came across as emotionally stunted, what with his awkward wooing of his sister and "his slow, almost impeded way of speaking". There is something...off about each of them and I think Walken would be a great fit. Ideally, I'm thinking young Walken, like from the Deer Hunter or Annie Hall.
|"I enjoy slaughtering beasts and I think of my relatives constantly. Please brothers, scooch closer."|
Audrey Hepburn as Diedre, as per above.
Brendon Gleeson in his role as Menelaus as Ganelon
Bernard Hill in his role as Théoden as Oberon
And finally Justin Bieber as Merlin.
|Ha ha ha. Fuck Merlin.|
I may be back for the characters I missed, because this was kind of fun.