Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Flare




You know, I knew this would happen. I had resolved to review all of Roger Zelazny's major works and I did make a conscious decision to pace myself, and not frontload the process with the ones I liked, leaving nothing but the weak stuff at the end.

But here we are, 70 reviews later, with Flare and the Mask of Loki still to go.

Flare.

Fucking Flare, man.

Don't want to slag off on Thomas T. Thomas. From his website, he seems to be a nice person, his writing has improved substantially, and if nothing else, it shows that Roger Zelazny was a stand up guy by collaborating with a less established author. But, ugh. Flare.  I don't even know why I'm still hanging on to my copy.

I had sarcastically suggested in my Forever After review that Zelazny's contribution to Flare was saying to Thomas T. Thomas, "Hey, write a book about a solar flare," but then Chris Kovacs stepped in and corrected me, saying that if anything, I was overstating his influence in the project. Apparently, it was more like  TTT: "I want to write a book about a solar flare." RZ:"Whatever, here's some poetry.")

I was going to do an elaborate  April Fool's Day post about Flare. It was going to be ten paragraphs long and the first letter of each paragraph would spell out "FLARE SUCKS". But Jesus, that's a lot of work for a novel that I don't really like.

Kelvin scale. The first chapter goes into exhaustive (and exhausting) detail about the elements that go into producing a solar flare. Except, they talk about degrees Kelvin. The degree is not the unit of measure on the Kelvin scale. (If you're not familiar, the Kelvin scale is the same magnitude of is the Celsius scale, but shifted, with 0 K being −273.15 °C, or absolute zero.)

And you're like, "Who gives a shit Josh?" and I'm like "I do, to the extent that I give a shit about Flare at all." I used to be a chemist and in the rare instance when we were talking about the Kelvin scale, we usually said degree rather than Kelvin unit, because it was pretty much a Degree C, just shifted by a value 273 and scientists are people just like anyone else, and they knew I meant unit K if I said degree.

Anybody who reads this blog knows that I'm as big a slob as anyone. That said, if I were submitting a paper for publication, I'd be certain to use the proper nomenclature. And if you're going to spend the entire first chapter establishing your scientific bona fides, don't fuck up by talking about Kelvin degrees in the first paragraph! (Also, when you're talking about the fifteen million degree temperatures on the surface of the sun, the difference between the Kelvin and the Celsius scale is pretty academic.)

I don't remember when I first read Flare, but it was very different from what I was expecting. I went back a couple years later and tried to enjoy it for what it was, but I still couldn't get into it. There are many different threads and they never come together in any meaningful way. As a result, even though I was able to accept that it wasn't going to be a usual Zelazny book, I couldn't enjoy it because I wasn't invested in any of the situations.  Mind you, I don't hate it like I do the Merlin books. I just find it hard to have any kind of opinion about it at all.

7 comments:

  1. Josh said: "I had sarcastically suggested in my Forever After review that Zelazny's contribution to Flare was saying to Thomas T. Thomas, "Hey, write a book about a solar flare," but then Chris Kovacs stepped in and corrected me, saying that if anything, I was overstating his influence in the project. Apparently, it was more like TTT: "I want to write a book about a solar flare." RZ:"Whatever, here's some poetry.")"

    ---

    I'm not sure if I missed this the first time around, but your comments about FLARE in the PASSION PLAY review today prompted me to look at this review. And you had me in stitches with that paragraph. But yeah, it does pretty much sum up the situation. Just remember to not blame RZ for all the explaining in that one!

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  2. I'm 40 pages into Flare, Josh.

    Tell me it gets better.

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    1. Oh, poor, innocent Zach. I wish I had some comforting lies for you.

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    2. I made it 20 more (skimmed) pages before giving up.

      =(

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    3. I was in a used book store today and the only Zelazny book they had was FLARE. It made me sad.

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    4. To me, that's a sign of good things--it means no one wants to get rid of their Zelazny books. (Except for that guy who went on a drunken book-buying rampage and picked up a copy of FLARE, only to realize his mistake the next day.)

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    5. I occasionally feel guilty about buying every copy of Zelazny's books that I find so that I may give them away to my friends.

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