Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: The Great Slow Kings

This is one of those fun short stories. It tells the story of the Great Slow Kings, two reptilian monarchs named Drax and Dran, their intellects vast and ponderous.

Drax and Dran sat in the great Throne Hall of Glan, discussing life. Monarchs by virtue of superior intellect and physique--and the fact that they were the last two survivors of the race of Glan - theirs was a divided rule over the planet and their one subject, Zindrome, the palace robot.

It's a one note story, with the gimmick being that Drax and Dran act so slowly that vast spans of time pass between every line of their conversations. It's a silly story, inspired, no doubt by similar ones Zelazny had written as a kid with lifelong friend friend Carl Yoke about their namesake monsters Yok and Zlaz.

"Dran, I've been thinking. There may be life on other planets in the galaxy."

Dran considered his response to this, as the world wheeled several times about its sun.

"True," he finally agreed, "there may."

After several months Drax shot back, "If there is, we ought to find out."

"Why?"  asked Dran with equal promptness, which caused the other to suspect that he, too, had been thinking along these lines.

And it's all pretty much like that. The humor is in the juxtaposition of things like "several months" and "equal promptness".

"Masters,"  suggested Zindrome, "the half-life of radioactive materials being as ephemeral as it is, I regret to report that only one spaceship is now in operational condition."

They send their robot out and he returns with two humanoids. They tell him to go back and get more.

In the midst of their discussion Zindrome returned and stood waiting to be recognized.

"What is it, Zindrome? Did you forget something?"

"No,  great Lords. When I returned to the world from which I obtained the samples I discovered that the race had progressed to the point where it developed fission  processes, engaged in an  atomic war and annihilated itself."

"That was extremely inconsiderate--typical, however, I should  say, of warm-blooded instability."

Also, the two humanoids Zindrone left behind had reproduced and overrun the planet. The pair are irate and dictate to their robot a very sternly worded proclomation, but by the time it is completed, the humanoids on this planet have also developed nuclear technology and used it to wipe themselves out too.

Drax and Dran instruct their robot to archive their proclamation (which by now is already moldering) and then spend some time discussing what has happened.

"At any rate, I should have to ponder your suggestion carefully."

"And I yours."

"It's been a busy day," nodded Dran. "Let's sleep on it."

 "A good idea."

Sounds of saurian snoring emerged from the great Throne Hall of Glan.

I doubt it tops anybody's list of best Zelazny stories, but I think it's very good humor story because of its length. Zelazny provides enough variations on the concept of very slow, obtuse monarchs, and then quits while it's still funny.

1 comment:

  1. Ditto. A fun little story.

    --Chris DeVito