Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Lord of the Fantastic, Part Four

Okay, time to wrap up this review. Even though "Call Me Titan" was my favorite story of the collection, this is my favorite segment, because it has so many of the almost-best stories, so densely packed together.

Fairly solid, and a story I otherwise would have liked a lot, partly because the opening sentence includes "verdigrised", which happens to be one of my favorite words. There's nothing wrong with it per se; its main failing is that it's not "Movers and Shakers" or "Only the End of the World Again" or "Asgard Unlimited".

I actually skimmed this one my first time through in anticipation of Neil Gaiman's story and I shouldn't have. I always thought that A Night in the Lonesome October was the best setup for more stories by other authors. It's practically mandated by the concept! This is a bit of a riff on the concept. The Universal monsters (Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, you know the lot) stand in for the Openers and Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, and Tarzan are represent humanity.

Though the collection came out a year before Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it has a somewhat similar feel. Cementing this is the fact that each story features "Griffin", who was H.G. Wells' Invisible Man. I liked this one a lot, more than I expected to. It was a bit of a departure from the themes laid out in October, but I like it more with each reading.

This is the story of a young woman undergoing Rehab from an immersive VR game. Laws have changed to the extent that companies are permitted to go after their most lucrative clients. To this end, certain people at "Apes & Angels", kidnaps her and subjects her therapist to an addicting VR immersion of his own. They reverse roles over the course of the story, with her coming to learn that she likes helping people. In the epilogue, we learn that she became a medical doctor and a lawyer so she could fight Apes and Angels. Yeah, that might be a little sentimental or mawkish, but this is a collection for that kind of thing. The bad guys get enough victories in real life, and this collection is a celebration of the works of one author and the power of myth. It's nice to believe the little guy wins one once in a while.

Neil Gaiman is the person who comes up all the time when people mention a modern day Roger Zelazny. Incredible stories like this are the reason why. It's another take on the Great Game from October, and it's just crazy good. Larry Talbot, somewhat reluctant werewolf is working as an adjuster in the small town of Innsmouth.  I like that he vomits fingers from a child and later in the story gets a call from a frantic mom about her missing daughter. It manages to be really unnerving. It's a great story, loyal to both its Zelaznian and Lovecraftian roots.

It's a solid story with a lovely title, but has the same problem as Mad Jack above. It's a good story surrounded by great ones. I did particularly like the word from the author where he speaks of Zelazny's  "liquid grace", which I thought was a wonderful turn of phrase.

I've become something of a fan of Michael Stackpole while writing these commentaries. I loved his contribution for Forever After, and I also liked his superhero story in the anthology where I first read the Hugh Glass.

It opens with the line "Aside from the raven-shit on his shoulders, Odin looked pretty good in the Armani suit." which is brilliant, though I'm not sure that "raven-shit" needs to be hyphenated. Loki is selling the rest of the pantheon about life in modern times.

I find that I have the least to say about the stories I like the most in this collection, and I suppose that's because I don't want to spoil it for a perspective reader. This is right up there with Silverberg's and Gaiman's stories for best capturing the tone of a Zelazny story, and I don't have anything to say other than it's GREAT! and you should READ IT!

As with Saberhagen in the beginning, I was disappointed that this was remembrance without a story to accompany it, but when it comes down to it, both the stories and the reminisces are the same thing, a way of honoring an admired and respected friend.


  1. I somehow managed to miss this book completely -- never heard of it. Gotta track it down.


  2. Some of the author afterwards seemed very familiar and I didn't realize why. It wasn't until last night when I read the section on LORD OF THE FANTASTIC in Call Me Roger section of Book 6 of the COLLECTED STORIES that I remembered that I had read several of the nicer ones there.

    I happen to like it, and even though we sometimes have different tastes in which of Zelazny's works we prefer, there is probably something you'd enjoy in there too.