Friday, November 21, 2014

Roger Zelazny Book Review: Collector's Fever

Collector's Fever is one of those stories that never worked for me. I think it's the only one of Roger Zelazny's comedy works that I really don't enjoy. It's almost entirely dialogue, which is a bit gimmicky, but not so much that it ruins the story on its own. I think the problem is that there's not much more to the story than the joke, and I just didn't think it was funny. Remove that, and there's not much left.

It's the story of a young man who visits a plan with a sentient rock
"What are you doing there, human?"
"It's a long story."
"Good, I like long stories. Sit down and talk. No--not on me!"
"Sorry. Well, it's all because of my uncle, the fabulously wealthy--"
"Stop. What does 'wealthy' mean?"
"Well, like rich."
"And 'rich'?"
"Hm. Lots of money."
"What's money?"

I think that's another thing that I didn't like about it. The alien that speaks perfect, grammatically correct English, yet needs every other word explained to it. Our protagonist is bitter that his uncle sent him to college, rather than Space Academy. His uncle collects rocks, so he's going to bring Stone home to his uncle, knowing that it will "deeble", or undergo a type of fission, and kill his uncle.

Stone threatens to deeble on the spot, but our hero took its mass when they first met, and knows it hasn't reached point critical yet. So he crates up Stone, and takes it on board his spaceship. Unfortunately, he removed most of the shielding, and Stone absorbs a bunch of stray material, and blows up on the spot. 
He mushroomed upwards, then swept in great waves across the plains of Dunghill. Several young Stones fell from the dusty heavens wailing their birth pains across the community band.

"Gone fission," commented a distant neighbor, above the static, "and sooner than I expected. Feel that warm afterglow!"
Ugh. That was awful. And not even in a good way like the fit hit the Shan.

It's hard to say if the story doesn't "work", or if it just doesn't appeal to me. Any opinions out there from my fellow Zelaznians?


  1. It must appeal to some people because it was republished in the anthologies 100 GREAT SCIENCE FICTION SHORT SHORT STORIES, and 100 ASTOUNDING LITTLE ALIEN STORIES, and dramatized as an audio play in BEYOND 2000. It was also converted into a graphic novel for THE ILLUSTRATED ROGER ZELAZNY, and there are 2 different audiobook versions of it!

    My own reaction has always been one of very mild amusement at this little tale.

    1. I was kind of surprised when you mentioned this, but I looked up the publication history in IDES once you did. Not my cup of tea, but other fans apparently like it, and that's great. I also enjoyed reading the alternate titles, though I'm not sure if I like them more or less than the published title.

  2. I've actually always really liked this one, mostly *because* of the gimmick. I like that Roger often set challenges for himself in his writing, especially because it's that kind of experimentation that gave us some of his best stories.

    You're right that it takes a little extra suspension of disbelief to buy into the rock's language issues, but at the same time, "deeble" is a funny word, so I think it all balances out.

    1. I certainly don't *hate* it. My reaction is similar to what people used to say about Saturday Night Live, that if you don't like what they're showing now, wait for five minutes and you'll get something new. Likewise, this is only a couple of pages long. It didn't work for me, but I didn't find it so bad that I hated it, either. I read it, it was over, and there was something I liked better on the next page.

  3. It's not a bad story itself, but I would say it's not really Zelazny-like. I would expect it to be written by Robert Sheckley, and in fact that's where I tried to find this story when I wanted to re-read it: I ended reading through lots of other Sheckley's stories that day.