Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Promoted from the comments: Two Zelazny announcements

Bumped up from the comments, both from Chris Kovacs:

An essay that I wrote about influences and allusions in the first five Amber books is now available for free on-line at The New York Review of Science Fiction, July 2012 issue. This short link will get you there:

www.Speaking-Volumes.us has been releasing Zelazny's unabridged readings of the first nine Amber books on CD and mp3. They're up to Trumps of Doom (released earlier this month) and they're supposed to have a seventh release in August. For some reason they seem to have delayed Blood of Amber to October, and are going to release Sign of Chaos in August and Knight of Shadows in September. I previously asked them what they will do about the last book, Prince of Chaos, because Zelazny never recorded it. They replied that it will be released with someone else doing the reading. No info has been posted about it yet.

But today I discovered that www.Audible.com has released all 10 books at once in new readings. The first five books are read by Alessandro Juliani ("Gaeta" from Battlestar Galactica) and the last five books are read by Will Wheaton ("Wesley Crusher" from ST:TNG).

I welcome these releases but I hope that the Audible versions don't interfere with the planned release of the remaining three books read by Zelazny. Blood of Amber and Knight of Shadows have only previously been released in an abridged version of Zelazny's reading, while the unabridged reading of Sign of Chaos was released on cassette. I'm looking forward to hearing the full versions as read by him.


  1. It's funny you should mention Audible, because I just happened to have started listening to the copy of Lord of Light I picked up from there, but which is sadly no longer available.

    I'm inclined to agree with you regarding Zelazny's reading of his own works.

    Your essay made me remember how much I want an annotated Amber.

  2. That's very odd that Lord of Light is no longer available. I'm glad I bought it when I did. You can still get it in some ridiculous "preloaded digital audio player" from Amazon. The description makes it sound like you buy a player that only plays one thing!


  3. I think the last time I read Lord of Light was for my review here on the blog, and that was really too long.

    The thing that struck isn't that it's a very, very good book; I think everyone who comments here will agree with that, but rather how close to flawless it is.

    One occasionally finds that in a short story where everything comes together as one might believed the author conceived it. The author never makes a misstep or fails to find the proper word or has a character act out of character. I'm convinced that this is the case for Lord of Light, and it's remarkable for a work of such length and probably accounts for its enduring appeal.

  4. Chris: As always, you've done some excellent work here. Loved the Amber essay. And, once again, I feel the need to thank you for all the work you did on the Collected Stories--those books are still like treasures to me, sitting on my bookshelf, being uncontrollably awesome. THANK YOU!

    And I'd be remiss not to thank Josh as well, for putting together this blog where we can read his fantastic thoughts on Zelazny and hold our Zelazny discussions. You guys both rock.

    (No, I'm not drunk and going around telling everyone I love them. This is 100% authentic, sober praise!)

    Oh, and on the note of Lord of Light: yes, that book is perfection. I didn't realize just how good it was until the second time I read it. The first time, I thought it was amazing, but I wasn't sure if I had really experienced that myself, or if I was just reacting to the expectations I had after hearing everyone's praise. The second time, I read it with no expectations regarding my own reaction, and I realized: Holy shit, this book is really, *really* good.

    As Josh said, it's flawless--or close enough to it that the difference is negligible.

    1. Thanks, but I think you give me too much credit. It certainly wouldn't be half the blog without you guys contributing to it.

      Out of curiosity, how old were you when you first read LORD OF LIGHT? I guess I was around fourteen or fifteen, and I don't think was capable of appreciating it except in a very literal fashion. On reading it again after had gained a little maturity, I feel I was able to appreciate it in a more sophisticated fashion.

    2. Thanks, Zach, your comments are much appreciated.

      I too consider Lord of Light to be probably indistinguishable from perfect. I especially find the ending so touching, realistic, and humbling, especially Yama's defeated plea "Help me, Kubera" and the reply, "I will, Yama. If there is a way, we will find it." as they gaze at the brain-damaged child-like body of Yama's former love.

      But I know that people have written on Amazon and other places that it is the worst book ever written, that they just couldn't get into it, that they'd thrown it across the room and would give it zero stars if that were possible. I wonder it's the fable-like storytelling mode that throws them off, or the jolt of the flashback that begins the second chapter and annoys or confuses. Some seem not to realize that it's the crew of a starship pretending to be gods and not actual gods, and that's why they don't behave exactly like their Hindu namesakes. Is it the humor alternating with the serious tone that is off-putting? I don't know. Anyway, just like artwork, no novel or other piece of fiction is ever going to be loved by everyone, anyway.

      So while I agree with you that the novel is perfect (and I judge that after reading some thousands of novels), there are others out there who will think we're all simply out of our minds. We're well out-numbered by people who think that perfection in writing is Twilight, Harry Potter, or [gasp!] Shades of Grey.


    3. Josh: The short answer is that I first read Lord of Light when I was 28. You know, two years ago.

      The long answer is long and boring and explains why I basically didn't do any recreational reading until I was about 27. We won't get into that, on account of the long and boring.

      Chris: My guess with people not liking Lord of Light would be that it's not exactly an "easy" book (compared to things like, say, Harry Potter--which I have to admit I loved, after just recently reading it for the first time).

      I mean, Lord of Light isn't in a straightforward chronological order, and a lot of the lines are poetic to the point of slowing down your reading. (When reading Deus Irae recently, I found that I got through Dick's parts faster than Zelazny's; I enjoy Zelazny's style more, but it's a little more dense and makes you slow down to process things a bit--which is fine, because the payoff is great. But I can see how it might frustrate the casual reader.)

      Also, there's the point that Zelazny always made about never over-explaining things (which, as an aspiring writer, is something I try to do myself, thanks to the great Mr. Z's example). As such, I can see people getting lost in Lord of Light. Hell, I don't know that I would have realized we were talking about a planetary colony if I hadn't read it on the back of the book first. And I sort of love that about the book--I've often said that I'd rather walk out of a story not knowing exactly what happened than having all the answers shoved down my throat.

      Samuel R. Delany's THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION is a great example of this, actually. I read the book once and loved it for the imagery and prose style. And yet, I have no idea what the F happened at the end. But I can only applaud Delany for that. Whatever it is he intended, it could only be cheapened by explaining it to us outright.

      Now, having not entirely understood the book on my first time through, I just look forward to reading it again that much more.

  5. Zach: I mean, Lord of Light isn't in a straightforward chronological order, and a lot of the lines are poetic to the point of slowing down your reading.

    I was thinking about each of these things today, because I was daydreaming about how I would go about making a Lord of Light movie. I'm listening to the audio version again and I'm near the beginning of chapter five. If we had a movie, we would by necessity lose so many of the engaging descriptions included in the book, which is a shame, because the wordplay and the poetry is part of the total package. (And the way adaptations go, we'd probably lose the dialogue AND the plot, but don't strip me of ALL of dreams)

    Also, I figured the book would have to be a trilogy, and I was thinking eschewing the flashback framing mechanism, and making Chapters 2 and 3 into the first movie, chapters 4,5,6 into the second and 1 and 7 as the final movie.