Suggested reading: Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny was one of the greats of science fiction. If you haven’t read his work, go get some now. Among his best known works is the phenomenal Lord of Light.  Zelazny particular strength from the very beginning was his almost poetic use of language, for example in one of one his earliest works “Passion Play” (which I pay homage to in two Mechanics stories). He was also a master at recycling mythic characters in fun and engaging ways.

I came to Zelazny, as a number of people did, not from his most highly regarded work, but from his most popular series, Amber.  I happened across a part of The Courts of Chaos in a magazine, and I was hooked.  But Amber was the smallest part of what Zelazny had to offer. Aside from Lord of Light, my personal favorites are some of his least popular: To Die in Italbar, Creatures of Light and Darkness, and the overlooked duology, Changeling and Madwand.  Most of his work is worth reading.

Still, Zelazny’s strengths could also be a weakness.  He like to experiment, and some of his efforts just didn’t work.  Eye of Cat, for example, is a weak effort.  And for a writer with such poetic prose, it turns out that his actual poetry was pretty weak.  All in all, we’re lucky that he focused on the prose writing he did so well.

If you’re a Zelazny completist, consider the 6 volume NESFA set. It’s somewhat haphazardly organized, includes excerpts from some novels (why?), and has a lot of pretty bad poetry.  But it is also thoroughly annotated, and includes all of Zelazny’s short fiction. Surprisingly, Zelazny comes off worse in a long, focused read through than he does taken one story at a time, occasionally. But while the stories don’t measure up to the novels on average, they are very good, and some of them are excellent.

If you haven’t encountered Zelazny yet, you’re in for a treat.