Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let Zelazny Learn Ya

Tim White's Sign of the Unicorn

An important part of my fantasy reading is filling in my personal lacunae from the famed Appendix N.  I recently finished the first series of the Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber.  (Yes, Chad, you spoiled the identity of the villain for me.  I will crush you.)  WOW.  Beautifully written.  For years, just hearing "multiple worlds, the Tarot, reworked English and Celtic mythological elements" in the descriptions of this work somehow didn't grab me.  If sketches of the work you have heard don't appeal to you for some reason, my advice would be to ignore them: the execution far outstrips any laundry list of the elements.

Back on the gaming front, this is Absolutely Required Reading for anyone who is interested in the Law vs. Chaos struggle and the concept of Balance -- more so even than Poul Anderson or Michael Moorcock.  Hie thee to yon bookshelf and read, Masters of the Gaming Table!  Some thoughtful and arresting sub-creating is going on, here.  Also, if you are working on the plane of Shadows (cough, JON BRAZER, cough), you need to take a long look here.  More Plato than Spooky Shadows so definitely worth some pondering.  Even though I have been warned that some fans were disappointed in the second series, I may give in some day and read those too, so attractive did I find the first books, and they effectively implanted curiosity about what will happen after the big events at the end.

7 comments:

  1. It is a great series. I haven't read them since my teens. I should probably revisit them at some point.

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  2. YES! Amber is amazing, I'm surprised it's not a bigger influence on the hobby. Maybe because the characters are so Shakespearian in scope and a bit larger than life.

    Whether it's better inspiration for D&D's Law vs Chaos, I would debate. Amber is certainly different, and postulates more of a 'twin realms, separated at birth' to Amber (Order, and the Pattern) and the Courts of Chaos, and it's all very interesting and full of familial intrigue.

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  3. The second series is pretty good, just don't expect it to be a continuation of the first series. It's told from a different character's point of view and he's... just not Corwin (one of my all time favorite characters). It's a different kind of story because the narrator is a different sort of person. But if you take it as it comes it's still well worth the read and has some truly excellent moments. And more magic.

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  4. These comments, plus one somebody sent me, are weakening my resistance to the second series. Yeah, Corwin was a very strong character for me, too.

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  5. I worship at the altar of Zelazny and burn with envy that you've been able to enjoy Amber for the first time so recently.

    His greatest work might be Lord of Light, although I (and probably most others) love Amber best.

    Skip the second series. There is some good in it, but it will disappoint you. Go on to his stand-alone novels.

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  6. It's funny: I picked up D&D at an age where I was reading lots of WWII stuff. I guess I read more nonfiction than fiction anyway, outside of whatever they made me read in school. For some reason, I never locked into the Moldvay's Inspirational Reading List or Gary's Appendix N. If I hadn't seen it in a movie (which is how I had ingested Sir Walter Scott, the Arabians Nights, and some other things), then the only background I brought to D&D were Greek myths I'd read and Roger Lancelyn Green's Norse Myths. Everything I was "supposed" to have read as a kid, I've read as an adult. In spite of the fact that I've been gaming since 1981! My inspirational reading was pretty much anything TSR put out between 1977 and 1985, except the magazines.

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  7. I habitually reread the Chronicles of Amber every five years or so. I have loaned out my Great Book of Amber out so many times I am into my third copy of it. Good stuff.

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