Reviews: Zelazny, Roger

Cruel Cosplay

Lord of Light — Roger Zelazny

I am afflicted with Zelazny-memory-loss syndrome: I have read many books written by the late Roger Zelazny, but for some reason retain little memory of them. It’s not because they are bad books, or even boring books; they’ve been lauded by fans and pros alike. For example, Roger Zelazny’s 1967 standalone novel Lord of Light won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula (losing to Delany’s The Einstein Intersection)1. Did I remember anything about it before I picked it up for a reread? Not really.

Well, that’s not completely true. There’s a truly wretched pun in the book: that I remembered, because apparently my brain hates me. And the beginning has always stuck in my mind.

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.

Sam’s former friends and allies, on the other hand, have been positively eager to claim divine status.


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Appropriate for Halloween

A Night in the Lonesome October — Roger Zelazny

A Night in the Lonesome October is not Roger Zelazny’s final novel1, but it was written in a decade when he mainly focused on collaborations. It was the last novel he wrote without a partner.

It’s also pretty good, which is fortunate for me because I would hate to have to write a Graveyard Orbit review of an author’s last book if that book was … ah … not up to their usual high standards.

Every year, in the month leading up to the last full moon in October, two factions—the Openers and the Closers—gather to determine the course of the world for the next year. It is in their power to determine which eldritch gates will be opened or very firmly closed.

In 18872, that last full moon fell on Halloween, which, one must admit, is a very good date on which to determine the fate of the world.

The participants are not always named, but they are all archetypes with whom readers will be familiar: the brilliant professor and his Monster, the Balkan aristocrat with an affinity for bats and a dislike of sunshine, the mad Russian Monk, the Great Detective, and of course the Londoner Jack and his marvellously sharp knife.

But this story isn’t about Jack. It’s about his dog, Snuff.


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“According to the record, you have been an undergrad here […] for approximately thirteen years”

Doorways in the Sand — Roger Zelazny

I get the impression that his star has dimmed somewhat since his untimely death in 1995, but during his prime—from the 1960s to the 1980s—Roger Zelazny was considered one of the great authors of science fiction. Corner a group of SF fans of the right age, reveal the implements of questioning,and they will fall all over themselves revealing which of Zelazny’s works they admire most.

My great shame is that not only did I miss some of his most famous stories—it took me until the 2000s to get around to “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”—but I didn’t care for such later-considered-classic books as I did encounter (like the early Amber novels). Worse yet, due to a quirk in my memory, I’ve forgotten almost entirely the contents of many of the books on my Zelazny shelf [1]. Lord of Light: forgotten! Creatures of Light and Darkness: forgotten! Nine Princes in Amber, except maybe for that first chapter: forgotten! But there are a few books that for some reason, I both liked and remembered.

First among them is Doorways in the Sand.


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