Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Before my first Zelazny novel

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It appears that the Memorial Guest of Honor at the upcoming Readercon is Roger Zelazny.

I’ve never read a book by Zelazny before, and it isn’t exactly by accident.  I’m a reasonably well-read person, with a fairly broad spectrum of taste.  I’ve seen Zelazny’s books before.  My brain gives me a memory of a long line of yellow-spined, thin paperbacks on the bottom shelf of the SF section of the bookstore, something about them sending out a ‘This is for teenaged boys’ vibe.  I’ve never been tempted to pick one up.

On the other hand, the Readercon programmer people are some thoughtful and well-read people, in general, whose taste I have some respect for.  And I’ve read authors I like and respect talk about Zelazny lately as an important influence.  Wikipedia says that he was an important part of the ‘new wave,’ which I don’t know anything about but am willing to learn about.

So, I say, I’ll give him a try.  Various people seem to point to the ‘Amber’ series as an important part of his work, so I reserve the first book at the library.  Yesterday, it arrives, and I pick it up, and it is… this.

I mean, look at it.  Are you looking at it?  Look at this thing.

Here we have an extremely stalwart man, long hair blowing in the wind, holding a sword, wearing a cape.  In thigh-high black leather boots.  He is leaping from nowhere to nowhere out of fire or clouds or mist.  Or maybe flaming misty clouds.  The first question that springs to mind is, “Is that man wearing pants?”  The answer, on close inspection, is, “Yes, but they are improbably tight pants, which he appears to have been sewn into.”  And, oh, look.  Gauntlets.  He is leaping into danger that might threaten his hands, but not his ass, apparently.  The second question is, “Which way is the wind blowing?”  His cape seems to be blowing straight up, while his hair is blowing back.  The cover screams, “15-year-old repressed gay boys, this way!”

I would never, ever pick up a book with this ridiculous cover, if it hadn’t come so highly recommended by people I respect.

So I turn to the back.

Exiled to the Shadows for centuries, a man more than mortal awakes in an Earth hospital with no memory of his past- and surrounded by enemies who hunger greedily for his destruction.  For Corwin is of The Blood- the rightful successor to the throne of the real world.  But to rule, he must first conquer impossible realities and demonic assassins… and survive the ruthless machinations of the most insidious malevolence imaginable: his own family.

Riiiiight.  I’ll get right on that, then.

Is this really a book I’m going to read on purpose?  Is it really possible that hiding in this ridiculous, lurid cover is something that people I respect have seen as excellent?  I confess to looking at this object and feeling deeply skeptical.

But I have it.  And once I finish Master and Commander, I’ll cautiously give it a try.

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Written by Contented Reader

December 5, 2012 at 7:34 am

Posted in Opinions

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