I have mixed feelings about Roger Zelazny, and I have them about Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light , too. On the one hand, he’s clearly an amazingly inventive guy, writes with verve and wit, and is a great prose stylist; on the other hand, it’s all too abundantly clear that he’s frequently making shit up as he goes along.

It’s perhaps a quirk of mine that I demand my fantastic worlds be “real” — it’s perfectly fine for there to be mysteries and unexplained things in a book (after all, there are mysteries and unexplained things in real life), but I want for those mysteries to be backed by an explanation in fiction just as they are in reality. Sure, I don’t know what’s up with Tom Bombadil, but J.R.R. Tolkien damn well better have; and when David Brin admitted that he didn’t know what the central mystery of Startide Rising was (and had to make up a bullshit unsatisfying explanation later), the book was retroactively degraded massively.

So it bothers me that Zelazny feels like he’s creating his world on the fly, rather than gradually revealing a thoroughly created world. Lord of Light is way, way better in this respect than Amber (which piled retcon on top of retcon, and where way too many things made basically zero sense), but it’s still a bit problematic.

Apart from that, though, it’s superb. The characters are great, the setting is novel, and the story is grandiose without feeling adolescent (unlike the broody-teen Amber novels). Plus, importantly, it’s very well told in a distinctive and occasionally humorous narrative voice. Highly recommended, particularly for those who don’t feel the need for fiction to have objective reality.

Also, this has nothing to do with anything, but I feel obliged to say that this book contains A Pun. It is a pun that is incredibly awful, requires lengthy setup, and — amazingly — advances the plot. I’m genuinely in awe of this pun.


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