Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Prince of Chaos, Roger Zelazny

Title: Prince of Chaos
Author: Roger Zelazny
Rating: Good

This review is a bit late. I actually finished this book on 2/13/06, but both that night and all of 2/14/06 were wiped out with other tasks, so only now am I getting it together to write the review.

Prince of Chaos is the final Amber book. As my last two reviews have indicated, we've been on a rather wild roller coaster ride heading towards this conclusion. And while the conclusion is good, I have to say that it doesn't quite hold up to the previous two or three novels for pacing and content. It's good, but not as good as I'd hoped.

The issues I noted are:
  • The pacing slows a bit. The previous two books moved at breakneck speed towards the end, but this one doesn't keep that pace going. It would have been better to move things along at a faster pace, in my opinion.
  • Merlin's final confrontation with some of the other players comes out of nowhere for me. I've bought his actions all along the way to here, mostly, but the last confrontation seems forced.
  • One item that Merlin acquires along the way in the second series is briefly explained here, but I didn't find that explanation adequate or believable enough. I suspect Zelazny was running out of pages, time, or both. As a result, at least one thing that should have had a deeper explanation behind it didn't get the attention it deserved. If I am right on his motivating forces, then the next points may directly follow.
  • Though many things are resolved, there are still a fair number of plot threads left lying around, waiting for resolution. And a number of characters are left with their fates unresolved as well. I happen to like ambiguity at some level, but this is a bit too much. It causes me to think that...
  • Zelazny probably had more to write about Amber. I'll bet his contract ran to five more books by some delivery date, and ended there. That's a shame, really, because the rest of the story would be interesting to learn, and since Zelazny died in 1995, we'll never know how he would have continued it.
Those things said, it's still definitely worth reading this book, and the entire series. The characters are memorable, and the setting is a wonderful work of imagination. Zelazny had a real talent for writing light, quick prose that keeps the reader stuck to his chair far longer than originally planned.

As I consider the two sets of Amber Chronicles separately, I note a couple of interesting things about them:
  • The first series (published 1970 - 1978) is of a slightly different style. There is no swearing, and they lack a certain gritty detail that is present in the second series. The main characters even speak in a slightly different way - more formal and courtly sounding. The second series (published 1985 - 1991) is more modern sounding. I didn't find the change particularly distracting, but it is interesting to see a novelist change things like that between series.
  • The second series subsumes many of the plot elements of the first series. That is, there are additional movers and shakers behind things that were happening in the first series, but that were never mentioned. You learn about them in the second series. This also doesn't bother me. From the perspective of the characters in the first series, what happens is what happens. The reader and the characters all learn more in the second series, though.
My final, capsule review of these books is: go read them. They are a classic piece of fantasy literature. Don't go in expecting something has well written as the epics by Tolkien or Donaldson. Instead, go in expecting a romp. There are some wonderful concepts here, and Zelazny can really keep you engaged. It's all in fun. Enjoy it!
  1. Nine Princes In Amber
  2. The Guns of Avalon
  3. Sign of the Unicorn
  4. The Hand of Oberon
  5. The Courts of Chaos
  6. Trumps of Doom
  7. Blood of Amber
  8. Sign of Chaos
  9. Knight of Shadows
  10. Prince of Chaos