STUMP » Articles » What I've Read: The Bounty of Zelazny » 31 January 2015, 09:16

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What I've Read: The Bounty of Zelazny  


31 January 2015, 09:16

I read a lot, so I thought to start recommending the stuff I like (feel free to follow me on Goodreads).

First up: Roger Zelazny.

Recently, I picked up a book by Zelany I had never heard of before: A Night in the Lonesome October.

This is based off a line in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe:

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Okay, it’s no Annabel Lee.

Zelazny drops you off in media res, as he is wont to do. The first part of the story is just figuring out what’s going on in general… and then you’re trying to figure out a mystery, to a certain extent. It’s a pastiche (I’m not saying of what), and even if you don’t recognize all the characters, there will be more than one who rings a bell. It’s also told from the point of view of a dog, and comes with a bunch of animal-related tropes, one of which looms large. There are illustrations by Gahan Wilson, some of which add some humor (and, at times, some mystery). But if you get a version without the illustrations, you’ll be just fine.

I am a long-time Zelazny fan, but I’ve been more into his gods-as-people-with-cool-tech books (a blend of sci-fi and fantasy), one of my favorite being Lord of Light. One sees the Hindu pantheon with tech-enabled reincarnation (and karma) in this book, with interesting personalities, and non-chronological storytelling (though not as confusing as Catch 22, I tell you whut.) I find this a fun read, and if one learns more world religions, all sorts of details start percolating through.

In addition, I started the Princes in Amber series, but have read only one book so far. I’ll have to get back to you on that, but I hear it’s a popular fantasy series. (Number 19 on this list — lots of good stuff in there, like Pratchett, which I will come back to in future weeks.)

But none of these are how I started reading Zelazny — in a geek kid program once, they compiled a list of recommended reads, and one of the math-related ones was Doorways in the Sand.

Again in media res, and non-linear storytelling (though there is an easily navigable structure) much of the interest is in figuring out what’s going on, but even more so, it’s chock-full of word play and colorful characters, including some gangsters, wacky aliens, and some highly eccentric professors. Some highly amusing tropes appear in this one, including one of the cleverest rules-lawyering by a university I’ve seen… I have worked the other way in university rules-lawyering (as a student, that is – as a prof, I tend not to get “creative” on my students. That’s not a nice thing for a person in power to do.)

If you read only one Zelazny book, make it this one — it’s purely standalone, though it does give one ideas to expand upon.

I have more to come in following weeks – Chaucer, financial advice, history, and much, much more! I will be posting these on weekends, for leisurely perusal. Life is not only about public pensions and Obamacare.

I’ll be building up my store pages with my recommended books [2019: Amazon discontinued this. Dammit.] — I will only add those books that I’ve enjoyed and would even re-read. If I think something is a good book, but won’t re-read, that generally means it’s tiresome in some way. Right now, you’ll see I have a general Math books page (that’s an Amazon search, not my ‘curated’ picks), but also Austen and Dickens — my absolute two favorite authors. But more on them another time.

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