Okay, so I meant to write this review and get it up here on my blog a couple of weeks ago — it was supposed to follow the first review in somewhat shorter order, but you know how it is with the best laid plans and so on (you know you’ve heard the quote, modified from Robert Burns so we can actually understand what the frak it says). Mule shows and bird migrations had to be commented upon first.
When I read the second five books in the Chronicles of Amber, I noticed one thing pretty quick. Not nearly as much smoking. I thought, well, maybe Mr. Zelazny had quit smoking (to tell the truth, I don’t know for a fact that he ever smoked in the first place). There were a few mentions of pipes. Apparently, Corwin’s son, Merlin (Merle) would occasionally puff on a pipe, but not cigarettes. But as I got past the first part of the first book, even the pipes disappeared. To be sure, there was a lot of moving around, running, fighting, and such — not a lot of leisure time for a smoke — but I started to wonder. I finally realized that a book of matches had played a crucial part in one scene in the 3rd (or was it the 4th?) book of the elder Chronicles. (Sorry I don’t have the books in front of me — they had to return to Lubbock.) And from that point on, there had not been as much smoking in those books, either. Ah hah! All the attention on smoking might have been just a mechanism to ensure those matches were on hand when they were needed, and no one would be going, “Wait! Where did those matches come from? That’s cheating!”
People who tend to gobble up science fiction, like people who gobble up other genres, get quite good at spotting inconsistencies in the stories they read. And woe to any author who asks too much in the “suspension of disbelief” category. Even if that weren’t true, and readers just didn’t notice one or two inconsistencies, a writer shouldn’t get lazy, and expect his or her readers to forgive them for sloppy writing. It ends up being sloppy story-telling.
There was still plenty of other-worldly scenery in these books, mostly seen while passing through between this world, Amber, and the Courts of Chaos. The Courts were mentioned in the first books, but we didn’t get to really see the place until the final book. I wanted to see more. The sequel series, centered around Merlin, who’s mother was of noble Chaotic blood, featured a lot of Chaotic settings. (I like chaos. It’s fun to watch. I think it’s why I have basenjis.)
There was also a lot more emphasis on describing various magical powers. Considering that Mr. Zelazny was writing these books in the late 70′s – early 80′s that’s not surprising. Wicca magic, psychic readings, tarot cards and astrology were all the rage about that time. He was cashing in on a sign of the times. Aside from that, though, the story holds up as well as the first five books. I’m glad I got the chance to read them all.