See also
New Wave, Must-Read, Phillip Jose Farmer
Zelazny is definitely one of the key pieces of Cultural Literacy real estate here at UGP. Nick was introduced to Zelazny’s Amber series at a young age by one of Renee’s coworkers at The Mimosa Cafe, where, amusingly enough, the son of Theodore Sturgeon also worked as a dishwahser. Later, Nick encountered Zelazny’s science fiction, which is much more significant than his fantasy, and since then has proceeded to inflict fair amounts of Zelazny on others, such as Andrew.
Zelazny was part of the New Wave movement, a period of incredible growth for the sci-fi and fantasy genres, when they expanded beyond the traditions of the golden age and entered into a new era of exploration and experimentation, in which writing, and not technology, drove the stories—unlike the most sci-fi before and after.
Zelazny’s work is constantly recycling itself; the basic themes and character-types are relatively few. The basic premise of a Zelazny novel usually has to do with an individual belonging to a select class possessing powers to shape reality—whether the plural reality of the Amber multiverse, or the planetscaping of the Strantrian one, or the inner reality of the human mind in Zelazny’s masterpiece, Dream Master. Power is the essential element for Zelazny, and the means to self-discovery and fulfillment. With a few exceptions, Zelazny’s characters are the ultimate in individualism. Zelazny also appears to have some sort of anti-New Age axe to grind, as visible in many of his books.
Secondary elements include encounters with semi-intelligent, semi-animalistic sidekicks, immortality and its imitations (cryogenics, travel at relativistic speeds, genetic traits, etc.), tragic love, etc.
Zelazny’s style more than his message, however, forms his appeal; Zelazny puts atmosphere first, characterization second, plotting last, as it should be. He’s also one of the most poetic, for better or (often) for worse, writers of his genres. (cf. “A Rose for Ecclesiasties,”—oy Jesus!)
h2. [Books and Worlds]
h2. Dream Master
Dream Master is Zelazny’s masterpiece. The protagonist, Charles Render, is a practitioner of “neuroparticipant therapy”, a psychoanalytic technique which connects the analyst’s mind directly to that of the patient, so that the latter can be observed and intervened in directly, using specially “shaped” dreams (thus the original title, “He Who Shapes”). (cf. Shaping)
In Dream Master, Render is confronted with Eileen Shallot, a blind woman who wants to become a neuroparticipant therapist, but is barred by her lack of experience with sight. She suggests that he provide carefully calibrated doses of visual input via neuroparticipation in order to accustom her to the medium and enable her to enter the field. However, her desire for vision soon grows beyond her own self-control and Render’s will, disturbing the balance of power and leading to a final conflict over Shallot’s dreams.
Dream Master also explores the psycho-social implications of overcrowding, the possibilities and potential problems of augmented pet intelligence, and hyper-technological decadence.
h2. Doorways in the Sand
Doorways in the Sand is the story of Fred Cassidy, the eternal undergraduate, a man who has managed to avoid achieving an undergraduate degree for thirteen years, in the interest of preserving the educational stipend left him by his uncle (currently deceased and cryogenically frozen).
Doorways takes place in a semi-near-future earth which has made recent contact with an extra-terrestrial meta-culture and is in the process of being apprenticed into its complex socio-political structure, when Fred and several of his acquaintances become caught up in intrigue surrounding the theft of a priceless alien art object…meanwhile, Fred finds himself sharing his head with a dyslexic visitor.
Possibly Nick’s favorite Zelazny novel.
h2. Isle of the Dead and To Die in Italbar
The Strantrian books deal with a universe in which a substantial part of the geo-politico-economic sphere depends upon planet-shapers who happen to also be avatars for gods in an ancient polytheistic religion. Francis Sandow, who appears in both books, is the only recognized human “name-bearer”. In addition to the usual Zelazny power-tripping, features reflections on economics and immortality.
h2. Doors of his Face, Lamps of His mouth
  • “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth”
  • “This Mortal Mountain”
  • “This Moment of the Storm”
  • “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”
  • “The Keys to December”
  • “A Museum Piece”
  • “The Graveyard Heart” (In the re-issue)
    h2. Amber
    Zelazny’s best-known, though hardly his best, work.
    h2. Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness
    These are Zelazny’s mythopunk novels, in which technologies and superhuman powers are used to approximate, respectively, the Indian and Egyptian pantheons.