Book Review: Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

Awesome Cover!

Awesome Cover!

You know that feeling that you get, when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to do. We all know it. You’re not supposed to eat dessert before your dinner. You’re not supposed to be on Facebook at work. You’re not supposed to read Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness.

Well I suppose that last part isn’t exactly true. There isn’t any real reason why I (or you) shouldn’t have read Creatures of Light and Darkness. It mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve got some deadlines to meet and there is already too few hours in a day to read any random title I come across on the interwebs (I have a feeling I’ve just angered a good many by categorizing Roger Zelazny’s work as ‘random title’). My ‘To Read’ list is long and if there isn’t order, I’ll never get anything red.

Cue Twitter chats. Cue chaos!

I recently became obsessed with twitter chats. I basically just type any old thing I’m thinking about, add a # sign at the beginning and the word ‘chat’ at the end and see what I can find. Of course I searched #SciFichat. It looks like a variety of people use the hash-tag for different things but I was able to find a weekly chat on Fridays from 2-4pm. Of course I wanted in immediately but had to wait until Friday. It turned out, the topic was Roger Zelazny.

Up until this point, I had never heard of nor read Zelazny, and was thinking I might be sidelined before ever starting my first #SciFichat. Desperate, I turned to wikipedia and was able to learn that Zelazny is a) American (not that it matters), b) writes Science Fiction & Fantasy (could have guessed) and c) has won 6 Hugo awards & 3 Nebulas. He’s officially a big deal.

I scrolled down to find out if I’d heard of any of his work and simply not connected the name. Unfortunately, I had not previously encountered anything by Zelazny but was starting to get excited because it appeared that most of his stories where based in mythology. Indeed he wrote stories using Greek, Hindu, Christian, Navajo, EGYPTIAN, and even Cthulu Mythos.

I stopped reading (and chatting for that matter) after it sunk in that he’d used ancient Egyptian culture and mythos as the basis for one of his novels. Creatures of Light and Darkness was already on it’s way. I did receive this warning from a fellow chatter once I’d announced my excitement  to the group:

He hadn’t given me the half of it.

Pros:

As for things I liked about the novel, obviously I enjoyed the Ancient Egyptian motif. After all, it was basically the whole reason I decided to read the novel. Interestingly, the book was not set in Ancient Egypt (as I originally assumed), but instead, in some future where both men and machines had grown technologically sophisticated enough that some (283 to be precise) entities have become immortal, and whether through technology or supernatural powers, are like unto gods. Hence we have characters named Osiris, Anubis, Horus etc. which for all intents and purposes, are the gods their names evoke.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was Zelazny’s writing style. For lack of a better description, the writing felt ‘Old’. Many phrases and turns felt as if they might have come from the Bible or some similar text. This was absolutely perfect as Zelazny is essentially writing about gods. Contrast this with some dialogue that is relatively modern and some description of modern, or futuristic technologies and the effect is a book that readers will shotgun in one week because they can’t seem to put it down.

Cons:

There were some things I didn’t enjoy about the novel. Namely, the plot is quite difficult to follow in some places. Mostly, I think this occurs for two reasons:

a) Much of the action involves something called Temporal Fugue, which is essentially time travel but with the added complexity of probability and martial arts. Not very easy to follow.

b) Still more of the plot involves complex familial relationships (paradoxes really) between the different characters. I originally believed that a better knowledge of Egyptian mythology would have helped but it seems that Egyptian mythology is so convoluted anyway that I’m sure Zelazny could have created the relationships from scratch (however, I don’t think he did. Just used the mythology very liberally).

Who doesn't need more horus in their life?

Who doesn’t need more horus in their life?

Finally, Zelazny creates some instances within the novel that are utterly ridiculous. They don’t seem to match the tone or candor of main plot and are therefore a little distracting. Thankfully, they are quite hilarious and enjoyable on their own. Unfortunately, the reader is left wondering why they are written that way to begin with.

Final thoughts:

In all, I really enjoyed this book. I will certainly have to dive in to more of Zelazny’s work when I get the chance. Looks like my ‘to read’ shelf just got a good deal longer.

Oh, and if anyone who was reading this has already read the book, please comment with thoughts on the last chapter. To me it seems very much like a parallel to the story of the three wise men (from the bible). Curious that the god Horus is conceivably Joseph in that situation. Not sure what to make of it. Please comment below. Bye all!

 

Review: Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore

Hmm. What to say, what to say. Sometimes, I try to come up with some clever play on the title of a work to get my reviews started. Something witty and charming which will set the tone for the review and give it a finished feeling towards the end. Jason’s Sizemore’s Irredeemable allows for no such turn of phrase or flip in rhetoric. Indeed, if the definition of the term means “unable to be saved, improved or corrected” (I Google therefore I know) then the only way the work can match its name is to say that there is no need for it to be saved, improved or corrected. Perhaps the title fits perfectly.

Cover

Cover

If the work itself stands without need of redemption, the characters that populate its pages are another story entirely. 18 other stories to be precise, and each of them are, in their own unique way, exactly as the title suggests. I think I’ll tell you about my three favorite pieces within the collection and then perhaps have some kind of conclusion worked up at the end. We shall see.

#3 City Hall –

For some reason, this story kept coming back to me. I found myself comparing each new story I read with this one. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just give you the premise. Essentially, a man named Alton gets into an elevator with some of his associates at work. It’s a tight squeeze and two passengers, who he does not recognize, recommend that he step off. He doesn’t. Things start to go bad . . .

I found the relationship between the two unknown passengers and the main character Alton to be very thought provoking. The man (James) and the woman (Rebecca) are both seemingly attractive and well groomed. The other passengers are decidedly not. Clearly, Rebecca & James do not belong on this elevator or perhaps even in the same building as Alton’s co-workers but there they are. Alton has some qualities that would put him right at home with his co-workers on the elevator but also some that might excuse him their fate. In the end we’re not sure whether he was meant to be there or not, although it is implied that perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Finally, whenever I meet characters like James and Rebecca I can’t help but think of the Rolling Stones’ song Sympathy for the Devil. These two characters certainly seem to match a similar theme (Devil as refined Gentleman or Lady?) and I always enjoy this when I see it. Plus, James is wearing pinstripe and I love pinstripe!

#2 Plug and Play 

As with the last story, Plug and Play is all about the end so I’ll try to tell you what I enjoyed about it without giving away that end. First and foremost, I think I enjoyed the ‘world’ in which the story takes place. We begin on an satellite or some other object orbiting the Earth. The main character works writing software and apparently needs some motivation. His supervisor is an android and seems to have a textbook solution to everything. An employee does X and the android’s programming spits out Y to resolve the conflict in the way that is most efficient, and best for the company. However, our main code monkey gets drunk, and then gets involved in some activities (drug trafficking mostly) which are quite outside the scope of our android’s programming  😉

There he is the man himself: Jason Sizemore

There he is the man himself: Jason Sizemore

I think there is really a lot to think about here in terms of business and the human condition. For me it was interesting to see the Android in a managerial position. Typically this is considered the ‘cognitive’ stuff that only people are supposed to be able to do. Also, the idea of robots is that they are supposed to do all of the mundane, laborious work (in this case coding). However, Plug and Play posits a world in which it is instead the human who accomplishes these tasks and the android who oversees him. Very interesting.

The motives within the story, while perhaps a bit dark thematically, are quite hilariously written and the world in which they exist is as thought provoking as it is humorous. A+’s all around.

#1 Mr. Templar –

This story was the one I enjoyed the most and I feel a bit awful because I don’t have very much that is ‘literary’ to say about it. I simply love Robots! Our main bucket-0-bolts is called Mr. Templar. He’s just trying to make his way on a desecrated earth. You know, find some android-grade petroleum to keep the gears spinning and the circuits firing for just another day, week, year etc. He meets up with another android who’s in worse shape than himself and decides (after a little bargaining on the other droid’s part) to rescue him and go on an adventure to find the creators (humans). I won’t give away the ending but it’s a bit emotional. That is all.

Conclusion –

In all, I highly recommend Jason Sizemore’s Irredeemable. The three stories mentioned above are the stories I enjoyed most, but there are 15 other stories that are equally as good and totally different. Just go and get it already. I think if I try to continue any longer these sentences will get less and less coherent. What you need to know is that it’s a great collection and you should absolutely read it.

If anyone out there has already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Or even if you haven’t read it, still comment your thoughts anyway. Goodbye for now . . .

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