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!

 

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