Roger Zelazny was a master among sci-fi/fantasy writers. From his first short-story sale in 1962 to his famous Amber series, he made it his business to create worlds that were at once believable and fantastic, whimsical and frightening. Six Hugos, three Nebulas and other genre awards too numerous to count are proof enough of that.
When Roger Zelazny died in 1995, his was one of the few “celebrity” deaths that actually saddened me on a deeply personal level. In some way I always identified with him and his characters. He was a role model for writers; a fountain of creativity whose waters could be bottled up and shared with others. I was saddened, too, by what I saw as the death of his characters: There would be no sequels to take me back to my beloved Changeling and Madwand worlds; no new Ambers. I resigned myself to going back and reading all of his 50-some books, satisfying myself with the knowledge that I could enter those worlds again and again with the freshness that only time can bring.
And then, as if by some magical manipulation of the strands that bind his literary worlds, a new Zelazny novel appeared. I was ecstatic, but a tad apprehensive. Could Jane Lindskold really complete another Zelazny work as satisfactorily as Donnerjack? Would Lord Demon become a prince among titles?
The short answer is an emphatic yes.
Main character Kai Wren is practically a hermit as far as the demon world is concerned. After years of solitude and peace, he suddenly finds himself thrust into a circle of would-be friends and countless enemies when his human servant is killed. The few the mighty demon trusts are out to betray him, and only an involuntary transformation into human form, with its requisite soul-searching and emotional discovery, changes his way of thinking enough to help him regain his old stature — and power — as Lord Demon. The resulting tale is a journey between planes, mythologies and moods.
Wren is in many ways a parallel to Zelazny, and what more fitting tribute for the man’s final novel? Wren is a bottle maker of an extraordinary sort. He crafts entire worlds, down to the smallest detail, and encloses them within beautiful glass vessels. The owners of those bottles can then make alterations themselves, using the stored chi, or energy, inside. Kai Wren puts a little of himself, via his own chi, into each bottle as a sort of trademark.
Zelazny built entire worlds and encased them within the pages of books, providing lavish detail and prose, but leaving enough room for the reader to create the rest of the illusion using imagination. His unmistakable style left no doubt as to the author of the works.
Lindskold does a fine job of mimicking that style, and it’s tough to decide where one left off and the other picked up. The latter stages of the book do get a tad goofy, though, with a hanger plane (a fine example of Zelazny’s love of bad jokes and plays on words) and a sock plane, where the socks and hangers missing from your drawers and closets can be found.
And although the book has plenty of silliness throughout — in classic Zelazny form — it seems to just get sillier and the pace more frantic as the tale winds toward its climax, as if a frustrated writer were rushing for a conclusion. Perhaps this is Lindskold’s doing, or perhaps it’s still Zelazny speaking; whatever the case, it detracts somewhat from the other three-quarters of this fine work.
Still, that’s my only complaint in 303 pages. As the law of averages go, that’s pretty darn good.
It’s a shame this is to be “the final classic from the incomparable master,” as the jacket states, but all good things must come to an end. And as ends go, Lord Demon is a pretty good one.