It was just past the Gloaming one summer evening when the postman made a special delivery to the Green Man mailroom, a rather large and quite sturdy package that contained the first four volumes of the six volume set of the collected short works of Roger Zelazny that NESFA (short for New England Science Fiction Association, which has a cool Web site here) is releasing. That will be well over three thousand pages of material that represents every bit, every last scrap of short prose and verse that Zelazny created in his all too brief career. Novelettes, novellas and poems, including previously unpublished and uncollected works are included in these volumes. And I do mean everything as even all three novellas of the fix-up novel, My Name is Legion, are in Last Exit to Babylon (volume four of this series) — ‘The Eve of RUMOKO’, ‘Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïilll’kje’k’, and ‘Home Is the Hangman’! BLISS! There’s so much material here in these volumes that I am going to review each volume separately as it wouldn’t do them justice otherwise.
In reviewing his Amber series, we noted that:
Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) was one of science fiction’s most renowned writers. He won several Hugo and Nebula awards, and numerous honors from other countries. He is considered one of the earliest writers to embrace the New Wave in science fiction, often focusing on his characters’ emotions and motives as well as their actions. He wrote dozens of books and short stories; some of his best-known novels include This Immortal, Lord of Light, and, of course, his ten-book Amber series.
I think I’ve read most everything that he wrote, with my favorite novels being the first five volumes of the Amber series, A Night in the Lonesome October, Isle of Dead, To Die in Italbar, He Who Shapes, and Roadmarks. I’ve also read much of his short fiction when it came out in such volumes as Frost and Fire, Unicorn Variations and Manna from Heaven, but I was delighted to see all of it gathered up in one collection at last!
(I even like the Donnerjack novel that Jane Lindskold largely write from extensive notes left by Zelazny, unlike Lord Demon, in which I’m sure almost nothing reflects Zelazny’s thought processes.)
I could just say that if you, reader of this review, are already a fan of Roger Zelazny, you will want these books for your collection. They are well-crafted and a very tasty smorgasbord for any Zelazny fan. If you don’t know Zelazny, there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into! But I won’t leave it at that, as there’s a lot worth mentioning in Threshold.
Zelazny developed nicely as a writer, which is not to say that there wasn’t brilliant writing early on. ‘A Rose for Ecclesiastes’ (reprinted from Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1963) is simply an amazing tale by any standards as it has his typical delightfully expressive use of language. ‘The Graveyard Heart’ (Fantastic, March .1964), ‘…And Call Me Conrad, (Fantasy Science & Fiction, November 1964, which would be combined as This Immortal novel)are here, as are ‘The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth’ (Worlds of Tomorrow, December 1963), and ‘He Who Shapes’ (Amazing Stories, January and February of 1964) the original version of which would become The Dreammaster novel. Keep in mind that those writings alone would make any writer remembered for generations to come as a genius, but they represent just a small bit of what he would do between the early ’60sand his death a mere thirty-five years later.
What else is there? Oh, lots of poetry, which is not my cup of tea, but they did include The Agnostic’s Prayer from the Creatures of Light and Darkness novel, which is well-worth reading; four pieces called Curiosities, including ‘The Great Selchie of San Francisco Bay’, which is a mere fragment of an uncompleted script; the first part of ‘. . .And Call Me Roger’ — The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny’; not to overlook two intros — ‘Out of Nowhere’ by Robert Silverberg and ‘Before Amber’ by Carl B. Yoke who wrote the first guide to the works of Roger. Oh, and The stories are supplemented by editors’ notes and Zelazny’s own words , describing why he wrote the stories and what he thought about them when he looked back on them. Lastly I should not forget to mention that the cover art is by Michael Whelan and all six volumes form one amazing image.
Zelazny was as capable as any writer of occasionally writing a truly dreadful story and there’s more than a few of those here too.
At a mere twenty-nine dollars a volume. this series is one of the great reading bargains of all time, equaled only by similar projects such as the Robert Silverberg complete short fiction series at Subterranean and Nightshade Books ongoing release of the works of Glen Cook. Buy these volumes and I guarantee you’ll still be reading them when the coming winter (as I write these words) is long past. And now I’m on the next volume…