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Forum posts for Reading an author's older works

Posted by Miguel on Apr 05, 2004
A lot of people like the Fionavar tapestry, and consider it one of Geegees best works....

I am not one of those people. I think the Fionavar tapestry is an inane piece of crap. But that might be because I have an unreasonable hatred of any fantasy novels with dimension/time hopping...most especially: from the real world to a fantasy world.

So: Fionavar Tapestry? Hate it
Zelazny's Nine Princes of Amber? Hate it
The one with the girl raping leper whos not a leper in the fantasy world? Hate it

Posted by phduffy on Apr 05, 2004


Also, I thought that the Fionavar Tapestry was a pretty good series.

Posted by Nerhael on Apr 05, 2004
The "girl raping leper whos not a leper in the fantasy world" series is the Thomas Covenant series by I forget who. It was somewhat passable towards the end...but still not that great. Covenant made a shitty anti-hero.

During a lot of the books he just whines.

What about True Night Falls Miguel? Or do you not really consider that time hopping? That's the one with Gerrald Tarrant, written by C.S. Friedman.

Posted by Miguel on Apr 05, 2004
Amber is not only about a dude going from our world back into his other world, but there is also about a bazillion million worlds that are a reflection of the "real" world that is sucks.

And I don't remember much dimensional/time hopping in the Tarrant series. They travel to another continent but thats about it. Its pretty good.

Got one.
Posted by Nerhael on Apr 05, 2004
Gunslinger books. That's a real world merger/time hopping series.

Posted by Miguel on Apr 05, 2004
You got me there. I like that series and it does have all that shit in it.

Time for some soul searching.

Although really, the gunslinger series is not a pure high fantasy novel, more like a mishmash of a ton of genres. I think I hate dimensional leaping in high fantasy.

Good out
Posted by Nerhael on Apr 05, 2004
Yes, Gunslinger is most definitely not "high fantasy". It's really more of a Sci-fi book I think.

Offhand, what books are you thinking of that have time-hopping? Almost all the ones that I can think of that would fall into future/past type scenario explain it as "dimensional". Which just adds to the ridiculousless of it all. It kind of crashes the whole fantasy when you introduce stuff like that into it all.

Re Rant
Posted by phduffy on Apr 05, 2004



It is one of the best series ever for a number of reasons, including:
a) It's not what you expect. You may think it's about someone from this world jumping around, or that our world is important, but you'd be wrong.
b) Corwin may be the most interesting main character ever written in a fantasy series.
c) It does not follow most of the High or Epic of EFP stereotypes. The closest thing to it might be some of Moorcock's books, in terms of traveling and where the hero starts off in life, but Moorcock is about whiny counter heroes waiting for things to happen, while in Amber Corwin goes and gets things done. Zelazny is also a much better writer than Moorcock.
d) I don't know, but it seems like there should be more than 3 points.
e) When i say Amber, I'm only referring to the first series, not the second one.

Back to Kay. I read his stuff in the order he published it, starting with the Fionvar Tapestry. Then I read Tigana, which I liked more, then song for Arbonne, which I liked more, then Lions of Al-Rassan, which I liked more.

Then I read the Sarantine Mosaic, which I thought was the worst thing of his I'd ever read. Very disapointing. This is contrary to the opinion of many... I'm hoping that his new novel returns to his previous greatness. I would also like it if it wasn't based on the power or art in the world...

Back to your original question:
I find that now I just realize that some things aren't very good. I used to like Piers Anthony and Terry Brooks and Daved Eddings and Robert Salvatore, but I have no desire to read anythign else by them. I think it's just that I've changed, and after reading novels by Vance, Martin, Zelazny, Vinge, Banks, etc, it's hard to go back to that. (Not that all novels have to be fantastic - I'm currently reading the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, which won't make anyone's top 10 lists. However, it is interesting and fast paced).
Other times authors just arent' as good as they used to be. I think that Robert Jordan's first 6 books were tremendous. However, he has fallen off such an enormous cliff that I can't imagine him ever getting back up.
I liked Terry Goodkind... I think he's a combination of both factors. He's not as good as he used to be, and he never really was that good, I was just less discerning.

Some authors just have peaks. I've read 4 novels by Robert Heinlein. I would classify 3 of them as very good to excellent (Stranger in a Strange Land, Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers) and one as good (Double Star). However, I'm pretty sure those are the best things he ever wrote, and I don't want to be disapointed by his other work, so I'm avoiding most of it. Same with Arthur C. Clarke... the first Rama novel is good, whereas he didn't even write the last 3, and they're supposed to be pretty bad. So I'm going to avoid them.

Oh yeah, I finally have an actual example of what you're asking!
Vernor Vinge wrote Fire Upon the Deep and Deepness in the Sky. Both of which would make my top 10 sf books of all time list. If he wrote faster (these are the last two novels he published, and they came out in 1992 and 1997) I would list him as my favourite author. Tough to do when he writes so sporadically though. Anyways, i read Tatja's Griim's World by him, and it was not very good at all. No where near the ideas and sense of grandness of his latest novels. So I may avoid his other old novels.

On the other hand, Use of Weapons> is the first book Iain M. Banks ever wrote, and I think it's his best.

Thank you to those of you that read all thise.

Posted by phduffy on Apr 05, 2004
Yes, Gunslinger is most definitely not "high fantasy". It's really more of a Sci-fi book I think.

And this is why they should put the fantasy and the sf together at the bookstore.

Damn you Chapters.

duffy duffy duffy
Posted by alltogethernow on Apr 05, 2004

you are so right.. about the Amber novels...
miguel you must be some sort of stupid not to love them...

probably one of the best "books" (quotations due to the fact it is 10 books not one) i have ever read.. never mind the 'fantasy books' qualifier...
i have more to add to the discussion:

1) I actually LIKE novels with multi-dimesional/time travelling themes... Moorecock and Zelazny... the most recent one i read was 'The Dreamthief's Daughter' by Moorecock.. i thought it was great...
the only problem with books like this ... they MUST be done correctly...
and with great care..

2) Kay...
i have only read one book, 'A Song for Arbonne' and i didn't like it at all..
it seems a lot of people mess their pants when Guy comes out with a new novel.. but appartently not me.. i would read one more of his books before counting him out entirely.. can someone reccomend one?

3) Getting back to the original question
after reading most of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, and many of his short stories i went back and read his first published novel, 'Player Piano"...
and it was great!
MUCH MUCH different than almost all of his published works.. but good nonetheless...
Hunter S. Thompson was another author i have ALOT of dedication too and if you read the RUM DIARY - which was only published in the last few years but was his second written novel... you can see why so many publishers rejected it the first time around.. the writing is nowhere near the calibur we find in 'Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas' or 'The Great Shark Hunt' or even his first published novel 'Hells Angels'... but 'The Rum Diary' wasn't bad per se... just not as good as the novels that came to follow... kinda what you would expect..

That's all .. MIGUEL try reading Amber again.. i dunno how far you got the first time around.. but it wasn't far enough..

I did say
Posted by Miguel on Apr 05, 2004
that I had an "unreasonable" hatred of dimension hopping in high fantasy didn't I?

Now why do you want me to read a book where dimension hopping abounds? I have no doubt that its an amazing classic top 1 uber gootastic book, but having read a quarter of the first book, I also know that it would physically revolt me to read any further.

Its just not for me, all that going from world to world and regrowing of eyes and superpowerful god like beings. Nope

Posted by phduffy on Apr 05, 2004
Are you saying that you read it all, but that you made up your mind after 1/4 of the first book that it would suck, or that you only read 1/4 of the first book?

I ask, because it's not High Fantasy.
I wouldn't really say it's dimension hopping either.
If you've read it all, that's one thing... but to only read 1/4 of one of the greatest (top 3 anyways) fantasy series of all time?
That's just not fair.

I think there's three different types of novels being discussed. The first is what Fionavar Tapestry, Narnia, Thomas Convenat are: someone from our world somehow ends up in another world and pretty much saves it.

The second is where our world ain't shit in the grand scheme of things, but it's there. This is Elric, Corum, and Amber (and the Gunslinger?).

The third, which nerhael has been calling time hopping. These are books like True Night Falls, Pern, WIndhaven by George RR, Majipoor by Silverberg, Taltos by Brust... basically humans, or something like them, have colonized a distant world. How is mostly unimportant. Then most of the techonology is lost, and they live in a fantasy type world. (These books are the primary reason why I think sf and fantasy should be together).

It's extremely difficult to write a novel of type one that will interest me, and it appears as if most of you fall into this category as well. It's been done, and just isn't interesting. Plus, it's almost a guarantee that it will fall into the same archetypes and cliches as every other novel like this.

The second type are pretty open. You can do just about anything, from having entire universes full of superheroes, like in DC comics, have someone fight to save a corner of their space, or have someone not trying to save anything but their own legacy.

The final type can also be pretty open. In the Pern and Taltos books, it's not clear what happend until well into the series. Up to that point we think that they're typical fantasy.

In regards to your question about Kay. I think he's a great writer, and my favourite of his novels is The Lions of Al-Rassan. However, Song for Arbonne is pretty typical of his work, and if you didn't like it I can't really see you liking his other books. Tigana is a bit different, you could try that....
Do you remember what you didn't like about Song for Arbonne?

Song vs Lions
Posted by Nerhael on Apr 05, 2004
The main diff I can think of the two is that Lion's I 'think' had more action in it. There was more doing with the saying.

Song was mostly just of the saying. I'd have to reread both to be sure though.

I'd agree with Alltogthernow.... Dreamthief's daugher deals directly with people from our world going into a fantasy world...but it's really and truly good. I guess the main difference is that it's not a 'dude, we fell into a fantasy world, now let's save it!!!!!!11111 OH MY GOD!!! What's a troll?????' type switchover.

You bastards are making me want to read this Amber novel now. Who has it?

Here is the thing
Posted by Miguel on Apr 06, 2004
I only read a quarter of it, and HATED it with an unholy passion.

Boring, silly, filled with typos and set in a world that held little to no appeal for me.

I have no doubt that many many many people like it, but its just not for me. It is very rare that I don't finish a book, and Amber which I read around 2 years ago, is the only book in recent memory that I did not finish...the thought of reading another 500 pages of Zelazny's writing fills me with dread.

Katie actually did read it I believe, and liked it.

Posted by phduffy on Apr 06, 2004
Miguel what's frustrating is that there are books that you like (Gunslinger, Black Company, Neil Gaiman?) that use the idea of jumping around in dimensions. Secondly, you compare it to the FIonavar Tapestry and Thomas Convenat, neither of which is remotely like Amber. Not in plot, not in setting, and certainly not in terms of people moving around between dimensions.

You then admit to not having read all of it. (I'm going to assume that when you say you read 1/4 of it you read 1/4 of the entire 10 books, or half the first series).

You then start talking about things that aren't true, or are only true in the vaguest of sense. (Like dimension hopping, riddled with typos, super powerful godlike beings and calling it High Fantasy). It's probably one of the least boring Fantasy novels ever, as it does not fall into the typical fantasy novel cliches. And the plot is awesome, as is the main character.

I know that you like books that are worse than Amber. (As do I, this isn't an insult). So when you start saying that reading more Zelazny fills you with dread, I think you're missing out, or letting prejudice get the best of you.

With that said, I'm not going to advocate that you read it again, I don't really care. I'd prefer it if you didn't knock it though. :)
And I don't think you should knock Zelazny off your list because of this. This is a guy that's widely considered one of the best writers in the sf genre of all time. (In terms of his use of language). When I read Doors of his Face, Lamps of his Mouth I was in awe of him, and felt a little silly at the idea that I could ever write something.

Finally, it's currently in 38th of THE INTERNET TOP 100 SF/FANTASY LIST

We could probably spend days talking about that list though.

One Last Go Round.
Posted by Miguel on Apr 06, 2004
Ok here is the beautiful swan song to my disdain of Amber.

First, the obligatory rebuttals:

1.Gunslinger has already been dealt with, its not High Fantasy, I especially despise High Fantasy. Black Company I stopped reading before the time/dimension hopping, I have only read one Gaiman book, and it didnt have dimension hopping.

2.I was not directly comparing Amber to Fionavar of Covenant, I mentioned it alongside a list of books that contain some element of world/dimension jumping (you say that Amber is not about people moving between worlds, if you stand by this, then we did not read the same book....are there 2 Amber series by Zelazny?). I don't like any of the books of that list because of the world shifting, but in Amber's case, even without the world jumping, I would consider it a weak book to be honest.

3.HOW IS THERE NO DIMENSION HOPPING IN AMBER??? Fine don't call it dimension, its world/shadow reality/aspect..whatever, the point it that the book has a plot device in which people travel to different kinds of worlds, all of which are reflections of the true world of Amber, according to the pattern or whatever...I get it. And Zelazny didn't need to spend 150 pages describing each shift the people do. There are typos, this isn't even up for debate,almost every review I've read mentions it, and its annoying (publishers fault?).

as for the God Like Beings: immortal, with the ability to travel the pattern, regenerative abilities and all sorts of other powers I can't even remember, and thats just from a quarter of the series. You're right, Corwin is just like me :)

Explain to me why its not High Fantasy? Magical worlds, knights, magical items, other races, monsters of all sorts....huh?

Finally here is someone who can articulate what is wrong with Amber better than I could....this is a reviewer from Amazon...but I totally agree with what he has to say.

Practically all of the reviews so far have been about how great this book is. So in the interest of giving you, the potential buyer, a more balanced view, here's a counterpoint.

I had heard great things about the Amber books. There's a whole cult of people out there who swear by them, recommend them with a gleam in their eye, and play the RPG based on them.

So, with such high expectations about how wonderful it would be, when I finally got around to reading "The Great Book of Amber," I was surprised to find that it was tediously boring and badly written. I couldn't put this book down... because I kept reading and thinking, "People enjoy this?! It *must* get better eventually." I was so, so wrong.

It's almost as if Zelazny loved his ideas so much that he kept writing his story - ten whole books worth of it - without ever bothering to explain to us why what happens happens, or why we should even care.

I would have given this book two or three stars if it'd had any redeeming qualities, but... no. Sorry. This was the only book I've ever hated -- and I hated it so much that I was sorely tempted to return it to the bookstore to get my money back.

The plot? Survive attempted murder, wander around, repeat. There's hardly any character development at all. People die and (cheesiness!) pop up again for more murder attempts. There's no suspense or resolution... just constant anxiety. It grates on the nerves.

The one good thing I can say about these books is that his technical ideas were interesting. Transportation through Trumps? Cool. Walking the Pattern? Cool. Amber as a stable point in an endless spectrum of quantum universes? Cool. All neat, huh?

Unfortunately, Zelazny didn't see the possibilities; the ideas were enough for him, not their creative execution. He didn't seem certain of the physical laws for Trumps and Pattern; the rules kept changing, leaving me, as a reader, unsettled. Similarly, since Amber is the "One True World," you'd think that Amber would be echoed in its shadow universes, right? Nope.

Maybe some comparisons will help explain. The generic idea of parallel universes has been done much, much better. The sci-fi show, "Sliders," is a veritable masterpiece compared to this, because they, at least, use cultural changes to thicken the plot. But "Amber" is what would happen to "Stargate" if the lab researchers stood around the gate killing each other, and people only went through the gate to chase escapees - all but ignoring the new scenery.

Practically all of his really interesting technical ideas end up the same... intriguing, but never creatively exploited. For example, at one point a character has a magical artifact implanted in their body. What amazing mystical powers did it give them? You never find out.

So very many ideas just trail off this way, I wonder if Zelanzy kept forgetting what he had planned to write. I'm not nitpicking, either... multitudes of ideas trail off this way. Part of the reason I kept reading was to find out where it all led. What happened to this? To that? But...

Nothing wraps up. Even at the end of the tenth book, I expected him to tie up some loose ends. But no... the last page was simply where he finished rambling. He gave fanfic authors enough fodder to write at least twenty of their own supplemental stories to try to wrap it all up (and they probably have). With all of the expectations, the disappointment level is palpable; it's like passionate necking that ends with a knee to the groin.

So, am I only disappointed in the way it ends? No. All ten books were like that. There is no beginning or end to any of these books. It's just one long story. No introductions, no suspense, no climaxes, no resolutions. Just rambling.

Summary of the first 5 books: Corwin hears a story - let's call it "X". Then, (between murder attempts) he talks to every other character in turn, like a detective getting alibis from suspects in a mystery. "I heard this story, X," he says. "Oh," they say, "but you got it wrong. It's actually X and Y." He then talks to the next few characters... "I heard this story: X and Y." "Oh," they say, "but X is all wrong, it's actually Y and Z." And so on. It's as if Zelazny had a quota, a minimum of 500,000 words to write, so he drew out a 200-word story to that length by telling it bit by bit, over and over again.

Maybe noticing this awkward pattern spoiled my enjoyment of the book's very slow unravelling. Since I knew that the first version of every story I heard would be wrong, I had a constant nagging impulse to just skip ahead. I wish I had. Even eventually finding out "what really happened" still bored me to tears -- because I never knew that this version, finally, was the last, true recap, and not another unreliable tangent.

I'm now convinced that the people who originally recommended this book to me have never read anything better. They aren't aware that they've been screwed over. Sure, by itself, this volume's weight and vaguely interesting concepts might seem impressive; but compared to several mediocre(!) scifi and fantasy series I've read, it's total dreck.

If you really want political intrigue, read George R. R. Martin's "Ice and Fire" fantasy series. He's an editor, which means he spent a good portion of his life recognizing books like Amber and throwing them in the reject pile.

In conclusion: "Amber" is definitely a borrow-before-you-buy title. Who knows, maybe you'll see something in it that makes reading all ten books something other than a huge waste of time.

Posted by phduffy on Apr 06, 2004
Without getting into too much, and how much you and the reviewer seemed to have missed, I just wanted to say that I don't see Amber as High Fantasy.

I'm not quite sure what's meant by high fantasy, but if it's similar to Epic Fantasy, then I definitely don't count Amber. You say you despise High Fantasy, so I'm again left wondering what you mean by it. My understanding was that you liked the early Black Company books, George RR Martin, early Robert Jordan, etc. So I think your definition of high fantasy and mine are different, as I would place all three of those in the high fantasy category. Or I'm wrong about you liking them.

Amber is not about someone from our world hopping around dimensions.
Corwin does use his ability to leave his world though, which is the dimension hopping that you hate.
Also, each of the 10 books in the series ranges in length from 100 to 150 pages (roughly).
There are no 150 page descriptions. Obviously you don't think that there are, but the point is that he doesn't spend all kinds of time on it. I can see how it may become annoying.

You have people that live a long time and live with other people that live along time. They can (and do) frequently get killed, trapped, etc. Which hardly qualifies them as godlike beings.

As for the review comments like He's an editor, which means he spent a good portion of his life recognizing books like Amber and throwing them in the reject pile. are there merely to piss off the people that liked Amber. Particularly when you consider what a load of crap that is.

Currently the average customer review for Amber is 4.5/5 stars on amazon, and it's ranked as the 38th greatest SF novel of all time. (I say this not for Miguel, but for people that may have been scared off my Miguel's review).

Finally, my comments on Amber concern only the first 5 books.

For what's it worth, Neil Gaiman and Steven Brust both cite Zelazny as a major influence. (Although many people prefer Lord of Light to the Amber books).

Okay, enough of this.
I am going to post something to the main page that will lead for fun debate, not frustrating stuff like this.

Posted by Miguel on Apr 07, 2004
woops, I meant to say I despise the dimension hopping in time travelling.

I think I am going to read Amber again, maybe I was wrong the first time.

Posted by Miguel on Apr 07, 2004
I hate dimension hopping in High Fantasy.

Posted by phduffy on Apr 07, 2004
woops, I meant to say I despise the dimension hopping in time travelling.

This is just a funny line.
Thank you.

As for reading Amber again, I wouldn't bother.

You clearly didn't like it. You're probably going to notice the things that piss you off even more if you re read it. There's lots of good books out there that you haven't read.

If you need examples I'm sure we can find some. But I don't think you need examples.

Posted by phduffy on Oct 14, 2004
So were you saying that you despise world jumping, and that Amber is world jumping, or that you hate high fantasy, and Amber is high fantasy, or something else?

I'm rereading this and gettting confused.

And what's your definition of High Fantasy?
Cause I don't have a definition of that that Amber would fit in.

3 Words
Posted by Miguel on Oct 14, 2004
Let it go.

Just asking
Posted by phduffy on Oct 14, 2004
I'm just curious what your definition of High Fantasy is. Forget the concept of this thread, I'm genuinely curious as to how you define it.