Ever read a book and think, huh…that sounds like this other book. What if this book and that book fell in love and had kittens? Or what if they hated each other like goodspock vs evilspock and there was a duel and reduced the surrounding coffee shops to rubble?
The fight between these two was over in seconds, in my opinion. No rubble. Possible goo on your favorite shoes, but nothing major.
Both of these books deal with a man who has an amnesia of sorts and must solve a puzzle with (or despite) family to reach a solution and safety. The Zelazny series is a SFF classic recommended by establishment, while the Henderson series is a dark urban SFF comedy newish-on-the-scene.
It was fascinating to read the first books of each to compare how the subject of amnesia, magic, and family power were handled.
Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson
I read it in hardcover edition. The first third of the book plodded a bit, even though there were twists and oddball fights. There was a lot of set-up, but I was patient to see where Henderson would take it, as his voice was easy and engaging.
Humor is hard to do, but he managed the elements of an ’80s kid dropped into present-day culture well. Finn is emotionally fifteen years old, and this is a subtle and challenging arc to write when he is attracted to women who he remembers as high-schoolers, but who have been living their lives and growing up while he was gone. He makes sure the women have agency, but aren’t seen by Finn as “mothering”.
The book’s pacing for me spiked at the halfway mark, and I was able to zip through the last half. There was a mellowing and softening of his dialogue and prose once he fought past avoiding the info-dump and dug into the meat of Finn’s challenges.
Family played a large role. There were a few characters who felt unnecessary, but I think it was to try and smokescreen the end. There weren’t many twists I didn’t see coming, but like the movie Flash Gordon, there were enough weird and quirky side creatures to keep me interested.
At times, the last third felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, but I think that was intentional. It was certainly enjoyable. If you are a fan of pop culture, nerdy stuff, or just the ’80s – I think you’ll appreciate the book.
Nine Princes in Amber: Book One by Roger Zelazny
I read it on my Kindle. The first 30% held my attention through Corwin’s need to pretend he hadn’t lost his memory within a family where he felt unsafe. The pacing was great, and the dialogue was tricky and tight. Just before the halfway mark, this all fell apart. Dramatically so.
Corwin goes on a journey to find the city of Amber with one of his many brothers, Random. There is no explanation of what is happening, but rather a series of dull descriptions of the car ride. There’s false tension and a useless chase. They end up entering some strange reflective realm in water, but there’s no explanation of any of this, and the dialogue begins to sound as if it were written while drunk.
Later, we meet many of his siblings, and none of their relationships or history are explained. None of these meetings move the plot. Even when he summons his father for a chat, the scene felt flat and uninteresting, and was never mentioned again. This might be the best example of how not to write a middle I’ve ever encountered.
There’s a lot of the phrase, “Somehow, I knew”. He glosses over what sounds like the best part of the story, when Bleys (another brother) and his army fight through centaurs, earthquakes, plague, jungles, napalm, heaven, sand flats, machines, flash floods, duels, poison, stampedes, and fire. This is all told to us in one paragraph.
During this time, Corwin is commanding a fleet of ships. He gives no map, no description of where in time or space these wars are occurring. Dude, it’s a mess, and if there was some larger hippie message, it went right over my wee head.
There are frequent allusions to the Shadow as a place, but there’s never a quality explanation until the 65% mark, and by then I no longer cared. Somehow, the only brother able to manipulate Amber’s weather is the bad brother, Eric, and this incongruity ruined what was left of the “plot” for me. Also, it was never explained why Eric was the bad guy. I own this series, but I won’t be reading more.
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