Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kicking it Old School: The Guns of Avalon

Welcome to Kicking it Old School, your go-to spot for reviews of old-ass Sci-Fi and Fantasy books from the days of yore.  For my purposes, anything written before I could read, the year 1986, is considered "Old School". This is the latest in my Kicking it Old School series of reviews.  

I know I've been slipping lately, the blog hasn't been receiving as many updates as it should, and while all areas of the blog have suffered a bit, the Kicking it Old School feature has been sidelined for over a month, which is a god damned travesty. 

Though my posting regularity has slipped up, my reading hasn't. So when I found myself craving and oldie-but-a-goodie to read for this feature, I found myself drawn back to the world of Amber, and the adventures of Corwin of House Amber.  

For a quick recap: The throne of Amber, long sat upon by Oberon, the father of Corwin, and a bunch of other siblings, has been mysteriously vacated for centuries. While the old man is AWOL, the kids have been fighting over the rule of Amber.  Amber is the one true world, and all other worlds, there appears to be an infinite amount of them, (ours included) are mere shadows of Amber.  As things currently stand, Corwin's bro, Eric, an epic prick from what I've seen of him so far, is the big dog, and has taken the throne of Amber through sheer force of will and martial strength.  When we last saw Corwin, our "Hero", and narrator of these tales, he had failed in an attempt to seize Amber from Eric, and been blinded and chucked in a deep dark dungeon by Eric for the effort.  

Well, it is tough to keep a true son of Amber down. While imprisoned, and healing from his wounds, Corwin meets the long imprisoned, and widely regarded as hella-crazy court wizard Dworkin.  Dworkin works some magics and frees Corwin who instantly begins his plans to make another attempt at claiming the throne of Amber for his own.  The plan is to gather a substance called Jeweler's Rouge, which can be used as gunpowder in Amber, to create an army of gun-toting troops to take over Amber.  

Corwin's journey leads him to Lorraine where he meets up with an his former right-hand man, Ganelon, who appears to have no memory of Corwin.  The two dudes rekindle their long-lost bro ties and join forces to repel a horde of demonic creatures who have been threatening Ganelon's realm.  It turns out these dark forces come from the Courts of Chaos, a place that is, from what I can ascertain, the antithesis of Amber.  

Corwin and Ganelon defeat this dark force, and journey to Avalon where they discover more forces from Chaos. This time around, the forces have already been defeated by one of Corwin's brothers, Benedict.  Benedict lost his arm in the conflict, and while he leads his troops in a mopping up of the enemy, he sends Corwin off to his home to await his return.  

While there, Corwin meets, and sexes up Dara, a young woman claiming to be Benedict's great grand-daughter...kinda gross.  Thanks to her bloodline, Dara is anxious to learn about the pattern of Amber, which will allow her to travel through shadow.  Corwin tells her all about it in return for information. He then gathers his much needed Jeweler's Rouge and heads off to fuck shit up in Amber.  However, when he arrives on the scene, things aren't as he anticipated, and Dara has a surprising role to play in how things shake out.  

Whew, epic plot break-down...

As you can see, The Guns of Avalon is one busy little book, as a lot of things happen in the course of 213 pages.  It felt to me like this is a big set-up book as Zelazny introduces a major threat to Amber, and delivers some interesting twists that appear to have pretty severe ramifications down the road.  I was always a little bored with Corwin's quest to become the ruler of Amber, as I'm not totally convinced he's the right guy for the job.  Even though he is the "hero" of these books, and the narrator of the events, I can't really say I'm a huge fan of the guy.  He's basically an entitled prick...which makes him hard guy to root for.  His squabbles and sibling rivalries seem kinda trivial, however he's very willing to essentially commit genocide in order get what he wants.  The qualities of a Grade-A dick.  

Regardless of how I feel about Corwin, I'm glad the focus appears to be shifting away from Corwin's quest towards something more interesting. 

I get the sense all of this business with Corwin and his personality was deliberate on the part of Zelazny, sort of a "be careful what you wish for" type warning, as Corwin's actions certainly appear to have firmly backfired right in his face. It will be very interesting to see how things play out from here on out.  

Overall, I was quite impressed with The Guns of Avalon.  Zelazny has essentially created a fantasy multiverse where anything can go.  Want demonic goat-headed beasts? Machine gun wielding armies? Tarot card teleportation?  Yup, this series has it all.  It is a crazy, mixed up world that Zelazny has chosen to play around in and he has set things up to be incredibly unpredictable.  So far I really enjoy this unpredictability, and the fact that it leaves the door open to basically all types of craziness.

After reading The Guns of Avalon I'm further convinced that this is a series that should be on everyone fantasy reader's radar.  Zelazny is one creative and inventive writer, and I've been very impressed with the variety of cool and unique fantasy ideas he comes up with.  Needless to say, I am on board for more, and will be sure to get my old-school fix from this series before too long.  

Grade: 9 Cassette Singles

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