Monday, March 8, 2010

Technorati code

Posted by Lilith at Monday, March 08, 2010 0 comments
"Mar 08, 2010. Technorati will need to verify that you are an author of the blog by looking for a unique code. Please put the following short code RA6HFTW46WZ2 within a new blog post and publish it. Once it is published, use the "Verify Claim Token" button to tell Technorati your blog is ready for verification."

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Posted by Lilith at Monday, March 08, 2010 0 comments

Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates

The 1983 Philip K. Dick Award and 1984 Science Fiction Chronicle Award winning novel, The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is an excellent time travel fantasy book that mixes real historical events and mythical creatures like a werewolf, Egyptian gods and magic.

The Anubis Gates summary

I think it's a really fun time travel adventure. In the book, Brendan Doyle is a quick-witted scholar who accepts an eccentric billionaire's offer to go and meet the famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge by traveling back to the past as a tour group's resident expert on Romantic poets.

Time travel is possible because a mad Egyptian sorcerer, desperate to regain Egypt's independence, had tried to open a gate back to the ancient time when the Egyptian gods were at their peak power. This attempt failed but it did open portals in time at various locations and times.

Through a series of events, Doyle gets trapped back in time and has to survive as bets he can with the sorcerer's underlings after him. I particularly liked the beggars. I can't say more for fear of spoiling your reading pleasure but the beggar scenes were pretty unforgettable.

Doyle seems to be an average kind of guy but quick-witted and with a god survival instinct. He isn't particularly smart, strong or skilled  but he isn't dumb or a pushover. As a character, I felt a bit sorry for him for all the trouble he has all the time but I don't really feel that much for him. The romantic elements are a bit silly, in my opinion, but it is thankfully a rather minor note in the novel.

The Anubis Gates has a little bit of everything in it like time travel, spells, minions, evil sorcerers, secret orders, criminal undergrounds and such. What really stands out here is the lovely and surreal mixture of myth, history, danger and magic. Tim Powers does his research and I must say that the past world in the novel feels very real and not at all dreamlike despite the many fantastic elements in it.

All in all, a standalone fantasy novel well worth reading.

The Anubis Gates Quote

When they'd gone the old man turned around to watch the sun's slow descent. The Boat of Millions of Years, he thought; the boat of the dying sungod Ra, tacking down the western sky to the source of the dark river that runs through the underworld from west to east, through the twelve hours of the night, at the far eastern end of which the boat will tomorrow reappear, bearing a once again youthful, newly reignited sun.

Or, he thought bitterly, removed from us by a distance the universe shouldn't even be able to encompass, it's a vast motionless globe of burning gas, around which this little ball of a planet rolls like a pellet of dung propelled by a kephera beetle.

Take your pick, he told himself as he started slowly down the hill ... But be willing to die for your choice.

The Basics

What it has

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, beggars, monsters,  giants, dwarves, food, wine, London, underground, criminals, time travel, fated love, disguises Egyptian gods, werewolves, hair, revenge, guns

What it doesn't have

vampires, breakfast cereal, wands, spaceships, aliens, light sabers, cute furry monsters, Austin Powers

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

Posted by Lilith at Tuesday, March 02, 2010 0 comments
This Immortal by Roger Zelazny

Originally titled “…And Call me Conrad”, Roger Zelazny’s “This Immortal” tied with Frank Herbert’s “Dune” for the 1966 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

This Immortal is set in a ravaged, post-apocalyptic Earth where most humans have left Earth to live and work with the Vegans, an alien race that is more advanced and wealthy than the humans.

The Vegans tour the Earth, mainly to gawk at how badly a species can screw up their planet, and buy up prime real estate. Conrad Nomikos, a man who has a lot of names and identities and whose age is uncertain, is tasked with protecting a high caste Vegan on an Earth tour.

Mutated creatures abound in this post-nuclear war setting and many of them are straight out of Greek myth. Conrad himself is hinted to be much more than he seems

Although not as good as Zelazny’s Lord of Light, This Immortal  is funny, action packed and heavily layered elements from Greek mythology. Fans of Greek myth (like me!) will love this novel.

It is very short (58,000 words only) and can be read in one sitting. This Immortal was written in the 60s so expect some material which can seem little bit dated. One reviewer noted, for example, that Conrad and the other characters will smoke at the drop of a hat and today smoking in public gatherings is pretty much taboo in polite society so that type of thing will tell you that this is a pretty old book.

This Immortal Quotes:

- The day of battle dawned pink as the fresh-bitten thigh of a maiden.

- Love is a negative form of hatred.

- In attempting to reconstruct the affairs of these past six month, I realize now that as we willed walls of passion around our October and the isle of Kos, the Earth had already fallen into the hands of those powers that smash all Octobers.

The Basics

What it has:

Greeks, Copts, aliens, Vegans, journalists, diplomats, flares, prostitutes, wigs, immortals, mutants, godlike creatures, christenings, infant exposure of deformed babies, poison, rescue, assassins, hellhounds, slings, toothpicks, poets, boxing, bats, fertility rites, letters

What it doesn’t have:
chicks in leather, biker gangs, kings, queens, swords, lions, talking animals, magic wardrobes, fur coats, internet games, facebook, kids, teenagers, high school romance

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

Posted by Lilith at Saturday, February 27, 2010 0 comments

Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

Creatures of Light and Darkness is Roger Zelazny’s masterpiece novel of Egyptian mythology and futuristic technology. Written as an experiment in form and perspective, this novel is a gripping tale told entirely in the present tense. The final chapter is in the form of a play and several long poems are featured in this endless quotable science fiction classic.

Gods of Egyptian Myth

Reportedly a roman a clef of the Social Security Administration at Woodlawn, Maryland, where Zelazny worked, the novel has super-powered characters straight out of Egyptian mythology.

Thoth, the former ruler of the universe, has been overthrown and the Osiris has taken over the House of Life while Anubis rules over the House of Death. Set, who is Thoth’s son and father at the same time due to an anomaly in time, is missing, presumed dead. Osiris had used The Hammer that Smashes Suns on him and the Thing That Cries in the Night while the two were fighting. However, Set is a god and his story is far from over.

It’s really hard to write a good review of this book since it is very strange. Allow me therefore to provide some quotes that will show you what kind of book it is.


Agnostic’s Prayer

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

About the Steel General

Wherever his goes, he carries a collapsible five-string banjo with him in a compartment near to where his heart used to be. When he plays it he becomes a kind of negative Orpheus and men follow him to Hell.

The Prince Who Was a Thousand (explaining through poetry about Set and himself)

You did not approve,
because my father Set,
mightiest warrior who ever lived,
was also our son in those days gone by,
our son, those days in Marachek,
after I had broken the temporal barrier,
to live once again through all time,   
for the wisdom that is Past.

A Curious Type of Vengeance (or, do not piss off  Osiris)

True, the Angel of the Nineteenth House attempted to slay me, and his nervous system lives, threaded amidst the fibers of this carpet I stand upon; and true, others of my enemies exist in elementary forms at various points within my House—such as fireplaces, ice lockers and ash trays. But think not that I am vindictive. No, never. As Lord of Life, I feel an obligation to repay all things which have threatened life

The Basics

What it has

gods, myth, Egyptian mythology, sex, adultery, procreation, time paradoxes, poetry, drama, chariots, wands, gloves, death, life, disease, immortality, banjos, rebellion, ideals, religion, entrails, eye surgery

What it doesn’t have

high school romance, vampires, sparkly skin, blood sucking corpses, brain eating zombies, mutants, marines, soccer moms

Amazon Link

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (Part Two of the Series Review)

Posted by Lilith at Thursday, February 25, 2010 0 comments

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

The Merlin Cycle

The second part of the Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny again features first-person narration but this time by a different character, Merlin. In the first review I did of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, I covered the first five books where Corwin is the main character.

I suggest that readers start with Nine Princes in Amber (the first book) and then continue through The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon and The Courts of Chaos before reading the first Merlin book, Trumps of Doom. Though, if you do start with Merlin’s books, you can still understand what is happening and enjoy the books.

Fans are somewhat divided as to the Merlin books (Trumps of Doom, Blood of Amber, Sign of Chaos, Knight of Shadows and Prince of Chaos). I personally love these books as much as I love the Corwin books but from what I can tell, most prefer Corwin over Merlin.

Mysteries and magic

The series begins with various mysteries. Merlin’s father has been missing for a very long time, someone attempts to kill Merlin every April 30th and now his former girlfriend is found dead from magical means.

Merlin is a sorcerer and a scion of both Amber and the Courts of Chaos. He can shape shift, wield Chaos magic and Shadow walk (move among the various alternate realities in the universe). He has a certain special project he is working on that melds the power of the Trumps, a kind of teleportation portal between places and worlds, and computers. Did I mention that he is a computer programmer?

Trying to figure out all of these mysteries and protect the interests of both Amber and Chaos take up much of the book. I enjoyed Merlin’s adventures a lot, especially as he travels to a wide variety of exotic locations not seen in the earlier books, including various places in and around Amber, the Courts of Chaos, the Keep of the Four Worlds and, most importantly, a Lewis Carroll bar. I would love the series if it had nothing else but that bar but thankfully there are many things to enjoy.

Not everything is as it seems

Since it is an Amber book, various labyrinthine plots unfold as Merlin has to find a way through his relatives’ power plays and Machiavellian schemes. Luke, who is Merlin’s best friend, a crackerjack salesman and a very dangerous man, practically steals the show from Merlin each time he appears. Other interesting characters include the same princes and princesses of Amber from the earlier books and new ones from the Courts of Chaos.

Compared to the Corwin-centered books, the Merlin books have more of a young adventurous man vibe rather than a “kick ass immortal” vibe. I heartily recommend this series to all fantasy fans.


I shook out my cloak and brushed myself off. I traveled for perhaps half an hour then, leaving the place far behind me, before I halted and took my breakfast in a hot, bleak valley smelling faintly of sulfur.

As I was finishing, I heard a crashing noise. A horned and tusked purple thing went racing along the ridge to my right pursued by a hairless orange-skinned creature with long claws and a forked tail. Both were wailing in different keys.

I nodded. It was just one damned thing after another.

The Basics

What it has:

a magic computer, fathers, sons, mothers, scheming relatives, swords, wrestling, Chaos magic, spells, shape shifting, revenge, rescue, imprisonment, assassination, politics, school, sex, affairs, food, cooking, alcohol, drugs, bars, stalkers, friendship, diplomacy, music, drums, creation, destruction, mystery, body snatching

What it doesn’t have:

goth, emo, boredom, immortal ennui, soul mates, monks, vampire slayers, lawyers, zombies, Evil Overlord of Doom, sniffing, braid-tugging, spanking, Vikings

A special note: The ending is very open and Roger Zelazny unfortunately died before he could write more books. Merlin’s cycle does end in a natural ending-beginning point so I am personally satisfied.

Another special note: After Zelazny died, his estate hired John Betancourt to write another series set in the Amber universe. I do not recommend those books.

Amazon Link

The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 (Chronicles of Amber)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny

Posted by Lilith at Wednesday, February 24, 2010 0 comments

The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny, Corwin Cycle

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny is a finished fantasy series that is actually made of two separate but related stories. The first five books have Corwin of Amber as the first-person narrator while the second series features Merlin.

This series is a classic must-read for all fantasy fans. The books are quite short, having been writing before huge doorstopper fantasy books became popular. Each is a gem, with not a single excess word.

Corwin of Amber

With this landmark fantasy series, Zelazny created the unforgettable Corwin. The quintessential Zelazny man, he is immortal, kick ass, ruthless but not without gentler emotions, quick-witted and all in all, I think he is exactly the type of guy you want to be in charge when the going gets tough.

Exiled these many years from a home he cannot remember because of amnesia after his defeat at the hands of his rival, the first five books feature Corwin’s struggle to regain all that he lost, his memory, his identity and his heritage.

More on the second set of books later as a discussion of those will necessarily feature spoilers.

Machiavellian barely covers it

The books feature a notable cast of secondary characters, chiefly Corwin’s Machiavellian siblings, a bunch of powerful, beautiful people whose everyday lives are full of underhanded schemes, potential backstabbings, swordfights, warfare, guns, hell-maids, seductions, and other fun things. :P

All this is set in Amber and various worlds which are shadows of Amber, the one true world. The king of Amber has gone missing and Corwin’s siblings are in a mad scramble for power while creatures from the Courts of Chaos attempt to invade.

The series features an original and imaginative magic system stemming from the idea of Amber being the one true world. Again, a full discussion of this would result in many spoilers, especially since the books start with the main character knowing nothing then slowly working things out from what he discovers and remembers. I don’t want to spoil the pleasure for you.

Zelazny, one of the leading lights of the New Wave of SF

The true reason why the series is so good, however, is simply the writing. Zelazny is a master of his craft and it shows in the poetic and unforgettable scenes he paints in the reader’s minds.

The late Roger Zelazny is a well-known Nebula and Hugo award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer whose other words include “Lord of Light,” “This Immortal” and “Creatures of Light and Darkness.”

Zelazny was one of the most important and influential of the New Wave of science fiction writers of the 60s who revolutionized and made respectable the genre with their more sophisticated and polished writing style.

The Basics

What it has:

swords, horses, immortals, magic, thrones, kings, sorcerers, wine, amnesia, sibling rivalry, backstabbing, scheming, prison escape, sex, picnics, travel, adult protagonists, guns, cars, mysterious crimes, prostitutes, genealogy, duels, plot twists, war, hate, love, family, fencing, wrestling, smart aleck protagonist, Shakespearean allusions, fried lizard parts, eating crow

What it doesn’t have:

children, teenagers, farm boys, shepherds, love triangles, excessive sentimentality, elves, dwarfs, hobbits, magic staffs, fairies, rangers, thieves, evil chickens that are not chickens, lemmings


Amber is the one real world, casting infinite reflections of itself -- Shadow worlds, that can be manipulated by those of royal Amberite blood. But the royal family is torn apart by jealousies and suspicion; the disappearance of the Patriach Oberon has intensified the internal conflict by leaving the throne apparently up for grabs. In a hospital on the Shadow Earth, a young man is recovering from a freak car accident; amnesia has robbed him of all his memory, even the fact that he is Corwin, Crown Prince of Amber, rightful heir to the throne -- and he is in deadly peril . . . The five books, Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon and The Courts of Chaos, together make up The Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny's finest work of fantasy and an undisputed classic of the genre.


The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 (Chronicles of Amber)
Amazon Link. This is the cheapest that you can buy since it contains the whole 10 book Amber Chronicles series. You can also preview the book and read what other people have to say about Amber. This is what I personally recommend as the cheapest way to get this series. IMO don't bother buying the books 1 by 1.

The Chronicles of Amber, Vol. I and II (Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos) (Amber, Vol. 1 - 5)
In case you only want the first five books about Corwin, this is collection that you should buy.

Roger Zelazny's Visual Guide to Castle Amber
*drools* I do not have this particular book but I wish I did!

The Chronicles of Amber:
A prettier cover, the Fantasy Masterworks edition of the first five books, it's cheaper but you can only buy it used.

Lilith's Fantasy Book Reviews

Posted by Lilith at Wednesday, February 24, 2010 0 comments
Today is the beginning of a new day and the start of my blog, Lilith's Fantasy Book Reviews. The plan:

Read lots of fantasy books.
Mull over the pros and cons of the fantasy books.
Post simple summaries and opinions of the merits of notable fantasy books.
If able, write snarky and/or fun posts about fantasy books.

While I am still reading books and writing reviews, watch this video of Urban Fantasy books covers first.


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