Review: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

Lord of Light CoverLord of Light is Roger Zelazny’s 1967 part science fiction, part fantasy novel, set in a world that brings together modern western characters with Hinduism and Buddhism. It is perhaps Zelazny’s most famous novel, and it was nominated both for the Nebula and the Hugo Awards, winning the latter.

I came across this book through my dissertation on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Martin often recommends Zelazny’s work on his blog and in his interviews, and indeed uses the phrase ‘Lord of Light’ in his own series. Thus, I thought it would be important for me to read this novel as background reading for A Song of Ice and Fire. As it turned out, Lord of Light was not particularly useful for that, but man am I glad that I read it.

This book is simply compulsively readable. I had to read it at breakneck speed, and I was happy that I could (mostly) justify the time spent on it as being productive for my dissertation. The first half of the book hooks you with the mystery of what this strange world: who are these characters, and how is it that these ancient gods are alive. By about the halfway point, the answers to these questions have been provided (and they are fantastic answers, and perhaps make for one of the most awesome concepts for a book I have come across in fantasy and science fiction), but by that point you’re completely hooked on finding out whether the main character succeeds in his very grand plans.

Zelazny often mentioned that he intentionally wrote the novel so that it could stand either as science fiction or as fantasy. The fantastic execution of this idea adds to how awesome I find the concept of this book to be. While reading the story, there is a definite mystery concerning whether certain elements of the story are science or fantasy. Having finished the book, I personally feel that ultimately the various parts of the book exist quite strictly in one or the other side of that divide. This is perhaps a point against the execution of Zelazny’s idea; however, the fact that the book as a whole cannot (even after having finished it) be simply categorised as either science fiction or fantasy, does make up for that.

Finally, I have to mention The Pun in the middle of the book (you’ll see it if you read it; if not, it’s simple enough to google). It’s said that that pun is Zelazny’s original idea for this novel, and the reason that he wrote it: a fact that is about as wonderfully ridiculous as the pun itself.

Lord of Light is a classic of both science fiction and fantasy, and deservedly so. It brilliantly executes on a wonderful concept, making it impossible to put down while reading. I highly recommend that fans of either genre (and especially fans of both genres) pick this one up: you won’t be disappointed.

Review: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman (The Book of Dust Book 1)

La Belle Sauvage CoverLa Belle Sauvage is a 2017 children’s fantasy novel written by Philip Pullman, and the first in The Book of Dust trilogy, a companion series to Pullman’s prior series, His Dark Materials. La Belle Sauvage is set before the events of His Dark Materials, and tells the story of Malcolm Polstead, a young boy working at his parents’ inn, who becomes a spy for a mysterious secret society that opposes the Magisterium and which has just arranged for the six-month-old Lyra to be brought to the priory across the river from the Polsteads’ inn.

I always find myself apprehensive when reading new books to series that I love. Since His Dark Materials is one of my all-time favourite series (you can read my review of it here), the apprehension that I felt picking up this book was quite considerable. At the same time, I knew I would never even imagine leaving it un-read–Pullman’s novels have yet to let me down, and despite my apprehensions that I might be wrong, I was very much hopeful that I would love La Belle Sauvage. And love it I did.

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Review: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Northern Lights CoverHis Dark Materials is children’s fantasy trilogy written by Philip Pullman, consisting of the novels Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). This trilogy tells the coming of age story of Lyra Belacqua, who goes on fantastic adventures across the world investigating Dust. The series is both highly popular, and has won numerous awards. The first book in a series trilogy, The Book of Dust, was published just a couple of months ago.

I got into this series quite late, reading the first book seven or so years after the last book had come out (in fact, soon after the movie had come out, and which I had seen the posters of everywhere). Despite that, the series quickly became (and has remained since) one of my all time favourite series. I have waited eagerly for the sequel trilogy to finally arrive, and now that I have time away from university during Christmas break, I’ll finally be able to dive in to it. But before that, I thought I would revisit His Dark Materials here first.

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Review: ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ by H.P. Lovecraft

Call of Cthulhu Weird Tales Cover‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is a short story written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1926, and first published in Weird Tales in 1928. Forming one part of Lovecraft’s larger Cthulhu Mythos, this story tells the tale of Francis Wayland Thurston, who discovers notes left by his grand-uncle about a cult surrounding a monstrous being part octopus, part dragon. This leads him on a quest to find out more about both the cult and the monster, but he is made morbidly horrified of what he finds out.

Since his death, Lovecraft and his short stories have gained an immense cult following, to the point that Lovecraftian horror is its own sub-genre. I have thus been, for many years, curious to read some of his writing so that I could judge it for myself, but until now I have just never got around to doing it. I am, however, glad that I did so now.

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Review: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Peter And Wendy CoverPeter and Wendy is the 1911 children’s fantasy novel by J.M. Barrie based on his earlier 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. It tells the story of Wendy Darling, and her two yougner brothers, John and Michael, who are visited and taken to Neverland by Peter Pan, the one boy who does not grow up, and his fairy Tinker Bell, whose dust allows the Darling children to fly. The children join the Lost Boys in Neverland, and together they have multiple adventures involving mermaids, American Indians, and Captain Hook’s pirate crew.

Of course, the fame of the characters Barrie created is so great that it is impossible to not be aware of them; in fact, Peter Pan seems more famous than either the play or the novel, or even Barrie himself. Because of that, I was very excited to read the novel so that I could see where it all started from. To some extent, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the novel; but, on other fronts I was also quite disappointed with what I found there.

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Review: Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (Psammead Trilogy Book 1)

Five Children and It CoverFive Children and It is a 1902 children’s fantasy novel by E. Nesbit, and the first in a trilogy of books about concerning the core five children. The book tells the story of Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and their baby brother Lamb, and how they find a Psammead (a sand-fairy) after they move to the countryside, who agrees to grant the children one wish every day. The plot consists of a series of adventures concerning those wishes.

Despite the immense fame of E. Nesbit, before this book I had actually never read any of her works. This made me particularly excited to finally read something of hers. Despite my awareness of her, however, and the fact that she wrote children’s novels, I had no idea what to expect from this story.

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Review: Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

Lud in the Mist CoverLud-in-the-Mist is a 1926 early fantasy novel by Modernist author Hope Mirrlees. It is set in the city of Lud-in-the-Mist in the land of Dorimare, who shares a border with Fairyland. Following a brief but bloody revolution in the city’s past, the Duke of the city was replaced by the merchant class, and fairy fruit was made illegal and taboo. Somehow, however, to the present day fairy fruit keeps creeping into the city, and the novel focuses on the mayor of the town, Nathaniel Chanticleer, who gets caught in a fairy fruit-related controversy and must get to the bottom of who is behind it.

On many fronts, this novel has always been well-regarded: it was reprinted in the 1970s in the highly influential Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, and in the 2000s in Orion Books’s Fantasy Masterworks series; furthermore, many notable contemporary fantasy authors, such as Michael Swanwick and Neil Gaiman, are active proponents of the book. Despite this, however, the book has never reached a particularly wide readership. Knowing all of this, I was particularly interested to see how I would like the book.

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