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: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich

Everything Change CoverEverything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction is exactly what the subtitle says that it is. The short stories are the twelve best stories submitted to the 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest held by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at the Arizona State University. Perhaps best of all, the anthology is freely available from Arizona State University’s website (a google search of the title will lead you to the right page easily enough).

I went into this anthology wanting to love it. I feel strongly about climate change, considering it a disgrace that it is not being taken more seriously, and as I had yet to read any stories about the topic, I was excited to fix that now. With that excitement came, admittedly, rather high expectations: I wanted to be blown away. Which is why it saddens (and, to be honest, angers) me to say that this anthology was a big let-down.

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Review: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Cover - Standard EbooksThe Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is an 1886 gothic novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson, who is most famous for having written both this work and Treasure Island. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde tells the story of a London lawyer, Mr Utterson, who investigates the strange events that surround his friend Dr Jekyll and the mysterious and foreboding man Mr Hyde.

That plot blurb might have surprised you; it certainly would have surprised me had I encountered it before I had read the novella. The fame of this novella is so great that it has grown a life of its own, with most people knowing the plot twist that occurs at the end of the novel without knowing who the main character of the story is.

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Review: Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Gateway CoverGateway is a 1977 science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl that tells the story of Robinette Broadhead, who is both extremely wealthy and in therapy because of the traumas that he faced while on Gateway: an alien spaceship hub with spaceships capable of interstellar travel. This novel was an instant classic when it was first published, winning the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, the Nebula Award, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Rightly so, I think.

For one, what struck me from the beginning is how much of a page-turner it is. The set-up for the novel (a traumatised man in therapy because of the mysterious horrours in his past) works beautifully to make the reader feel like the pages don’t turn fast enough. You simply have to race to the end to find out what happened. This is also because the set-up is combined with absolutely marvellous science fiction concept: there are alien spaceships that are capable of travelling anywhere in the galaxy, but you have no idea where you’ll end up, meaning you’ll come back empty handed, fabulously rich, or dead from a most gruesome death. I loved this concept, making me want to read all the faster.

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Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Man in the High Castle CoverThe Man in the High Castle is a 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. It is an alternate history novel, set in the 1960s in a world where the Axis powers won the Second World War. This novel won the Hugo award when it was released, and is the novel that first made Dick famous, and is considered by many to be his finest work.

This is the first book that I have read from Philip K. Dick, an author whom I have been intending to read for quite some time. He is simply too famous a science fiction autuhor for me to not at least try one of his novels, and I am glad that I finally did. Had the choice been up to me, I might have opted to start with his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, having happened to come across that novel’s title more frequently than this one’s, but as this was the one set on my uni course, this is the one that I read now.

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Review: The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

The Body Snatchers CoverThe Body Snatchers is a 1955 science fiction novel by Jack Finney, that tells the tale of the quiet invasion of a small town in California by an alien race that perfectly mimics and replaces any human that they come in contact with. The novel follows the attempts of four characters, Miles, Becky, Jack, and Theodora, to find out what’s going on in order to resist it.

I hadn’t actually heard about this novel before it was put on the reading list of my university science fiction course. Under a minute into looking at its Wikipedia page let me know that I really should have heard of it: The Body Snatchers seems to have been an instant classic when it was released, it has been adapted successfully to the screen four times, and the author won a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987.

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Review: Behind the Lines by Chris Fox (Ganog Wars Book 1)

Behind the Lines CoverBehind the Lines is the first book in a sequel trilogy to indie military science fiction author Chris Fox’s Void Wraith trilogy. In this book, the new Coalition of the three races featured in the Void Wraith trilogy attempt to find the rest of the Gorthians (the main enemy of the previous trilogy). In doing so, Nolan and his crew stumble upon a new hostile race, and become stranded on one of their planets. The book details their attempt to survive and escape.

I was hesitant to pick this book up, because I had greatly enjoyed the first book of Chris Fox’s previous trilogy (review here), but hadn’t enjoyed the other two books (review here). It was impossible to know where this book would fall between those extremes, so I hesitated; in the end, it was the curiosity to know where this book lay between those two extremes that made me pick this book up.

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