You might argue that Roger Zelazny’s brand of fantasy is plenty infected by modernism, as some would put it. You might also argue that he was doing some hard drugs when he wrote it. But it’s not the apple that fell from the Tolkien tree of Fantasy.
Earlier this year I revisited Zelazny for a foray into one of his less-known works – Dilvish, the Damned. When I get some more time to read and knock a few more books out of the queue, I really need to pick up the sequel. Dilvish is a great palette cleanser, like those little pieces of pickled ginger (it’s called gari) you’re supposed to eat between sushis.
The Dilvish stories are both episodic and epic. They’re short and sweet, and full of great quotes. A couple of my favorites:
“I have outlived the one who presumed to lay hands upon me, which is as it must be. Know that it was written that eyes would never see the blade that could slay me. Thus do the powers have their jokes. Much of what I have done shall never be undone, O children of Men and Elves and Salamanders. Much more than you know do I take with me from this world into the silence. You have slain that which was greater than yourselves, but do not be proud. It matters no longer to me. Nothing does. Have my curses.”
“Have my curses.” Damn, son, that is cold-blooded. Nice death monologue. Also great it its own right, but also because it comes from the same writer and the same collection:
“Traveler, draw rein!” the man shouted. “I’ll have your purse!”
Dilvish glanced quickly to both sides of the trail. The man appeared to be without companions.
“Up yours!” he said then, and drew his own weapon.
I think I did a triple take when I read that, then guffawed out loud. Can you imagine something like that in another “serious” work of fantasy?
“I am a servant of the Secret Fire. Up yours!” said Gandalf.
Nothing against Lord of the Rings or Tolkien, of course. But sometimes it’s nice to get something different. Oh, and the hell with soul-eating swords that must draw blood – how about invisible swords destined to slay gods? Man, now I really want to reread Dilvish.