Something Else Like…

Something Else Like… Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny erupted onto the science fiction scene in the sixties as part of the New Wave. He wrote beautiful poetic science fiction, often in a wry first person voice. He used mythologies from all over the world in both fantasy and science fiction. He won six Hugos and three Nebulas, many of them for his astonishing short stories. Perhaps his best known work is the Amber books, where the fantasy world of Amber is the ultimate source of all reality and mythology. He died in 1995, so unfortunately there won’t be any more.

What do you read if you want something else like Zelazny?

You could try other New Wave SF. Delany’s Nova and his short stories were written at the same time and partly in response to Zelazny’s eruption into the field. Then there’s James Tiptree Jr. If you like The Dream Master, you might be interested to see what John Brunner did with a similar idea. Cordwainer Smith was definitely an influence on Zelazny. You might also look at early Ursula Le Guin.

Walter Jon Williams’s Knight Moves (post) is so much like Zelazny that the first time I read it I had to keep checking the name on the cover. It’s specifically like This Immortal (Call Me Conrad) (post). If you like This Immortal and Isle of the Dead and the way Zelazny has a first person character with a history and planets, run don’t walk to Knight Moves (link to Williams’s discussion of the book as e-book).

If you like Zelazny’s beautiful prose and the way you can move between worlds in the Amber books, then Yves Meynard’s Chrysanthe (post) might fit the bill. The descriptions of moving between worlds are more like Corwin’s hellrides through Shadow than anything else I’ve ever read.

If on the other hand you like the way Zelazny writes in the style I call “first person smartass” then you want to look at Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books (post). These are fantasy… well, maybe. If you like the way Zelazny can be on an odd line between fantasy and SF in Lord of Light and elsewhere, then Brust can give you that too.

If you like the romantic science fictional Zelazny, then George R.R. Martin. Not his recent doorstops but his early work—Dying of the Light (post) and the other Thousand Worlds stories like “With Morning Comes Mistfall” and “A Song For Lya”. They have the kind of elegaic quality of Zelazny’s “A Rose For Ecclesiastes”. There’s a way Zelazny wrote about the future in a very Celtic way, about its passing away, and Martin does the same. “Bitterblooms” (which, incidentally, I’m absolutely sure is inspired by Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”) is my very favourite of these Zelaznian Martin stories, They’re collected in Dreamsongs.

Neil Gaiman is also clearly influenced by Zelazny throughout his career, both in the writing styles and the things he chooses to write about.

Elizabeth Willey’s The Well-Favored Man has been described as “Nice Princes in Amber” and that’s a very good summary. There are two sequels. What happened to her anyway?

If you like Zelazny’s inventiveness, worldbuilding and pacing, P.C. Hodgell’s Kencyrath books remind me of that. Start with Godstalk.

So, other reasons for liking him? Other people you think are like him?

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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