Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Dawn of Amber, Chaos and Amber, To Rule in Amber, by John Gregory Betancourt

Didn't make it.

The books aren't really bad per se, but they don't capture the fire of the originals. If they weren't trying to be Amber they'd merely be a bit bland; as it is they're a bit of a disappointment. And yes, I am a mad fan of Zelazny, and his Amber books were some of my favorite books ever growing up, but I am not just a starry-eyed zealot with blurry teenaged memories of a greatness that never was. I re-read Zelazny's Amber just before reading these, and the originals are not quite the paragons of fantasy that I remember, but they still have a grandeur and epic scale that Betancourt fails to capture in these sequels. Zelazny lets us share the view of a bewildered outsider as he comes to term with memories he never knew he had; Betancourt gives us an almost identical hero in almost identical straights - having no memory of his true heritage - but Betancourts Ober simply takes it all in casual stride despite no flood of repressed memories coming back to him to explain it all. Zelazny takes us to fantastic new worlds; Betancourt leaves us stranded in an obscure house - which is never even particularly described - for most of the middle book. Zelazny returns to Amber to play "what if" games with the edges of the rules of magic he rather cavalierly scatters about in the first series; Betancourt seems content to fall back to Zelazny's earlier style of flash without much thought or explanation.

Ugh. Just read the third one in the series and it got worse; nothing resolved and nothing really interesting happened. I got the impression the author didn't know how many books in the series the publisher would pay for, so he was trying to keep everything open in case theyd cough up for more.

And another thing. I'm the first person who'll tell you most modern fantasy is too long-winded, but I do like to get my moneys worth out of a book. This series was a large-sized trade paperback, with huge typeset, huge margins, and huge spacing. Looked like one of those reports you do in school where you've been told to write 6 pages on a topic... I mean sure, be brief, but dont then stretch it out so you can charge me more for it. I dont blame the author for that though; bad publisher, no biscuit! (ibooks)


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