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Revisiting The Chronicles of Amber

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

amberIn my never-ending quest to bring heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery to a wider audience, I have been writing essays for National Public Radio. Last May they carried an article I drafted about three books reprinting pulp (and slick)  magazine treasures.

Today, as part of their Guilty Pleasures series, I waxed on about one of my very favorite series, Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. I can’t say as I feel especially guilty about loving the first Amber series, although I do always have to mention a few caveats when I recommend it. For instance, I usually emphasize that I didn’t care nearly as much for the later sequel volumes.

I discovered Zelazny’s Amber at about the same time I read Fritz Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a whole slew of Michael Moorcock novels. As a young teenager, those stories effectively blew my mind. I can honestly say that there’s no fantasy series that had as great an impact upon me. Even today, some twenty years after my last reading, I can still quote portions extensively. If you’re a fan of heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery, you really owe it to yourself to give it a try

If you want to know more about Amber, check out the article, and if you’re wanting to see more coverage of genre work at NPR I hope you’ll Like, Tweet, Recommend, or whatever else the page.

12 Comments »

  1. I reread the Amber series and Leiber’s Swords series a few years ago, for the first time since I was in high school, and I thought they aged pretty well. I am almost afraid to look at Moorcock, a big favorite of mine in high school, as I fear his work will not appeal to me at this point.

    Comment by Lugo - January 25, 2012 1:30 pm

  2. I re-read the first three Corum books within the last ten years and still enjoyed the heck out of them, despite the fact that those three in particular tend to retreat similar ground.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - January 25, 2012 1:32 pm

  3. I reread 9PiA every other year or so. Most times it leads me right through to the next book or two.

    I probably shouldn’t mention the names of my cats, or my car, or the fact that I have the original masters of the embossing dies for the covers of the last mass-market editions Avon Books published…

    Honest, I never intended to be a crazy Amberphile. It just happened!

    Comment by barbarienne - January 25, 2012 6:27 pm

  4. “I can’t say as I feel especially guilty about loving the first Amber series, although I do always have to mention a few caveats when I recommend it. For instance, I usually emphasize that I didn’t care nearly as much for the later sequel volumes.”

    I used to know a guy who had been acquainted with Zelazny, and from what he said, Zelazny himself wasn’t very happy with the later Amber books either, as he had apparently only written them because he needed the money and wasn’t creatively invested in them.

    Comment by andy - January 25, 2012 7:31 pm

  5. Amber and Nehwon – two of the best and most under-appreciated settings in all of fantasy.

    Comment by Tyr - January 25, 2012 7:33 pm

  6. Keep up the good work, HAJ. I tried to comment over there, but apparently NPR is crazy on the moderation. Maybe it will appear, eventually.

    Comment by Theodric the Obscure - January 25, 2012 8:31 pm

  7. Barbarienne, I understand your love. I don’t have enough cats around here to make that work out, but perhaps I could have suggested the naming convention to carry through all of our animals.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - January 25, 2012 8:56 pm

  8. “I used to know a guy who had been acquainted with Zelazny, and from what he said, Zelazny himself wasn’t very happy with the later Amber books either, as he had apparently only written them because he needed the money and wasn’t creatively invested in them.”

    I heard that, too. I wonder. It always felt to me like his heart wasn’t in it, although there were moments of brilliance and the occasional clever line. I don’t actually keep a copy anymore. But you’ll have to pry my two doubleday hardbacks of the original series from my cold dead hands…

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - January 25, 2012 8:57 pm

  9. Hey Theodoric, it looks like your comment just popped up there. Thanks for the good wishes. I’ll see about pitching some other favorites. Wish I could talk about Harold Lamb, but as I’m the editor of the entire series I’m afraid it’s likely to be viewed as bias. That’s a problem, because I’m about the only Harold Lamb scholar around…

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - January 25, 2012 8:59 pm

  10. “Amber and Nehwon – two of the best and most under-appreciated settings in all of fantasy.”

    You bet, Tyr. And I loved them both. Amber is the series I read most (although it must be said that the first five books are probably the size of ONE George Martin novel). But Swords Against Death was probably the single volume that I read most often, with the possible exception of the old Harold Lamb collection of Cossack stories, The Curved Saber.

    I didn’t find Robert E. Howard and Leigh Brackett until later, and with them I revisit favorite stories rather than entire collections, like Swords Against Death. Strongest Lankhmar collection, in my opinion.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - January 25, 2012 9:02 pm

  11. […] Black Gate (Howard Andrew Jones) on Revisiting The Chronicles of Amber. […]

    Pingback by SF Tidbits for 1/26/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog - January 26, 2012 2:07 am

  12. […] for a counter-opinion, Howard Andrew Jones wrote a warm retrospective of the Amber books here just last year. And even more recently, Locus Online‘s poll for Best Fantasy Novels of the 20th Century […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Roger Zelazny, August Derleth and Appendix N: Advanced Readings in D&D - February 23, 2014 10:56 pm


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