Roger Zelazny is one of those SFF giants who has been on my must-read-a-book-by-that-author list for a long time. Nine Princes in Amber, the first novel in the author’s Amber series, is the first book of Zelazny’s that I have read, and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to any fans of speculative fiction. First published in 1970, the novel is speculative fiction at its finest, with engaging characters, detailed world-building, and an interesting story.
I had thought (probably erroneously) that Zelazny wrote only Science Fiction, but Nine Princes in Amber, although it possesses some elements of Sci-Fi, is more, to my mind, a Fantasy novel: there’s a heroic protagonist who undertakes a long, setback-laden quest, exotic creatures, strange worlds and occasional magic. It begins, however, in a contemporary Earth setting. The protagonist appears on the first page and is already in difficulty – the classic Jason Bourne – man with no memory setup. Except… Zelazny wrote the novel a full 10 years before Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity. Which, I guess, makes it a Carl Corey – man with no memory setup.
Zelazny delivered a shining example of speculative fiction at its best, a rich novel with great ideas and a believable hero. If you like the greats of Science Fiction and Fantasy, then this is a novel for you. I enjoyed the novel so much that within a day of finishing it I was already reading the next novel in the Amber chronicles, a mark of a truly great novel.