Jan 162023

Carl Corey wakes up in a private clinic. He has vague memories of a car crash and not much else. The staff are sketchy as hell but Carl has some innate sketchy qualities himself that helps him overpower the staff. He finds out that he was placed in the clinic by a sister he didn’t know he had. He also discovers that she is terrified of him. Carl is a bad man, and although he doesn’t doubt it, he has no memory of why that is true.

At the risk of spoiling a fifty-three year old story, Carl finds out that his real name is Corwin and that he is prince of Amber, the one true world in the multiverse. He has brothers and sisters and just about all of them, including himself, want the Throne of Amber. King Oberon, his father, has gone missing and the war of succession has begin. Over the course of five books, Corwin will come to terms with himself, his family and a universe that is more complicated than he thought.

Nine Princes in Amber was written by Roger Zelazny. It was his most famous work and his influence can be spotted in works like Gaiman’s Sandman series. I would be willing to bet that if you read a story about a bad man losing his memory and waking up in a hospital written after 1970, that it was a Zelazny tribute of some kind.

I came across this book in my teenage years. I was the perfect audience; a moody kid who suspected that there was something wrong with me because I just didn’t fit in with anyone else. Corwin is a delightful anti-hero who acknowledges his bad side and wishes he was better, but also unapologetic about his nature. It was deeply therapeutic for me to see a character like that and quite frankly, it was a big part of why I didn’t follow my suicidal intentions when I was a kid. In a lot of ways, Corwin was a surrogate father figure and I suspect he has been for a lot of readers.

Personal issues aside, Nine Princes in Amber is just a fun story. It clocks in around 200 pages and each book in the short is just as short. There are sword fights, demons, dimensional travel like nothing you have ever seen, family issues, terrible cruses, betrayals, great loves and a city under the ocean. Honestly, if I described everything that happens in just the first two books, I would sound like a madman. These books are crammed with ideas and again, you can see how Zelazny inspired the next generation of writers.

Zelazny wrote a sequel series years later that fans are divided on but I still enjoyed them. To tell you anything about them would be spoilers but the thing I notice about them is that Zelazny is having fun with his creation. What more can you ask for from a writer?

Sadly, Zelazny’s wife was not a fan of his work and when he died, a prequel series was created that is an abomination. Fortunately for us, Zelazny’s real legacy is maintained by the generations of writers he has influenced.

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