Monday, March 30, 2009

Roger Zelazny's new book -- three surprises

Three interesting facts about the new Roger Zelazny novel, "The Dead Man's Brother," published a few weeks ago:

(1) It's a surprise, first of all, to see this title in print at all, as Roger Zelazny died in 1995. A couple of his books were completed by his girlfriend, Jane Lindskold, after he died, but I had no idea there was a completed novel out there until I saw this title in Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It's not that unusual for even a successful writer to have unpublished novels. There are two or three unpublished George Alec Effinger novels that may never come out, barring a sudden revival of interest in his work.

(2) A bigger surprise is that "The Dead Man's Brother" is so good. This isn't "To Die in Italbar" or even "Jack of Shadows." It is a top flight Zelazny novel, crackling with wit and literary allusions, colorful and thoughtful. Trent Zelazny, the author's son, estimates in an afterward that the book was written "around 1970 or 1971." It's amazing that a book this good has gone unpublished for more than three decades.

(3) Finally, although this book is marketed as a mystery, it does have a science fiction element. The hero, Ovid Wiley, has been determined by scientists to be difficult to kill, i.e. they have used statistics to determine that a certain number of individuals can be determined to be "lucky" in surviving plane crashes, assaults by hit men, etc. This quality of Wiley's plays an important part in the plot. He's not another immortal Zelazny protagonist, but he is certainly less than mortal.

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