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Frost and Fire

In my resolve to read more mainstream canon, I had forgotten how great a writer Roger Zelazny is. This must never happen again. He writes a beautiful blend of science and fantasy, and sometimes plays them off each other, which appeals to me very much since I’m fascinated by that balance between measurable knowledge and mystery.

Frost and Fire is a collection of short stories, two of which won the Hugo. It also includes two essays on writing: one contrasting science fiction and fantasy, and another on his creative process while he was writing Eye of Cat, which I haven’t read, but now probably will.

In most of his books, Zelazny translates and bends various brands of mythology to his purposes, and he certainly does that in Frost and Fire, though it’s more subdued. He deals with gods and planets personally; he examines their flaws and triumphs like a watchmaker, and translates his observations through beautifully poetic language. The main stories of this collection, Permafrost and 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai both examine lovers’ conflicts and bitterness and resolve in tragedy. They’re both in present tense, which I usually hate when it’s used in fiction, but I barely noticed it in either case. Maybe I’m getting used to it, I don’t know. These stories were wonderful, though, which probably helped me bypass my stylistic hangups.

I have, through some horrible, enduring oversight on my part, never read his Amber books, though I read the first one or two. I have the omnibus, but it’s sitting on my shelf (and not the floor, so you know know I’ve had it a while) where it will wait, unread, for a while yet. I’m still reading through webs of mainstream. My strategy: take one writer and jump to his influences, then to that one’s students, to this one’s mentor, and so on. That’s not a bad way to get a lot of books, considering how it’s potentially exponential and all.

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