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Book Review: Chronicles Of Amber – Guest Post by Greg Hayes

Greg Hayes

Greg Hayes

Today we have a guest book review from Greg Hayes over at Live Fit Blog.  Greg was one of the earliest takers in the guest post ultra-marathon. As you know, I don’t read a whole lot of sci-fi and fantasy, so it’s always a relief when someone offers to do it for me.  Enjoy!

Book Review:  The Chronicles of Amber

By Greg Hayes

When I was a kid growing up, we didn’t have a cable television.  Heck, all we had for television was the three major broadcast networks.  So, I became a voracious reader.  I devoured science fiction, fantasy, history, non-fiction, horror, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on.  I read my way through our little county public library. 

One of my first introductions to science fantasy came at the behest of author Roger Zelazny, with The Chronicles of Amber, which I first read at the tender age of 10.

The Chronicles of Amber is a five book series that begins with Corwin, an amnesiac who finds himself hospitalized against his will.  After discovering he was seriously injured in a car wreck, he goes about the business of recovering his memory, eventually learning that he is a scion of Amber.

Predictably, there is a power struggle for the Throne of Amber, which serves as the center of all Order.  In opposition are the forces of Chaos.  Between the two poles of power, all the worlds that can be imagined exist, and can be reached by those who have power over Shadow.  This is a ability attainable only by those bearing the royal blood of Amber.

An Adult’s Perspective

Going back and reading the series as an adult, I can say the storyline is rather cliché, and the allusion to immense power being wielded by the elite is thinly veiled.  The premise of siblings warring for a contested throne has been done many times as well.

Corwin’s antagonist is a brother and claimant to the throne, and at the heart of their conflict lies an overwhelmingly powerful father, whom we see only briefly during the story.  Most of the other characters are thinly developed.

There is no doubt to readers that the series was written in the 1970’s, with characters adopting many of the habits and mannerisms of the day.  Most of the story revolves around Corwin’s relentless pursuit of power and revenge upon those who wronged him.  Naturally, the readers know that those who achieve such goals inevitably find them unfulfilling.

But we get to watch him grow as he seeks to reconcile his “human” side with the power-hungry, self-destructive tendencies of his brethren.  So, these books would make a light, entertaining read for most adults.  But they inspired a young boy to continue consuming science fantasy of all sorts, even into adulthood.

The first time I read these books, they were borrowed from our public library.  Ten years ago, I went searching for my own copies.  A determined search turned up two out of print copies in a California used bookstore, which I promptly purchased.  Today, they have prized places on my bookshelf.  I can only hope that one day they may entice my own children into the world of reading as well.

About The Author: Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog, where he write about fitness, among many other things.  Chemist by day, blogger by night, father, husband, and a great friend of World’s Strongest Librarian, Greg is quickly becoming one of my favorite people.  Please go say hi!

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  • Belle September 26, 2009, 11:48 am

    The Chronicles of Amber was a series I read and reread in my teens – it’s been so long since I’ve read them, and your review has inspired me to dig out my copies. I have a multivolume hardcopy set that I’m pretty sure I purchased I purchased from some sort of monthly book club.

  • Greg September 27, 2009, 7:40 am

    Josh — Thanks for running this post. It was my first book review, and I really enjoyed writing it. Encourages me to do more of this!

    @Belle: Very cool to run across someone who’s read them before! I haven’t encountered many who have. My copy is a 2-volume hardcover compilation copyrighted in the 1970’s. The dust jackets have a photo of Corwin facing the two cats in Avalon.

  • Blaine Moore October 6, 2009, 9:37 am

    Greg –

    I actually reread the entire series (the 5 book Corwin series and the 5 book Merlin series) about 2 months ago on a whim. The 2 volume version of the 5 books was put out by the Science Fiction Book Club – I’ve got the same ones.

    It was an enjoyable series in my teens, but re-reading them now as an adult didn’t really excite me that much. The best part of the books are the first couple of chapters in the first book, mostly because I enjoy the interactions of Corwin with the nurses in the hospital.