Friday, November 5, 2010

The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 2: Power & Light

NOTE: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Volume 2: Power & Light was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by NESFA Press.

I was rather blown away with the first volume of NESFA Press’ six-volume reprint of the short works of Roger Zelazny. So when volume two appeared in the mail, I couldn’t wait to dive in. The second volume opens with introductions from Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Walter Jon Williams. As with the last volume, a large number of poems are interspersed in the collection, which work both as nice interstitial pieces, as well as strong works in their own right.

Major stories in this collection include “Lucifer,” along with the less well known but in my mind equally powerful “The Salvation of Faust,” “Passage to Dilfar,” the first Dilvish story, along with three others in that series, “Devil Car,” the first of the Jenny/Murdoch stories, “The Keys to December,” and “Auto-Da-Fé.”

Also included is the entire text of …And Call Me Conrad in its original magazine format, as serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The inclusion of this short novel is a unique opportunity to see the original version of the story, before it was expanded into the stand-alone novel version retitled This Immortal, which had a substantial amount of text added. Between the two parts of the novel is included the synopsis of part one written by Zelazny to proceed part two in the magazine publication, and which Zelazny turned into a bit of storytelling in its own right, letting his character give the synopsis, and adding more character building to it.

An essay and two speeches round out Zelazny’s part of the collection, while the collection as a whole is wrapped up with the second part of Christopher S. Kovacs’ “‘…And Call Me Roger’: The Literary Life of Roger Zelazny.”

Power & Light proves to be every bit as powerful as Threshold, if not more so. Traded in are the stories of Zelazny’s early beginnings, which are intriguing from a history of the genre standpoint, and in their place are stories from the period when Zelazny really began to hit his stride, turning out brilliant stories left and right. From just a story standpoint, this is by far the stronger of the two collections. …And Call Me Conrad is worth the admission price alone, but it stands with 28 other stories, which makes this volume a true value. Any fan of the genre needs to grab this book.

World Tree by Bard Bloom & Victoria Borah Bloom

NOTE: World Tree was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Padwolf Publishing.

Normally, Luke Reviews only puts out reviews of novels, collections, anthologies, etc. However, Luke Reviews has been known to read a Role Playing Game book from time to time. When Padwolf Publishing sent me a copy of World Tree, along with Bard Bloom’s novel A Marriage of Insects, which is set in the World Tree game setting, I was quite curious to dive in.

World Tree presents players with a setting taking place entirely on a gigantic tree populated with anthropomorphic animals of all kinds. Players set out on adventures throughout the land, exploring cultures and dangers. Initially, I must admit I thought, anthropomorphic animals, this sounds like a kids game. However, when you read through the book, you find that, far from simply a children’s RPG, World Tree is a complex game. Complex not in its rules of play, which are actually quite easy to pick up, but in the complex, fully developed setting. Beyond just the world of the World Tree, the cultures, each generally simply the different species of anthropomorphized animal, are given a lot of space in the book to be fleshed out, and vignettes are thrown in throughout the volume that add to the cultural and historical setting immensely.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to the action junky looking for hard and fast, non-stop fights, although I think you could gear this game that way if you so chose. Instead, I would lead those who are looking for strongly story-driven games, that find their true richness outside of the fighting aspect, to World Tree. For those looking for a well developed fantasy setting that isn’t a D&D book, give World Tree a try.