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Lord Demon Mass Market Paperback – February 8, 2000
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Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) was a wizard of the pen: he won six Hugos and three Nebulas and is revered by science fiction and fantasy readers. Lord Demon is his last novel, the second of two projects unfinished at his death. Jane Lindskold, his partner and a fantasy author herself, completed it from some manuscript, a few notes, and conversations she'd had with him. Fans are often skeptical of posthumous collaborations: "It's not real Zelazny"--but Lord Demon comes darned close. It deserves space beside the Amber series, The Dream Master, and Lord of Light. As Zelazny once said of another novel: "It has all my favorite things--blood, love, fire, hate and a high ideal or two."
Lord Demon is vintage Zelazny: a "scientific" fantasy built on favorite themes (the necessity of knowing oneself, of taking risks, and of accepting the vulnerability that comes with feeling passionately), drawing on East Asian, Irish, and hero's quest myths, and featuring his signature protagonist: erudite, smart-mouthed, detached, homicidal when roused but more often immersed in art, poetry, and the creation of alternate realities; unexpectedly kind to the weak and deeply romantic in his approach to women. The bad puns and wildly whimsical turns the story takes are also characteristic.
Fans will hear echoes of Amber: Kai Wren and his demon colleagues represent Chaos; the gods live in Origin, imposing their will to order the planes of existence; the powerful demon He of the Towers of Light has sculpted his home to resemble Origin, and approaching it is much like walking the Pattern; and so on. What's unique is what Kai Wren learns in Lord Demon. The immortal doesn't fail, nor does he return triumphant to marry and rule his folk. This hero and the author finally accept the limits of superpower and the pleasures in being "only human." ---Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Zelazny left two novel manuscripts unfinished when he died in 1995. One was Donnerjack, which Lindskold (Brother to Dragons, etc.) completed for 1998 publication. This is the second. Zelazny is best known for characters who, in between waging interdimensional battles and building planets, still have time to be very human. Lord Demon, also called Kai Wren, and sometimes Godslayer, follows that familiar model. Once the greatest of his kind, Kai, along with the other demons, was banished from their homeland 5000 years ago by the gods. The demons found a way to Earth, specifically China, where they rebuilt their lives. For the last few millennia, Kai has withdrawn from demon society, focused on constructing splendid magical bottles infused with his chi. Now his human servant and best friend has been murdered. Assuming the crime is merely one born of an old grudge, Kai doesn't take it too seriously. That is, until he's betrayed and stripped of his ability to manipulate chi energyAreducing him to the merely human in a new war among demonkind. Fighting back means dangerous alliances and sticking his neck out as he hasn't done for thousands of years. Most dangerous of all, however, is the possibility that Kai is just a pawn in a plot that passed him by years ago. Though the novel is slow to get moving, once the fight is on, it doesn't let up. The narrative weaves a fine line between tragedy and humor, sometimes slapstick, as Kai gathers a ragtag band of Chinese sorcerers and shape changers and Pekinese dogs. Lindskold effectively captures the voices of Zelazny's wise-cracking characters and continues the expert blending of magical and mundane that makes his work so enjoyable. This novel is fine Zelazny, and a fine tribute. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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His plots are satisfyingly complex. Science-fiction characters are usually not as well-developed as Lindskold's and Zelazny's are here, but they still could not be called "complex." This was also written in first person, which is kinda variable with Roger: either laugh-out-loud funny, or too fast and not deep enough. This book is light on the former, though it doesn't go too far in the latter direction.
Zelazny obviously developed as a writer over the years, and this book, the culmination of his writing career, is much better than most of the Amber series for which he is best-known.
Kai Wren is something of a self-imposed exile among demon-kind, concentrating most of his time and energy on the creation of fabulous (and potently magical) art glass. When a beloved human servitor is murdered by lowly "scrub" demons, however, Lord Demon's thirst for vengeance draws the lonely recluse back into demonic society and politics.
Yes, the reader sees much of what is coming long before Kai Wren catches on. Big deal. The story is told primarily from Kai Wren's perspective-- that is, from the perspective of an ancient and powerful being, confident in his own immortality and therefore blinded by arrogance-- so it shouldn't be too surprising that the reader often sees things that Lord Demon is incapable of comprehending, for all of his terrible power and ancient wisdom. The author's POINT is that Kai Wren is maddeningly overconfident and frequently underestimates his foes. Of course Kai Wren is oblivious to things that would come instinctively to lesser beings! When you, the reader, see Kai Wren walking blindly into danger, it adds depth to his character and heightens the novel's suspense. In fact, professional writers even have a name for this type of literary device: "foreshadowing."
I also see many reviews complaining about the "planes of hangers and socks." Ridiculous, yes, but also vintage Zelazny humor! I have a feeling that these reviewers haven't read much other Zelazny fiction, for his sense of humor always tended to run toward the absurd-- one of my favorite Zelazny short stories, "Unicorn Variations," is about beer-swilling, chess-playing mythical beings, and who could forget the 'Alice in Wonderland' bar scene from Zelazny's 'Amber' series? Personally, I thought The Walker's one-line explanation of the hangars and socks was hilarious, and a single quote from a novel hasn't made me laugh out loud like this in a long, long time!
Is "Lord Demon" Zelazny's best novel? Probably not. But Roger Zelazny's genius was such that even his second-tier efforts tower above most other fantasy and sci fi yarns! With "Lord Demon," Roger Zelazny delivered exactly what his fans have come to expect: a well-told tale about extremely human characters, told with wit and warmth, and offering a touching lesson or two along the way. You may even see a reflection of your own mortality in the dark eyes of Kai Wren-- Lord Demon.
It's got Zelazny's standard superhero, who resembles Sam in "Lord of Light." The minor difference here is that Kai Wren, Lord Demon is a god-slayer, whereas Sam was a god who slew the occasional demon.
Zelazny incorporated the Hindu pantheon into "Lord of Light." He used a mystical Chinese background for "Lord Demon."
"Lord of Light" is a fantasy classic, maybe Zelazny's best work. "Lord Demon" is---well, it's still Zelazny (plus Lindskold) which means it's well-researched and full of exotic, non-Western concepts. There are interesting creatures galore---good, bad, and scrub demons; a Chinese magician and his daughter; a few gods and godlets; dragons; Fu Dogs (actually lions in Chinese religious symbolism); even a stray Sidhe.
Kai Wren is a glassblower as well as a god-slayer, and his bottles can contain whole universes.
Unfortunately, the creators of Kai Wren's own universe forgot to add the oxygen.
Hardly anything breathes on its own in "Lord Demon," or reacts with the other elements of this book. The Fu Dogs are given long, overly-cute stretches of text that do little to move the plot forward. There are pointless visits to the 'Hanger Plane' and the 'Sock Drawer Plane' that do nothing but serve as poignant reminders of previous journeys with Zelazny through the Shadow worlds of Amber.
Hard-core Zelazny fans, go ahead and read "Lord Demon." An occasional paragraph may ignite that old feeling of nostalgia. I experienced a definite pang during Kai Wren's first encounter with the scrub demons.
New Zelazny readers, start with "This Immortal" or "Lord of Light" or "Creatures of Light and Darkness." The latter book, first published in 1969 was inspired by ancient Egyptian mythology, and in turn has inspired a horde of imitators but none as good.
"A Night in the Lonesome October" (1993) displays Zelazny's talent for the darkly comic. The book is narrated by a dog named Snuff and its hero is Jack the Ripper (really!)
If you'd like to read an excellent Chinese mythology-based fantasy (complete with Fu Dogs), try Barbara Hambly's, "Bride of the Rat God."