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Threshold - Volume 1: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny Hardcover – February 14, 2009
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Threshold: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, v.1. By Roger Zelazny. Ed. by David G. Grubbs and others. Apr. 2009. 576p. NESFA, $29 (9781886778719).
After introductory essays from Robert Silverberg and Zelazny's childhood friend Carl Yoke, the range of Zelazny's stories unfolds, from early work first published in a high-school literary magazine to the masterpiece, "A Rose for Ecclesiastes." Everything fascinates, especially for die-hard Zelazny fans, not least because his growth as a storyteller is so apparent between "Youth Eternal" (one of the high-school pieces) and the novella "He Who Shapes," published 10 years later in the standard-setting sf magazine Amazing. The range of Zelazny's literary background becomes evident in the notes accompanying each story, with their citation of influences from Saint-ExupÃ©ry to mystical religion. Sf history isn't the main interest here, though, for many of these stories have aged shockingly well. "Circe Has Her Problems" is a space-traveling take on the Homeric sorceress. "Nine Starships Waiting" strangely remains Cyril Tourneur's Jacobean Revenger's Tragedy (the subject of Zelazny's MA thesis). "The Graveyard Heart" tackles immortality among the party set, and in "The Stainless Steel Leech," even robots have their vampires. Poetry is scattered throughout, and some unfinished fragments fill out the volume. Zelazny (1937--95) remains fascinating, not least because the way he tells stories makes them unique. -- Regina Schroeder --American Library Association
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Just the idea of collecting all of an important writers works together allows the reader to make a full assessment. Even some of the lesser stories gain importance in the wider picture. This is a wonderful project and will hopefully keep the memory of Zelazny alive.
Apart from the stories, there are introductions by other writers, notes by Zelazny on each story (and poem, for they are there too), notes on the stories by the editors explaining various references, essays by Zelazny, plus a variety of other material `-curiosities'-, unclassifiable bit of Zelany writing- original publication details, biographical and autobiographical pieces. It would be churlish to criticise this book for putting too much in, though not everything will be of interest, though that point should be noticed. Although I like the poetry of Zelazny's prose, poetry itself is not something I have much interest in.
They appear in order of publication which is not synonymous with the order in which they were written. I was amazed to learn that the story he wrote first was A Rose for Ecclesiastes but which he held back from submitting due to his being insecure about science already making the story implausible. As if that mattered! Some of the stories have never been collected before but that doesn't mean they are bad stories, rather they are minor ones in the Zelazny canon though this is not synonymous with `without interest'. A few stories in the later volumes are collaborations.
I tend to think that Zelazny works best at novelette or novella length and there are many examples of this including the original magazine versions of The Dream Master as He Who Shapes, and This Immortal as And Call Me Conrad, plus the stories which make up the My Name Is Legion sequence, and many more.
Some authors improve as they get older. Sadly, this wasn't the case with Roger Zelazny. He exploded into action in the 60's and, I'm afraid, never bettered, or even matched, his initial splendid outpourings. He maintained a high standard, of that there's no doubt, and it's arguable but plausible that his later short fiction did reach a higher level than that of his later novels which were, by the standard of his earlier works, a touch pedestrian. No matter, these stories were, are, and will remain a high watermark of Science Fiction.
This is simply an amazing work. NESFA have done the late author very proud indeed and provided a service to his many fans. The editors -David G. Grubbs, Christopher S. Kovacs, and Anne Crimmins- surely deserve some kind of recognition at the 2010 Worldcon for this labour of love.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.
If you are new to Zelazny, see if you can find a one-cent+$3.99 copy of "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth," a collection of his short stories that includes both "Doors" and "Rose," and see what you think. If you liked it, this collection might be worth investing in.
If not, well, I've kept my copy of "Doors" for almost 45 years now. It's falling apart. When it does, I'll find another copy, maybe, if I don't have all six of these volumes by then.
Update: I bought two volumes and decided I'd had enough. The extremely extensive annotation of each story is annoying; the annotation of Zelazny's writing to other authors or editors about the stories...I guess I'm a fan of Zelaany's writing, and not really interested in Zelazny himself. I'll buy that second copy of "Doors" when I need it, and that'll be good enough.