Friday, December 26, 2014
Jack of Shadows, Roger Zelazney
Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazney was a watershed book for me as a reader. In what can only be described as a genius move, Zelazney introduces the concept of the Trickster as the hero-antihero. Originally conceived as a serial for F&SF in 1971, it was published in book form that same year by Walker and Company.
But First, THE BLURB:
Shadowjack walks in silence and in shadows to seek vengeance upon his enemies. Who are his foes? All who would despise him or love the Lord of Bats: Smage of the Jackass Ears, the Colonel Who Never Died, the Borshin, and Quazer, winner of the Hellgames and abductor of the voluptuous Evene. One by one, Shadowjack would seek them out and have his revenge, building his power as he goes. And once his vengeance is obtained, he would come to terms with all others who are against him, he would unite the World of High Dudgeon, destroy the Land of Filth, and bring peace to the Shadowguard. But to accomplish all, Jack of Shadows must find Kolwynia, the Key That Was Lost..
Lester del Rey was unimpressed with this tale, but I read this book to shreds. What I loved about this book was the typical Zelazney mystique--many questions abound regarding Shadowjack, and answers come at slow pace, just information enough to keep you interested, and be warned: not all your questions will be answered. Even the ending is a question!
Jack is an awesome character. He is good and he is bad. He has deep compassion and can be moved to do great deed that benefit all of humanity at the cost of his own life, but he will be the smallest, meanest man over a tiny little slight to his ego. He abuses his powers, and also uses them for good.
In this book, Zelazney fully realized the concept of 'shadow.' It is neither light nor dark, and it is not here or there. It all of those and none of them. Thus the unanswered questions. What Zelazney did in this less well-known of his books is create a story in which the reader decides what is true.
If you can find a copy of this book, pick it up. It is a quintessential Zelazney fantasy, combining testosterone, science, and high drama with magic and mystery. The characters are great, the world he sets them is is fantastic, and the story itself is intriguing.