Monday, January 26, 2009

The Dead Man's Brother -- Roger Zelazny

I'm a big fan of Roger Zelzany's work, or at least a lot of it, so I was prepared to love The Dead Man's Brother, a unpublished novel unearthed by Hard Case Crime. According to the "Afterword" by Zelzany's son, the book was written around the time of Today We Choose Faces and the connected novellas that make up My Name is Legion, both of which I enjoyed, so I was hoping for the best. I didn't quite get it.

Ovid Wiley was once a criminal, an art smuggler, but now he's reformed and has his own gallery. Things are going all right until his old partner in crime turns up in the gallery, dead, with a knife sticking in his back. In short order, Wiley's arrested, then recruited by the CIA. He finds himself first in Italy, where there are millions missing from the Vatican's accounts, and then in Brazil, where more millions have gone missing.

It's all very fast and slick, but the whole thing seemed more like a first draft to me than a finished novel. A lot of things that seemed to me to call for further development were forgotten or dropped. The explanations at the end were tedious and not entirely convincing. The supposedly clever narrator does some pretty stupid things. The magic I'd found in some of Zelazny's writing was, for the most part, missing. I'm glad Hard Case published it, and I'm glad I read it, but I was hoping for more. Maybe my expectations were just too high. Or maybe I'm completely wrong. Hey, it could happen. Anyway, I'd give it a C+.

Update: For a more positive take, click here.

10 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Well, as others have noted, there are reasons certain works are found among a writer's papers after death...did you ever read Charles Platt's B/maybe B+ reconstruction of Alfred Bester's TENDER LOVING RAGE, as it was published?

Bill Crider said...

Haven't read that one, but maybe I should.

JZID said...

Zelazny is also one of my favorites. In fact, The Chronicles of Amber original series might be my favorite books of all time. I'm most of the way through "The Dead Man's Brother" and I am liking it quite a bit. I still have a chapter and a half to go, so it is very possible I'll be let down in the end. I wish I could finish it tonight but I'm off to play volleyball..... maybe before bed! I'm curious also to hear from others who have read this one, especially those who haven't read his other work.

Bill Crider said...

I'm interested in other reactions, too.

JZID said...

I will say that although I love the cover, with only a chapter and a half to go, I'm thinking it must portray a key scene in the climax of the book because I've yet to read any scene that fits what is shown on the cover. (I'm back from volleyball and hope to finish this one tonight!)

A few other things I'd thought I'd mention: I've read two posthumous novels finished by Jane Lindskold Donnerjack and Lord Demon, and I enjoyed them both thoroughly. Also, earlier Alfred Bester was mentioned earlier, and I believe Roger Zelazny finished a book of his called Psychoshop, although I don't believe I've read that one.

Bill Crider said...

Don't count on finding that cover scene in the book.

I've read both those Jane Linskold completions and enjoyed them, but then I've liked a couple of the books she wrote on her own, too.

Charles Ardai said...

Yeah, in the best pulp tradition, the cover depicts a scene that doesn't quite occur in the book. But it's a composite of elements that do turn up: the male and female leads do travel through the Brazilian jungle; he does wield a machete; he's hunted by, and hunts, local military types who carry machine guns; there are big trees and lush foliage. And the emotional tone is right: they're in grave danger, strangers in a strange land, etc. In this respect, it's actually one of our more accurate covers.

Fair warning: The scene on the cover of Lester Dent's HONEY IN HIS MOUTH never comes close to occurring in the book. But it's a lovely painting.

JZID said...

Still haven't finished the book :<

I still love the cover even if the events portrayed don't actually ever occur in the book, if anything, it keeps you guessing and it probably would have been worse if the cover did get a away a key scene in the book.

Bill, I was wondering if you could recommend any of Jane Lindskold's books? I recall after reading Donnerjack and Lord Demon, wanted to check out some of her books as well, but I never got around to it.
I see she released a 2-book series starting with the book Changer around the same time as those two books, and thought that might be a good place to start.

Bill Crider said...

Those are the two I read. I liked them pretty well. I think the series has continued in one way or another.

JZID said...

Thanks - I will check those out. I did finish the book and the ending didn't disappoint me. I hope to post my review on my blog soon but it probably won't say much more than I've already said here! :>