Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (July and August issues) 1971

Cover Artists:  (1) Bob Pepper (2) Ron Walotsky (3) Segrelles

This Zelazny novel was named after his fellow science-fiction author Jack Vance.  He tried to capture some of the exotic locals that Vance filled his novels with.  He also wrote this novel in one draft.  It was bought and serialized in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" in 1971.  Later that year it appeared in book form.  Fans liked it and nominated it for both the Hugo and Locus Awards for best novel of the year in 1972.  "Jack of Shadows" finished #4 in the Hugo voting.

It features many of the characteristics that I find enjoyable in Roger Zelazny's other works. Many of the themes from the Amber series appear in this novel.  The protagonist draws strength from shadows, he prefers the same personal colors as Corwin from the Amber series, he is an outcast, and his world is a combination of our world and a magical realm.  The difference is that it all occurs on one world.  In Jack's world, the Earth does not spin.  Our world is locked on the day side, the magical one is on the night side.

Zelazny walks a thin line by balancing the two worlds.  Jack is a tragic character in many ways.  Some reviewers, Lester Del Rey in particular, disliked the ambiguous ending.  Fans enjoyed the book, based on the award nominations and comments I have heard, but tried to talk Zelazny into continuing the adventures of Shadowjack.  He declined saying that the ambiguous ending was what he was aiming for with this novel.  

The nightside adventures were classic Zelazny fantasy stories.  Even though the reader gets a sense that Shadowjack will not get everything he wants, you are captured by the magic of Zelazny's writing.  Nobody is able to write as poetic sentences as this author.  And that is one of many reasons that he has been one of my two favorite authors since I became a fan of the field.

If you enjoyed Zelazny's Amber or Changling series, I would recommend reading this book.

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