Saturday, March 19, 2011
The Last Defender of Camelot
The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny is a collection of some of his best short stories and novellas. Please note that the edition I have read is the original collection put together by Zelazny himself in 1980 and NOT the later edition which has a mix of some stories found here plus various others. It is my understanding that the newer edition, while having an added bonus of including an introduction by Robert Silverburg--another luminary in the science fiction world, unfortunately removes all of the commentary by Zelazny himself as well as removing some of the finer pieces. This is a definite loss to the reader--Zelazny comments are quite delightful and "He Who Shapes" (one of the mysteriously excised) is a marvelous story.
I don't read all that much science fiction any more. Once upon a time that was all I read. I went through a phase where Asimov, Bradbury, Silverburg, Clarke, Zelazny and others were all I read. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm a book-a-holic. I buy books like there won't be any more tomorrow and constantly have about 500-1000 sitting around in TBR piles. The Last Defender of Camelot was leftover from my SF book-buying-binge days. When Adam over at Roof Beam Reader decided to host a TBR Reading Challenge, I decided to put this on on the list. After all, it had been sitting on my TBR shelves for over twenty years, it was about time I got around to it.
And good thing I did, too. Zelazny still has the power to enchant me even though I am now thoroughly back in mystery-loving mode. There is no one in the science fiction world (that I've read) who can write with such power and poetry about some of the most unsettling topics. This collection includes the aforementioned "He Who Shapes" which is a story about a neuroparticipant therapist--a man who can join in with his patient's dreams and use them to shape and conquer their fears and problems. It tells what happens when a therapist becomes a little too involved in the dream..... Also included is "The Stainless Steel Leech" a science fiction version of the vampire story. My favorites though are "Damnation Alley" (a novella I read last summer and reviewed HERE), the title story and "Is There a Demon Lover in the House?"
"The Last Defender of Camelot" wonders what might happen if Lancelot, Merlin and Morgan LeFay all survived through enchantment until the 20th Century. Who would be working for good? What final battles might occur? And "Is There a Demon Lover in the House?" does a little time traveling trick of its own. With a little gothic horror thrown in--producing delicious shivers as the story comes to a close.
This was a delightful trip back into science fiction for me. I have no idea why I didn't read it when I bought it, but I'm glad to have done so now. Zelazny was a marvelous writer who apparently (according to his notes) could whip out stories right and left with brilliant detail and shockingly perfect endings. Terrific collection. Four and a half stars.