Stephen Colbert's Roger Zelanzy's The Chronicles of Amber

And my book backlog just got 10 books deeper. Always glad to see more of Zelazny’s works converted to e-book.

If it helps, only the first five (the original series) are worth reading. I sort of feel like there’s a point in the middle of the 7th book where it really seems like he stopped writing them and somebody else, and much worse, took over.

The first five are very much a complete story.

Totally disagree. Second might not be as good as the first series, but Merlin and Ghost Wheel are pure awesomeness, and I’d read that second series over many other books.


They are also remarkably short books by modern standards. I have the old SF book club hardbacks from the 80’s, and they’re only 150-180 pages each.

Which was pretty standard for the times. Old school Sci fi authors knew how to tell a story concisely without the need for 500 pages of excess filler. Today’s authors take “paid by the word” very seriously.

I didn’t find Merlin as compelling a protagonist as Corwin (he seemed like a total wuss is my faint recollection), and thus the 2nd set of books was mostly me waiting around for him to find Corwin (which took a LONG time). Now that I have the 10xeBook and can read them all at once, that perception may or may not change.

I also enjoyed the stories with Merlin. There was prequel about Corwin’s father written by John Gregory Betancourt - Dawn of Amber that didnt capture the magic of the original. I remember reading the first book II cant remember if i read the others (looking it up the series was never finished and ended on a cliffhanger)

The bottom line of all this Amber talk is: read the first 5 books, then see how you feel. Those 5 books tell a very complete story and if wish to stop there, you can. I would put that original Amber series at a very high level of quality, despite being a bit dated, maybe on par with the Black Company (although much less overtly grimdark - Amber is a bit grim and occasionally dark but not “grimdark”).

I played a bit of the Amber DRPG while in college and Merlin is absolutely the archetype of what the average player wants to do with their character (“I want to have Pattern AND Logrus, be a Trump artist and a shapeshifter, be a warrior and a magician, have access to a cool familiar and an artifact…”).

Man that was an interesting system. Only played once, in a con. Bidding for stats, with ranks being what mattered.

The first 5 are a VERY solid example od 1970s sociological SF. Alongside LeGuin’s work, Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up, Moorcock’s work, etc.

That is the series I want to see on TV. Done well, obviously. Should be easier to do well than, say, Discworld, because grimdark is a lot easier to “do well” on screen than social-commentary satire is.

I played it once with a group of people who were mixed. Some had read the books, some hadn’t but were always down to play a RPG. The latter group were DEEPLY confused by the system and setting. I eventually found an explanation that worked by telling them we were basically playing greek gods from classical mythology. The reason all player character stats were expressed relative to other player characters was because we were all assumed to be better at everything than every other NPC and the main gameplay focus would be player characters squabbling among themselves. That made it make sense, but then some of them didn’t want to play.

I managed to get through one session of bidding with my group. We never had a second.

I believe the rule book does explain the ranking system that way - you’re bidding for the ranks for a 2nd generation of immortals - none of you compare to the elders who’d be much stronger than any of you.

Maybe it did? This was decades ago and a classic poor-college-student RPG night. One person had the book and we were all trying to share it .

I felt like you had to go into playing it with the mindset that you’d be participating in collaborative storytelling. I tried playing it once with someone who was a minmaxer brought up on GURPS and Nephilim… needless to say, nobody really had a good time that night.

The time I played in a con, the players were divided into either pawns or kingmakers. To win, a kingmaker had to get its preferred pawn elected as King of Chaos. There was one player that was really good, she played the perfect lunatic. She was not playing to win.

You also had to bid for birth rank. Nobody wanted to use me. All I did was desperately run around trying to find someone to support me. Somehow I managed to “win” with no kingmaker because everyone else killed each other. Not satisfactory at all.

But that would be a perfectly fine result for Zelazny. He would have laughed at that.