Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review of "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth" by Roger Zelazny

(This review has also been posted at

My experience with Roger Zelazny has been hit or miss, and while I consider The Doors of his Face, the Lamps of His Mouth a miss, it’s not terrible.  The main fault of the fifteen stories is that characterization remains uniform throughout.  The same cigarette smoking, coffee drinking, detective noir Joe Cool hero populates the main character role of seemingly every story.  Though likeable, this lack of variety gets monotonous.  Secondly, that the outcome of every story has the hero victorious and triumphant, albeit in occasionally surprising ways, the general predictability likewise undermines the integrity of the collection.  Smoking butts, throwing never-miss left hooks, and having the suave line for the ladies are par for the course of this short story collection.  

There are strong points, however.  Zelazny excels as a stylist. Dialogue wonderful and emotion fully shown rather than told, the predictability of the plots can be overlooked by the ease with which the narratives develop.  Thematic content is also respectable. Ideas routinely touched upon in the stories include the long term evolution of culture and societies, man vs. the elements, and the social motivation for individual’s major life changing decisions.

In the end, I would say that if you are already a Zelazny fan, this book will undoubtedly be of interest.  Every story is fully in line with the other works of his I’ve read.  If you enjoyed some of Zelazny’s works, but not others, then this book will probably not open your eyes to anything new.  And if you’ve never read anything by him, then it would probably be best if you started somewhere else.  Taking full advantage of his strengths as a writer, Lord of Light or ...This Immortal are among the best science fiction produced after WWII, and are a better starting place, if not better, more distinguished writing. 

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