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This Immortal
Roger Zelazny
Victor Gollancz SF Collectors' Edition, 174 pages

This Immortal
Roger Zelazny
During his career, Roger Zelazny won 6 Hugos and 3 Nebulas as well as many other major awards in the SF field. Several of his novels and short stories are considered landmarks, including Lord of Light, Creatures of Light and Darkness, "Home is the Hangman," and "A Rose for Ecclesiastes." The 10-volume Chronicles of Amber is regarded as a classic fantasy series. For the last 10 years of his life, Zelazny lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He died in 1995.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lord of Light
SF Site Review: Donnerjack
Roger Zelazny Tribute Site
Roger Zelazny Tribute Site
Roger Zelazny Tribute Site
Roger Zelazny Obituary
Who's Who in Amber

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The UK imprint Victor Gollancz, long noted for its SF series, is publishing a number of Gollancz SF Collectors' Editions, in nice large-sized paperback editions, the covers bright yellow, as were their legendary hardcover jackets of the 60s. (Even I, growing up in the Chicago suburbs, encountered a few such books.) I've complained often about the diminishing SF backlist, but it's only fair to say that some folks are at least doing a little bit about that. This series (also including Jack Vance' Big Planet, Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia, and Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity, among others) is one fine effort.

Millennium, another imprint of Gollancz' corporate parent Orion, is doing a fine series as well, called SF Masterworks, leading to the odd situation that one of Roger Zelazny's Hugo Award winning novels, Lord of Light, is published by Millennium as an SF Masterwork, while his other Hugo winner, This Immortal, is published by their corporate stable mate as an SF Collectors' Edition. But why quibble, as long as they are both available?

This Immortal is a good read, with plenty of Zelaznyesque brio. I wouldn't say it's quite as good as Lord of Light: indeed, by comparison, it seems a bit slight. For instance, I found the ending a distinct anti-climax. It's still a book you ought to read, mind you, but it's just real good, not great. It did win a Hugo, in a tie with Frank Herbert's Dune. (Technically, the Hugo went to the version serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1965, "... and Call Me Conrad," which is somewhat different: most notably, it's about 50,000 words to the book version's 58,000 words.)

The storyline concerns Conrad Nomikos, one of about 4 million people still living on Earth centuries in the future, after a nuclear war, and after the bulk of the population has gone to the stars to work for the advanced, civilized Vegans. Conrad and some of his friends had years before been involved in the "Returnist" movement, urging people to return to Earth, and resisting the Vegans' moves to buy up the best Earth real estate. Nowadays, the situation is a stalemate, with Earth's exile population preferring not to return, but with the Vegans not buying any more of Earth either. But Cort Mishtigo, a high status Vegan, has come to Earth to tour some of the ancient sites. Conrad, who seems to have some mysterious past identities that go back a long way, is recruited to guide Mishtigo, and to protect him from assassins. He is in danger because the more radical Returnists believe that his "tour" is a pretext for evaluating more real estate, in advance of a renewed Vegan buying campaign. Conrad is unsure of Cort's motives, and anyway unhappy with the idea of murder. The novel consists, then, of Cort's tour, and a number of well-done battles between Conrad and a variety of monsters and mutants. The fight scenes, and the descriptions of the mutants (based on Greek mythology), are really good. It's only the eventual revelation of the Vegan motives that's a bit pat and anti-climatic.

Lest I be seen to damn with faint praise, I should reiterate that this is great fun to read, and very skilled and clever. Conrad is a fairly standard Zelazny hero, wisecracking and self-deprecating. The dialogue crackles throughout, and the other characters are nicely limned. Conrad's dilemma is believable: the conflict between his professional desire to protect his client (along with his personal distaste for murder) and his loyalties to Earth and the Returnists against the Vegan domination of Earth is well handled. And the various set-pieces and fight scenes are exciting and original. And the ultimate message of the book, about proper stewardship of our planet, and who deserves to be stewards, is clearly seen, and resolved with irony and honesty. It's good to have this book in print again.

Copyright © 2000 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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