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Roger Zelazny's Chaos and Amber
John Gregory Betancourt
ibooks, 320 pages

Chaos and Amber
John Gregory Betancourt
John Gregory Betancourt was born in Missouri in 1963. He sold his first short story professionally at 16 ("Vernon's Dragon," in 100 Great Fantasy Short-Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov et al.) and his first novel at 19 (The Blind Archer, published by Avon Books). In college he became an assistant editor for Amazing Stories magazine, then co-editor and publisher of a revival of Weird Tales. He also worked on a freelance basis for such publishers as Avon Books, Signet Books (now part of Penguin USA), Tor Books, Bluejay Books and Berkley Books. His novels include Johnny Zed, Rememory, and Rogue Pirate. With his wife Kim, he runs his own small publishing company, Wildside Press.

John Gregory Betancourt Website
ISFDB Bibliography: John Gregory Betancourt
SF Site Excerpt: Roger Zelazny's The Dawn of Amber
SF Site Review: Double Helix: Infection
Wildside: A Science Fiction Resource

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: Nebula Awards 3
SF Site Review: The Chronicles of Amber
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 Steve Lazarowitz

Once upon a time, Roger Zelazny wrote a book called Nine Princes of Amber, the very first of the Amber books. It was followed by four siblings, thus completing the first Amber series, my absolute favorite series of books. If you haven't read the original Amber series, you don't know what you're missing.

Years later, a second Amber series arrived, another five books, also by Zelazny. While I enjoyed this series quite a lot (even more when I reread them years later), I didn't like it quite as much as the first Amber series. No surprise, really. Sequels are seldom what you want them to be. Still, it was a great read and I enjoyed it immensely.

After Zelazny's passing, I had assumed there would never be another Amber book. So far there have been two, Dawn of Amber and Chaos and Amber, the first two books of a new Amber trilogy called, appropriately enough, The New Amber Trilogy. I must admit I was both excited yet scared to read this new series, for they were the first Amber books not written by the original author. It was as if a new pattern had been created and I was walking it for the first time. I didn't know what I'd find.

What I found was Amber. Admittedly, the new series reminds me more of the second series than the first but, aside from that, it's eminently entertaining. The main character is Oberon, son of Dworkin, who was raised on a shadow world, in complete ignorance of his true heritage.

Chaos and Amber answers some of the questions raised in Dawn of Amber and leaves a few others in its wake. As the middle book of the trilogy, it does precisely what it's supposed to do... furthers the story's action and plot without resolving too much. In line with previous Amber books, it ends in a total cliffhanger that I'd have hated, were I not already an Amber fan. I mean, now I have to wait at least another year to find out what happens.

In order to truly appreciate this book, you need to read Dawn of Amber as well. While there may be enough explanations in the book to get you by, it would be a much better read after the first book, which sets up the situation well and builds the tension even better. In fact, Dawn of Amber's cliffhanger was even worse than this one.

In this new book, Oberon and his brother Aber find themselves in The Beyond, one of the first shadows of the Courts of Chaos. As with all the Amber books, intrigue and action are rampant. Those familiar with past works know what to expect. If you haven't read the original Amber books, I highly recommend reading them all in order, though this new trilogy can be read on its own.

John Gregory Betancourt has had the unenviable task of trying to fill Roger Zelazny's shoes, or at very least, follow in his footsteps. As a die-hard Zelazny fan, I say it can't be done. But Betancourt did as well as anyone could. The books have the "flavor" of Amber and several times, I nodded knowingly at the end of a scene, the memory of past scenes apparent in my mind. Don't get me wrong, this is a great read, but the beauty of Zelazny's words are almost entirely missing. Chaos and Amber tells a rousing fantasy adventure story and tells it well. But there is something about the way Zelazny wrote that no one will ever be able to capture, and that is what I'll miss most of all.

Still you can bet, when the third book of this trilogy becomes available, I'll be waiting in line to get it. Thank you, Mr. Betancourt, for returning me to Amber one final time.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Lazarowitz

Steve Lazarowitz is a speculative fiction writer, an editor, a father, a husband, an animal lover and a heck of a nice guy (not necessarily in that order). Steve lives in Moonah, Tasmania with his family and four giant spiny leaf insects. You can check out his work at

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