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Manna From Heaven
Roger Zelazny
Wilder Publications, 255 pages

Manna From Heaven
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Roger Zelazny has always been admired and praised by other writers for his way with words. The near poetic prose of stories like "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" and "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai", and the unique mix of mythology, religion, and technology in novels like Lord of Light were often imitated but seldom matched. And in his most popular works, the long-running Amber series, Zelazny found mass popularity to match his stylistic talent and ambition. Manna from Heaven, a collection that gathers together stories from throughout his career, including all five of the Amber short stories, displays all the qualities that made Roger Zelazny one of the most popular and most admired science fiction writers of his time.

The near-title story, the differing spellings of "manna" and "mana" are intentional, is a good example of Zelazny's ability to create a modern world that harbors the secrets of a magical past. Echoing his own novel Jack of Shadows, and also RObert A. Heinlein's "Lost Legacy", "Mana from Heaven" starts out in a conventional southern California town and steadily transports the reader to a world of magic and power based on the availability of the magical substance mana. In contrast, "The Furies" takes a Jack Vance-like space opera setting and infuses it with mythological overtones. And in perhaps the best-known story in the collection, "Come to Me Not in Winter's White", (co-written with Harlan Ellison), a man seeks to stop time itself in order to save his dying wife, only to find that technology and wealth cannot compensate for the vagaries of the human heart.

Manna from Heaven is not a greatest hits or best of collection, instead it mostly features stories that haven't been collected elsewhere. It does, however, provide a good overview of Zelazny's style and interests. The trademark clipped dialogue is found in abundance here, there are times when Zelazny's characters speak as if using even one unnecessary word would be more than they could bear. The stories aren't all perfect, several of the shorter pieces like "Corrida" and "Lady of Steel" depend on surprise twists in order to achieve their effect. Once you've reached the end of them, though, the stories seem less worthwhile for themselves than they do as set-ups for the punchline, a common failing of many SF and fantasy short-short stories. And the five Amber stories, which will be appreciated by fans of the series, are basically fill in the cracks pieces that won't mean a whole lot to anyone not familiar with at least some of the adventures of the Princes of Amber.

Roger Zelazny's passing in 1995 took away one of the great transitional figures in science fiction history. His work bridged magic and technology, poetry and prose, the New Wave and the old guard. That his influence lives on can be seen in recent works such as Charles Stross's Merchant Prince series, and the stories in Manna from Heaven show us many of the reasons why.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is intrigued by the thought of living in a world where mythology and technology have become so inter-twined as to be inseparable. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.

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