Blood of Amber: Nice try, Wheaton.

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It’s at this point in Roger Zelazny’s AMBER CHRONICLES that things start going downhill. Don’t even try to pick this up if you haven’t read the previous six books. It will make no sense. Expect spoilers for those earlier books in this review.

Blood of Amber (1986), the seventh book, begins right where Trumps of Doom left off. Merlin, like his namesake, is trapped in a crystal cave. Then he escapes. During the rest of this short story, he finds out more about his frenemy Luke, who now needs his help after deceiving and even trying to kill Merlin for many years, not to mention imprisoning him in the cave. Merlin, who I’m starting to realize isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, or who at least has some pathological need to trust people who don’t deserve it, or who maybe is simply at the mercy of an author who needs to keep twisting the plot, decides to help Luke. This gets him involved with a deposed queen, a crazy magician, and a dangerous mercenary. Meanwhile Merlin also discovers why several people he’s met recently in California seem to know he’s a prince of Amber — they’ve been inhabited by a shape shifter who seems to be on Merlin’s side.

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Despite the constantly shifting plot, Blood of Amber just isn’t that interesting. Compared to his father Corwin, the protagonist of the first five AMBER CHRONICLES, Merlin is dull. Most of the time he is reacting to events that occur to him, stumbling blindly along, or gathering information through talky infodumps. Though he’s supposed to be a brilliant computer programmer (I assume, due to the fact that he created a sentient computer), he has little agency of his own in his story. Unfortunately, none of the other characters are likable enough to care about, either, and there isn’t really anything else in the story to latch on to. There is one very short philosophical discussion about power, morality, and duty, but it doesn’t do enough to elevate the story above a talky soap opera. (I know Roger Zelazny is capable of so much more than this!)

In the 6.5 hour long audio version produced by Audible Studios, Wil Wheaton does his best to try to make Merlin more interesting. He gives him a dynamic intense voice which helps to make Merlin seem more forceful, but isn’t able to make the plot more interesting. Nice try, Wheaton.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. What a let-down!

    As you know, audio books aren’t my favorite, but I like Wil Wheaton’s voice(s), and that would go a way toward making an interesting book enjoyable.

    • Well, then Marion, what you must do is to listen to Wheaton’s version of Scalzi’s Lock-In. I know you like that book, so that would be a great choice for you!

  2. I’m glad I only got the First Chronicles of Amber omnibus edition (first 5 books), even though the Complete Chronicles of Amber (10 books) was available on Amazon for a similar price. Haven’t read it yet, but looking forward to it someday. Wil Wheaton on audiobook would be a bonus!

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