Sign of Chaos: A really bad soap opera

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Note: You must read the previous seven AMBER CHRONICLES before picking this one up. Expect spoilers for those previous books in this review.

Sign of Chaos (1987) is book eight in Roger Zelazny’s ten-book AMBER CHRONICLES. It starts right where book seven, Blood of Amber, ended: with Merlin and his frenemy Luke in the midst of an LSD drug trip that has conjured up the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. (Zelazny delights in literary allusions. Expect plenty of Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare, Kuttner & Moore, as well as Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology.)

When Merlin finally escapes Wonderland, he is once again plunged into the political and personal machinations of his extended family, including step-brothers and half-brothers, a couple of bastards, and some people who will undoubtedly be revealed in the future as also somehow related to Merlin. (Oh what a tangled web we weave when our grandfather has apparently slept with every eligible and ineligible woman in Amber over the course of centuries.)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAt this point in the series, Merlin’s tale has devolved into a blur of pointless boring plot twists involving constantly fluctuating alliances, people who can shape shift and end up being any other character in the book, sorcerers who can cast illusions, revelations about who’s related to who, dead characters who suddenly show up again, etc. It’s a really bad soap opera with few redeeming qualities. The only bright spots are Ghostwheel, the sentient computer which is getting a bit philosophical, and a queen who has been petrified and is now being used as a coatrack in Merlin’s room.

Oh, and Wil Wheaton’s valiant attempt to make something of this mess by delivering a terrific audio performance in Audible Studios’ version. It’s only 6 hours long (thank God!). If Wheaton hadn’t been reading to me, I surely would have given up on Sign of Chaos.

Sign of Chaos ends with the cheesiest of cliffhangers, yet one so compelling that I’ve got to pick up the next book, Knight of Shadows. (You can’t see me, but please know that I am hanging my head in shame.)


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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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One comment

  1. Getting a little self-indulgent, are we, Roger?

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