My experience with Roger Zelazny has been hit or miss, and while I consider The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Moutha miss, it’s not terrible. The main fault of these fifteen stories is that characterization remains uniform throughout. The same cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking, detective noir Joe Cool hero populates the main character role of seemingly every story. Though the type is likeable, this lack of variety gets monotonous. Secondly, the outcome of every story has the hero victorious and triumphant, albeit in occasionally surprising ways, and this general predictability likewise undermines the integrity of the collection. Smoking butts, throwing never-miss left hooks, and having the suave line for the ladies are par for the course of this short story collection.
There are strong points, however. Zelazny excels as a stylist. The dialogue is wonderful, and emotion is fully shown rather than told. The predictability of the plots can be overlooked due to the ease with which the narratives develop. The thematic content is also respectable. Ideas routinely touched upon in the stories include the long-term evolution of culture and societies, man vs. the elements, and the social motivation for individuals’ major life-changing decisions.
In the end, I would say that if you are already a Zelazny fan, The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth will undoubtedly be of interest. Every story is fully in line with the other works of his I’ve read. If you enjoyed some of Zelazny’s works, but not others, then this book will probably not open your eyes to anything new. And if you’ve never read anything by him, then it would probably be best if you started somewhere else. Taking full advantage of his strengths as a writer, Lord of Light or …This Immortal are among the best science fiction produced after WWII, and are a better starting place.
FanLit thanks Jesse Hudson of Speculiction for contributing this guest review.