Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rule their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons, Lord of Light.
Here is the first new adventure in the classic Amber series in over five years — the first book in a brand-new trilogy from multi-award-winning author Roger Zelazny. Amber, the one real world, of which all others — including our own Earth — are but Shadows…
Merle Corey is a brilliant young computer designer in San Francisco. But he is also Merlin, son of Corwin, vanished prince of Amber — heir to his father’s wondrous powers — and someone is determined to kill him. Now he will begin a desperate race through Shadow to escape the mysterious force that threatens his life… and to protect the deadly secret that could destroy both his worlds.
After years of unprepossessing folderol--the wearisome Nine Princes in Amber retreads are depressingly typical--Zelazny bursts forth with, well, ``Victorian light supernatural fantasy'' just about covers it. Narrator Snuff, a guard dog who performs complex thaumaturgical calculations in his head, has many duties: to keep various Things firmly trapped in mirrors, wardrobes, and steamer trunks; to accompany his master, Jack--he of the magical blade--on weird collecting expeditions into the graveyards and slums of Victorian London; and--for a single hour each night--discuss the day's goings-on in human speech. Snuff's neighbors include: Jill the witch and her familiar, Graymalk the cat, with whom Snuff forms a friendly alliance; Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, a werewolf, and a satanic vicar. The witches, detectives, doctors, vampires, etc., along with their equally industrious familiars, trade information and scheme for advantage as the full moon of Halloween approaches; at that time, a magical showdown to decide the fate of the Earth will occur. Some of the characters are ``openers,'' determined to open a magical doorway allowing the Old Gods to reoccupy the Earth; others are ``closers,'' equally resolved to keep the magical door nailed shut; and a few are involved yet stand outside the Game altogether. Snuff's problem is to discover who is which. Sparkling, witty, delightful: Zelazny's best for ages, perhaps his best ever.
The title story, "Unicorn Variation", was written as a result of Zelazny having been asked to contribute to two different upcoming anthologies — one collecting stories set in bars, and one collecting stories about unicorns. When Zelazny mentioned these requests to his close friend George R. R. Martin, the other told Zelazny of a third upcoming anthology — one which would collect stories about chess — and jokingly suggested that Zelazny write a story about playing chess against a unicorn in a bar, so that he could sell the story three times. Zelazny did just that and then went on to win a for the story.
Dilvish, astride Black, the great metal horse, plunged into the fog as the land behind them exploded into a volcano of mud. They raced a hedge of flames along a boiling river. Inhuman screams rent the air, as fountains of blood gushed and tiny points of light rose from the dark waters amid showers of sparks. A winged, monkey-faced thing flew at them, shrieking, talons outstretched.
Black leaped as the ground split before them, revealing huge purple hands. Then Dilvish and Black entered a curtain of blue fires that turned their limbs cobalt colored and brittle. Finally they, reached a saffron cloudbank and stopped, shuddering, within a protective circle Black raised.
The metal horse scarred the ground with a cloven hoof.
"So much for the easy part," he remarked.