Zelazny in Amber

Roger Zelazny's novels The Chronicles of Amber are fun fantasy from the 1970s, with sharp-edged swordplay, cross-time travel among universes, Tarot imagery, Chandleresquely noir banter, heavy smoking, excessive drinking, narrow glinting eyes, and on occasion strikingly lyrical passages. In Chapter 1 of Nine Princes in Amber, the first of the series, the protagonist awakens in a hospital, suffering from amnesia after an "accident" that clearly was no accident:

So I sat up. It took me a real effort, as my muscles were very tired. It was dark outside and a handful of stars were standing naked beyond the window. I winked back at them and threw my legs over the edge of the bed.

... and a few pages later, as he makes his escape by knocking out a guard:

I shoved him into the closet and looked out the latticed window. I saw the Old Moon with the New Moon in her arms, hovering above a row of poplars. The grass was silvery and sparkled. The night was bargaining weakly with the sun. Nothing to show, for me, where this place was located. ...

... followed in Chapter 2 with a sinister encounter:

Like all libraries, it was full of books. It also held three paintings, two indicating quiet landscapes and one a peaceful seascape. The floor was heavily carpeted in green. There was a big globe beside the big desk with Africa facing me and a wall-to-wall window behind it, eight stepladders of glass. But none of these was the reason I'd paused.

The woman behind the desk wore a wide-collared, V-necked dress of blue-green, had long hair and low bangs, all of a cross between sunset clouds and the outer edge of a candle flame in an otherwise dark room, and natural I somehow knew, and her eyes behind glasses I didn't think she needed were as blue as Lake Erie at three o'clock on a cloudless summer afternoon; and the color of her compressed smile matched her hair. But none these was the reason I'd paused.

I knew her, from somewhere, though I couldn't say where.

... and a page later, Our Hero continues his verbal fencing match in spite of being clueless as to who, or where, he is:

I drew on my cigarette, hoping she'd say something more. But she didn't, so I decided to seize what seemed the advantage I'd obtained in this game I didn't understand with players I didn't know for stakes I had no inkling of.

A clichéd beginning to a tale, sure — but charmingly well-done!

(cf. Lord of Light (2010-04-12), Science vs. Fantasy (2010-04-28), ...) - ^z - 2013-09-03