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Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger…
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Creatures of Light and Darkness (1969)

by Roger Zelazny

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A huge favorite. ( )
  drsabs | Jun 30, 2017 |
Where to start.

OK. I liked this book. A lot. It's on my regular re-read list.

It features a universe where death and life are controlled by two poles, the House of the Dead, run by Anubis, and the House of Life, run Osiris. Anubis and Osiris cooperate and compete at the same time. Anubis has gotten ready an emissary, who he has been training for a thousand years, to kill his greatest enemy.

Without getting into spoilers, let's just say that things do not go as planned :)

Roger Zelazny wrote this book with an amazing stylistic touch. Many of the concepts he included were later picked up by other writers, like the various prayers spoken by Madrak, one of the major characters, of which 'The Possibly Proper Death Litany' is a fantastic example:

Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

It can be argued that this is one of the most influential Science Fiction books ever written. It certainly is one of the most beautifully written. ( )
1 vote wayneborean | Nov 14, 2014 |
It's a lesser work. Lord of Light sold huge numbers of books, and I think Zelazny was looking for lightening to strike twice. This time out, it's the Egyptian mythos instead of the world of Hindu and Buddha. It's fun, and well done, but not as involving as the first. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 17, 2013 |
My reaction to reading this novel in 1998. Spoiler follow.

As with his Roadmarks, the plot of this Zelazny novel faded from my mind quickly, but I found both books very entertaining while reading them. This may be the most lyrical Zelazny I’ve read to date with rich poetic language, and it’s dedicated to Samuel Delany who also dedicated books to Zelazny.

A plot combining science fiction and fantasy is not unique to this novel. There are elements of it in Zelazny’s Amber books and his Jack of Shadows both written, I believe, after this novel. Zelazny does very little rationalization of the figures of Egyptian mythology he uses here: Osiris, Anubis, Set, Typhon, Thoth, Nephytha, and Isis. As far as I can tell from my limited research, Zelazny doesn’t use many of the traditional relationships or stories from Egyptian mythology. Anubis as lord of the dead is about it. But Egyptian mythology, evolving over time and from the collision between, and assimilation of, various cults, isn’t very consistent, and Zelazny may have been using stories I’m not familiar with. Zelazny seems to want a Manichean-like conflict mixed with the familial conflicts and the suppressed (or forgotten) memories found in his Amber series by using the more familiar Egyptian deities instead of Babylonian or Zorasterian ones. Osiris is life, Anubis is death. They control the Midworlds, and it’s not desirable either one prevail.

For awhile, it seemed Zelazny would be doing a riff on themes of overpopulation (a favorite of late sixties and early seventies sf writers. The planet Blis is vividly overpopulated, Osiris triumphant, but Zelazny drops all pretense of writing even a metaphorical book on the dangers of overpopulation. The novel’s second half is devoted to family conflicts and the familiar quest motif from fantasy, here for a magical wand, shoes, and glove. Zelazny throws in a lot of sf machinery from the first gripping part of the novel where Wakim (an amnesiac Set) is a subject of Anubis in the underworld and tortured in various ways. The House of the Dead contains five races of aliens and numerous cyborgs. Osiris and Anubis practice life and death control on the Middle Worlds. Why they should do this (self-motivation or administering for some other entity or entities) is unsaid. Their instrumentalities are so vaguely described or not rationalized at all that the Egyptian deities of this story are magical figures. Oh, there is some vague references to hyperdimensional space travel and time travel (Set and the Prince of a Thousand Names aka Thoth are both each others' father and son and the deities and other “angels” sometimes practice the art of tactical fugue (a retreat to the past to alter the former present/future), but the predominant tone of this book is as a fantasy.

Zelazny does throw in some elements from other mythologies. There is an explicit reference to the Minotaur and a figure that seems to be an unnamed Cerebus. The artisan Norns almost seem like they’re out of Norse mythology though I’ve never heard anywhere else of strange creatures demanding to be painfully mutilated so that they can see their work as the price of their services. Their sight is temporary since they’re democratic peers rip their eyes out. Zelazny created the Steel General, unkillable symbol of rebellion and struggle for the underdog, out of whole cloth. There is one bit of interesting sf speculation in the “Pleasure Comp” aka a “Dearabbey Machine”, a machine-human combination, human from the waist down. An intelligent computer, it will answer questions so long as it is sexually stimulated. This nifty bit of invention along with prostitutes who have brain implants so their bodies can make the proper moves after coins are inserted in a vending machine for sex, is covered in a two page chapter along with the wonderfully heretical religion of Saint Jakes the Mechanophile which posits man as “the sexual organ of the machine that created him”. Man exists to initiate mechanical evolution. When perfection is achieved, Man will undergo the “Great Castration”.

However, Zelanzy doesn’t do anymore with this notion than have a chapter where Horus has sex with such a machine to gain information. The novel has several witty philosophical discussions. Anubis and his servant Wakim debate the qualities defining life. Madiak the priest gives some hilarious prayers and benedictions carefully designed to cover all theistic positions. Typhon aka “the Abyss that is Skagganauk” almost seems to be a black hole at times, but he is clearly sentient and the story may be too early to use the concept.

I found the book exciting, very poetic (there are entire pages of verse) and fun, but, as a novel, it is pretty incoherent, even for the fixup novel it is. ( )
  RandyStafford | Sep 17, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Generations pass away and others go on,
since the time of the ancestors.
They that build buildings,
their places are no more,
What has been done with them?

I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef,
with whose sayings men speak so much,
What are their places now?

Their walls are crumbled,
their places are non-existent,
as if they had never been.

No one returns from there,
so that he might tell us their disposition,
that he might tell us how they are,
that he might still our hearts,
until we shall go to the place where they have gone.

Make holiday and weary not therein!
Behold, it is not given to a man
to take his property with him.
Behold, no one who goes can come back again.
--Harris 500, 6: 2-9
Comus enters with a Charming Rod in one hand, his Glass in the other; with him a rout of Monsters, headed like sundry sorts of wild Beasts. They come in making a riotous and unruly noise, with Torches in their hands.
--Milton
The Human Dress is forged Iron.
The Human Form a fiery Forge.
The Human Face a Furnace seal'd.
The Human Heart is hungry Gorge.
--Blake
Dedication
To Chip Delany, Just Because
First words
The man walks through his Thousandyear Eve in the House of the Dead.
Quotations
"Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to ensure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen."
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"To save his kingdom, Anubis, Lord of the Dead sends forth his servant on a mission of vengeance. At the same time, from The House of Life, Osiris sends forth his son, Horus, on the same mission to destroy utterly and forever The Prince Who Was a Thousand. But neither of these superhuman warriors is prepared for the strange and harrowing world of mortal life, and The Thing That Cries in the Night may well destroy not only their worlds, but all mankind"--Cover p. [4].… (more)

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