I picked up this book by Roger Zelazny while looking for other sci-fi at a local used book store. The version I have has a terrible cover right out of the artistically challenged 1970’s. What is it about that period that produced such awful art in every field? But as the saying goes, don’t judge it by it’s cover. This is a great book of short stories that I came into with great scepticism. I don’t read just anybody, I like references. Wolfe led me to Borges and John. C. Wright, Phillip Dick and Jack Vance.
I was looking for something else that has escaped me, when instead the Zelazny book found me instead. He is an artful writer, sort of like Vance without all the artifice. In some sense it reminded me of Vance’s Dying Earth and by extension Wolfe’s Torturer books. But Zelazny has an interesting since of humor, and whereas Vance’s Dying Earth seems to have nothing but scoundrels in it, Dilvish exudes a certain nobility in his action and motivation.
Since these stories were not written into a coherent whole, there are large gaps in the action and what happened has to be pieced together, but I like that. The style rings more true to life, where we lack information and have to guess at what is going on around us. Looking at the book I expected a lot of stuff about hell and demons and things, but really it doesn’t get much of a treatment. Dilvish was sent to hell for a few centuries by an evil wizard but has somehow escaped (we aren’t told how) and is now out for revenge. The entire series of episodes is in some sense his quest to find his tormentor. The opening pages made me think that I was in store for some over the top, quasi-Medieval romance with absurd language and unbelievable characters, but the stories get better as they go. This is light fare, but entertaining, and skillfully done.