Lord Demon - Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold (1999)

Roger Zelazny is one of the towering greats in the speculative fiction arena, and while Lord Demon is not his finest work (most folks would vote for Amber or maybe Lord of Light) it is nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, in it the old master shows that he was on top of his game up until his death in 1995.

Yes, he died before the book was released. It was a collaboration completed by Jane Lindskold, as was another Zelazny book, Donnerjack and it is a high compliment that it is difficult if not impossible to identify which parts are Zelazny and which Lindskold. (Except for one internal reference to Amber which I'd guess was Lindskold.)

The setting and plot are classic Zelazny. Our hero, Kai Wren, a demon of the Chinese style is beset by unknown enemies for unknown reasons and must adventure across varied fantastic landscapes trying to discover who is trying to do what and why. This is a paranoid setup familiar to Zelazny readers. Once again, though, he manages to craft a phenomenally engrossing story with an inviting background and delightful characters. He weaves Chinese history and mythology into a science-fictional/fantasy setting in a way that seems perfectly natural and, in context, believable and rational. The invention that Zelazny brought to his work apparently came from an inexhaustable source. There are throwaway ideas in this book that others would try to stretch to novel length. In the hands of most writers, this would be a trilogy, and it is a tribute to Zelazny's skill that one almost wishes it was. The world of Kai Wren, Lord Demon, is compelling enough to make you want to spend more time in it.

Overall Grade: A-

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