The Changing Land by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm a huge Zelazny fan, and have most of his books, apart from a few of the very obscure ones. This is neither one of my favourites nor one of his best-known ones, but I have read it several times. The most recent re-read was because someone critiquing one of my short stories was reminded of it, and suggested I could read it for inspiration.
Reading it with a critical eye, I remember why it's one of the lesser Zelaznys. A lot of the description is blow-by-blow action, which goes on rather too long. The frequent bizarre transformations are deliberately meaningless, manifestations of a mad god. The overall feel is leaning towards Jack Vance, in terms of an abundance of characters with no redeeming features, and that's far from my favourite part of sword-and-sorcery. The main character's motivation is revenge, and even though he takes the time to rescue some people - there are some decent characters in the book, and he is arguably one - he has a lot of flaws and darkness in his makeup too.
Unusually for the time and for Zelazny, this book contains a couple of gay characters, though both of them die without first receiving any character development to speak of. There are two women, one an innocent who functions mainly as a damsel in distress (despite being, on the face of it, a competent adventurer), and one being an oversexed, underdressed, and rather cruel enchantress. I wish I could say that this was unusual for Zelazny, but it's not.
Zelazny's strength was always in exuberant and original worldbuilding, and that's certainly on display here, though not without a few familiar tropes from the sorcery part of sword-and-sorcery. A flawed book, far from his best, but not without its enjoyable features.
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