The Amber Series Critical Essays

Roger Zelazny


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The concept of parallel worlds is common in fantastic literature. Isaac Asimov used this idea in The End of Eternity (1955), though his method was science fictional rather than magical. C. S. Lewis created an alternate world in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), a series of children’s fantasies with an overt Christian message. More recently, Stephen King embarked on an alternate world epic, the Dark Tower series, begun in 1982 and incorporating elements of horror.

Perhaps the most unusual concept in the Amber series is the ability of some of the characters not only to travel freely among the alternate worlds but also to create new ones in the process. When a prince of Amber travels through shadows, he does so by changing reality bit by bit. The characters speak various languages and have various identities in the worlds they choose to inhabit.

It is also possible for a shadow walker to bring materials from one world into another. In Amber, gunpowder is useless. Corwin, however, discovers that in the shadow world of Avalon, there is a type of jeweler’s rouge that is benign in that world (and contemporary Earth) but highly explosive in Amber. He travels to a shadow world much like Earth except that South Africa has not been colonized by Europeans. There, he easily collects uncut diamonds, which he uses in the Europe of contemporary Earth to buy automatic weapons. He then has these weapons loaded with bullets propelled by the material from Avalon. With these weapons, he...

(The entire section is 620 words.)