Roger Zelazny Douglas Barbour - Essay

Douglas Barbour

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

If there's one thing Roger Zelazny has always had it's a sense of style. Often that's all he's had, but there's no doubt he made his mark early in the sixties … partly on the basis of it. The Doors of His Face is a collection of short stories from 1963 to 1968, but it's a strange collection to say the least.

Oh, a few of the big ones are here: the now famous title story and the equally famous "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" especially…. Other good stories include "The Keys to December" (a story that owes much to Cordwainer Smith), "The Man Who Loved the Faioli," "This Moment of the Storm," and possibly "This Mortal Mountain" (I must say Zelazny has a knack for good titles) all of which generate a real sense of involvement on the reader's part. The rest, however, is filler: short shorts, many of which just don't deserve re-publication.

Many of the short shorts, such as "The Great Slow Kings," "A Museum Piece" (which proves to be an atrocious pun), and "The Monster and the Maiden," for starters, could have been dropped without regret and replaced, say, by the early "King Solomon's Ring" … and "For a Breath I Tarry," which I consider one of Zelazny's best ever. What kind of editorial policy kept these stories out?

If you're a true Zelazny fan this is a must, for it collects some of his better stories in hardcover, but if you're not, wait for the paperback—and hope he'll bring out a collection some day that will continually show him at his best. The man often is superficial (even "For a Breath I Tarry" could be considered all surface, but what a sparkling, moving, surface!) but he can write. In this collection, the longer, the true stories, reveal this to even the most sceptical reader; it's just that the shorter ones, the fluffy games, re-enforce that scepticism in all its force. Both Zelazny and his publisher should have known better. (p. 78)

Douglas Barbour, "New Asimov/Old Zelazny," in Riverside Quarterly (© 1973 by Leland Sapiro), Vol. 6, No. 1, August, 1973, pp. 77-8.∗