Roger Zelazny Spider Robinson - Essay

Spider Robinson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Last Defender of Camelot is subtitled simply, "A Collection By Roger Zelazny." The generally accepted definition of a "story" is a fiction in which one or more characters are faced with a problem and strive to solve it. By this definition, less than half of the 16 pieces in TLDoC are stories. Most are anecdotes, or situations, or conceits, which are economically sketched and left standing there…. Cute situations, but not stories. Nobody grows, no problem is solved or even attacked. Call them prose poems. If you agree that the situation is interesting or the conceit elegant—or if you simply enjoy the way Zelazny strings words together—you enjoy the piece.

I report that I enjoyed all 16, and I have a tendency to prefer story to non-story. My particular favorites were the original novella versions of "He Who Shapes" (Nebula winner) and "Damnation Alley," both superior to the books they later became, "For a Breath I Tarry," "The Game of Blood and Dust," and the title story…. If you already own both The Dream Master and Damnation Alley, you own 54 percent of this book.

But if you don't own copies of all five favorites I cited, or "Halfjack" or "The Engine at Heartspring's Center," you would be well advised to look this one up. (pp. 166-67)

Spider Robinson, "The Reference Library: 'The Last Defender of Camelot'" (copyright © 1981 by Davis Publications, Inc.; reprinted by permission of the author), in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vol. 101, No. 3, March 2, 1981, pp. 166-67.