Great Opening Book
First rate job on the first book of the series which I read many years ago. The plot and sub-plots get more and more complex as things go forward, so it is going to be more and more difficult to do a good job in audio format.
Everyone I have ever met has the feeling that there is something more going on than they can concieve. This book begins a journey in the explaination of what that feeling may be about.
This ten book series is an old friend and the new narrator does it justice.
I was looking for a good series of books to listen to on car trips that are about 5-6 hours long and this series seemed perfect. Since it is a long series of books in a genre I love with pretty good reviews I picked up the first 2 books during one of Audible's promotions.
Now after having listened to the first book I regret owning the second. Unlike many of the positive reviews I read on this site I did not read the book long ago so my impression is not warped by nostalgia.
The characters have little depth, large events are rushed through, and the narration by Alessandro Juliani is mediocre at best. I found myself with no attachment to the main character Corwin and his other family members are equally uninteresting. Not enough information was ever given about Amber itself for me to care about who rules it so the story arc of Corwin trying to retake it held no suspense for me. Battles were rushed through with little detail and in the end I found myself just wanting the book to be over so I could spend my time listening to something better.
Alessandro Juliani wasn't horrible and he does do a variety of voices, but his narration as the main character Corwin is stiff and boring. It made it seem like Corwin cared as little about the outcome of the story as I did. I wouldn't shy away from other Juliani narrations though because I could tell that he has the talent to do a better job with different material.
So my advice would be to steer clear unless you have fond memories from having already read the book as those reviewers seem to be very satisfied with this offering.
I've been a fan of Roger Zelazny's Amber series since I discovered it decades ago, and was delighted to discover this new, unabridged adaptation of his masterwork. Alessandro Juliani does a great job as narrator, capturing Corwin's voice and personality well, and while some of his vocal choices for the rest of the family take a moment's getting used to, he manages to imbue each character with a distinctive voice and manner that draws you into the tale. Listening to the opening volume once more, I remember again why I was so drawn to this world, and can't wait to work my way through all ten books in the series. This one's definitely a must-have if you're an Amber fan, and if you're unfamiliar with the tales of the immortal city at the heart of all things, you're in for a treat.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The first person narrator of Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber (1970) wakes up in a hospital without knowing who he is or how he came to be there. He does know that he's been being kept in a drugged sleep, so he feigns unconsciousness, takes out a thuggish orderly, threatens the doctor in charge, and, finally learning from him that his "sister" checked him into the hospital, heads off in a taxi for her home in NY. Thus begins his quest for identity and memory, which occupies the first half of the novel. By concealing his amnesia, acting as if he's considering his next move in some game of power, and examining every clue, he soon learns that his name is Corwin, that he is a prince of a place called Amber ("the key to everything"), and that his Machiavellian kin (eight brothers and at least four sisters) feel little kinship for each other: "I'd get what I needed and take what I wanted, and I'd remember those who helped me and step on the rest. For this, I knew, was the law by which our family lived." But how can he return to Amber, and what is the family game that stranded him memoryless on earth?
I remembering loving the first Amber cycle when I was in high school, painfully waiting for the fifth book to be published in 1978 so I could find out how Corwin's saga ends. Revisiting Nine Princes of Amber thirty-five years later, I still find good things in it. Zelazny's conception of Amber as the only real place, the one true substance from which all other cities and worlds, including earth, are "but a reflection of a shadow," is intriguing, as is his depiction of traveling through the Shadow worlds by mentally adding and subtracting features till you arrive at Amber. He tells a page-turning story. His strategy of having Corwin reveal early on that he's telling his tale as he is about to die somehow somewhere in the future is neat. There are some nice lines, like "As I sailed into Shadow, a white bird of my desire came and sat upon my right shoulder." And as he exploits the internecine machinations of a dysfunctional super-powered family, Zelazny explores the ways in which hatred shapes the world, partly through the filter of the Vietnam War: "I walked among Shadows, and found a race of furry creatures, dark and clawed and fanged, reasonably man-like, and about as intelligent as a freshman in the high school of your choice--sorry, kids, but what I mean is they were loyal, devoted, honest, and too easily screwed by bastards like me and my brother."
Alas, today I can also see many warts on the novel. For example, despite loving the soldiers fighting and dying for him, despite invoking the horror of napalm and mushroom clouds, despite having participated in appalling campaigns like Napoleon's march on Moscow, and despite having come to care for other lives during his centuries of exile on earth, Corwin (and Zelazny) really do treat the quarter of a million plus casualties of the Amber game as anonymous, "custom-made cannon fodder," when a truly caring prince might try first to mentally dominate his nemesis so as to avoid war via one of the nifty tarot-like cards that serve the royalty of Amber as combination telephones and teleporters. Corwin's "guilt" feels crocodilian.
Another: Despite Amber being the only real realm, Corwin's allusions to people, events, and works from our "Shadow earth" (like "I suddenly realized that I had known the mad, sad, bad Vincent Van Gogh") so outnumber those from Amber's history that Zelazny evokes our own world more than he develops Amber. This is especially so when Corwin uses American slang and sexism from 1970. He refers to a nurse as "a hippy broad," says that he can or can't "dig" certain things, decides to "play it cool," invites a friend to "make the scene," and so on. Zelazny is grounding his fantasy with an "authentic" language and manner, but it causes some cringes.
As for gender, early on Corwin devotes a paragraph each to describe his brothers and himself, but only a single paragraph for his sisters, and he often wonders what happened to his father but not to his mother. Only men are fit to rule Amber, and the royal sisters are basically concubines of the fittest. Corwin even gets to indulge in a Captain Kirk-like interlude with a suitably bare-breasted and green-nippled undersea queen.
Finally, Zelazny's depiction of Corwin as a macho, sensitive warrior-bard, expert at martial and liberal arts, fluent in hip slang and Shakespearean English, possessed of superhuman strength and regenerative powers (no wonder he can chain smoke without getting cancer!), starts feeling like a nerdy adolescent's ultimate cool guy power fantasy (no wonder I loved these books in high school!). With the possible exception of Random, Corwin's siblings appear flat next to him.
The reader Allesandro Juliani, excellent with Solaris, is good here, but his light and casual voice make Corwin seem less substantial and charismatic than he could be, and his attempts to vocally distinguish the other eight brothers from each other begin to sound strained. He also tends to make female voices too high and weak.
Later entries in the Amber cycle may correct my kvetches, but to find out I'll dust off my high school days' Avon paperbacks rather than pay Audible for each of the four remaining five-hour novels (when a single 25-hour omnibus audiobook would have been nice).
Yes, I really liked the book a lot. I would like to finish the series; however, there are a lot of short books. When you have to buy 10 short books for the full price of 10 books the price is bad.
Great book, but for my book dollar I will move somewhere else.
I can't believe that THIS series was counted as one of my FAVORITE's for soooo long. Jeez. I JUST got book 1 ...with tons of trepidation. I have recently re-purchased a few books that I had put in that "Favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy Books of All Time" category ....which did NOT live up to expectations. Well, just add another one to the bunch. I am amazed. I realize NOW that this was a mild precursor to George RR Martin's series: very early soap opera (a feuding fantasy royal family dancing across magic space, etc.). Wow. Don't get me wrong. The first time I read George RR Martin's books I was amazed. I loved them. It was when I went to re-read them to get up to speed for Feast Of Crows... that I realized how much I disliked them. To this day I haven't read Feast Of Crows...although I do own it. LOL. All the soap opera elements: double-crossing EVERYONE, adultery, murder, etc. etc. ... while the fantasy elements are pushed into the background. At least the Amber series was VERY mild in that aspect (that's why it was a precursor). The magic is MORE present than the soap opera.... or at least they're running even-Steven. Anyway.
The character development is very thin. The story is extremely dialog driven (and it's TV dialog nonetheless). Etc. Etc. Wow. I was SUCH a sucker. Apparently I was.... easily satisfied and at that.... with FLUFF! LOL.
Alessandro Juliani, who narrated the first half of the series, from Corwin's pov, did a really good job of capturing the tone and attitude of Zelazny's writing.
Wil Wheaton, narrating the books from the pov of Merlin, son of Corwin, pick that up and also does a great job. I never have trouble distinguishing which character is speaking at any given moment, he remembers inflections and accents that he gives bit parts and keeps them consistent.
Zelzany's writing is always an interesting mix of whimsical, edgy, and inventive. Sometimes the descriptions of landscapes go on and on, but by and large this is a very enjoyable and original series.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a rich fantasy setting with all of the intrigues of genuine complex storytelling.
This recording is as good as the original by Zelazny himself.
Definitely a book that can be heard in one sitting but it's also good for multiple listenings.
In audio at last Alessandro Juliani reading is very good,let you known who talking thouthout the story!
Hear about this series many year ago just never got round to it first book is very good.