from the
Amber novels
Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny

This page:
Nine Princes in Amber
The Guns of Avalon
Sign of the Unicorn
The Hand of Oberon
The Courts of Chaos



index pages:

Nine Princes in Amber

Copyright © 1970 by Roger Zelazny


“Personal feelings don’t make for good politics, legal decisions, or business deals.”


“Wishes, wishes,” I told him. “Wish in one hand and do something else in the other, and squeeze them both and see which comes true.”


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. I felt like the dee-jay of your choice.

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The Guns of Avalon

Copyright © 1972 by Roger Zelazny

III In the mirrors of the many judgments, my hands are the color of blood. I am a part of the evil which exists to oppose other evils. I destroy Melkins when I find them, and on that Great Day of which prophets speak but in which they do not truely believe, on that day when the world is completely cleansed of evil, then I, too, will go down into darkness, swallowing curses. Perhaps even sooner than that, I now judge. But whatever . . . Until that time, I shall not wash my hands nor let them hang useless.

“Free his hands. We’ll feed him.”

“But he tried to steal from us.”

“Did you not say that you had once killed a man for a pair of shoes?”

“Yes, but that was different.”

“How so?”

“I got away with it.”


“Never trust a relative. It is far worse than trusting strangers. With a stranger there is a possibility that you might be safe.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?”


“Yourself included?”

I smiled.

“Of course it does not apply to me. I am the soul of honor, kindness, mercy, and goodness. Trust me in all things.”

VIII The graveyards are filled with men who thought they could not be replaced.
IX They were overjoyed at my return. It little mattered that five years earlier I had sent the cream of their manhood off to die in a strange land. The gods are not to be questioned, but loved, honored, and obeyed. They were quite disappointed that I only wanted a few hundred. I had to turn away thousands of volunteers. The morality of it did not especially trouble me this time. One way of looking at it might be that by employing this group I was seeing to it that the others had not died in vain. Of course I did not look at it that way, but I enjoy exercises in sophistry. I suppose I might also consider them mercenaries being paid in spiritual coin. What difference did it make whether they fought for money or for a belief? I was capable of supplying either one when I needed troops.

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Sign of the Unicorn

Copyright © 1975 by Roger Zelazny
Copyright © 1974, 1975 by Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation

I Of troubles I considered myself amply possessed. But those who have do seem to get. Some spiritual form of compound interest, I suppose.
VII I have been locked away on a number of occasions, for various periods of time. But solitary, plus blindness with small hope of recovery, made for a big charge to the sensory-deprivation counter in the department store of the mind. That, with a sense of finality to it all, had left its marks. I generally keep these memories safely tucked away during waking hours, but at night, sometimes, they come loose, dance down the aisles and frolic round the notions counter, one, two, three.
VIII A prince of Amber can hardly invoke the brotherhood of man for purposes of moral condemnation. At least not with a straight face, and it hurt too much to laugh just then.

“But I wonder . . . I’ve a peculiar feeling that I may never see you again. It is as if I were one of those minor characters in a melodrama who gets shuffled offstage without ever learning how things turn out.”

“I can appreciate the feeling,” I said. “My own role sometimes makes me want to strangle the author.”


“As you say. Silence beats a chamber pot in Amber.”

“How’s that?”

“ ’Tis gilt, m’lord, like a royal flush.”

X While solipsism does tend to leave one slightly embarrassed on questions of etiology, one can easily avoid the embarrassment by refusing to admit the validity of the questions.



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The Hand of Oberon

Copyright © 1976 by Roger Zelazny


“Good evening, Roger. How are things in the nether world?”

“A rat, a bat, a spider. Nothing much else astir. Peaceful.”

“You enjoy this duty?”

He nodded.

“I am writing a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity. I work on those parts down here.”

“Fitting, fitting,” I said. “I’ll be needing a lantern.”

He took one from the rack, brought it to flame from his candle.

“Will it have a happy ending?” I inquired.

He shrugged.

“I’ll be happy.”

“I mean, does good triumph and hero bed heroine? Or do you kill everybody off?”

“That’s hardly fair,” he said.

“Never mind. Maybe I’ll read it one day.”

“Maybe,” he said.



XI And what did I want? A chance to find out what was right and a chance to act on it! I laughed. Who is ever granted the first, let alone the second of these? A workable approximation of truth, then. That would be enough. . . . And a chance to swing my blade a few times in the right direction: The highest compensation I could receive from a one o’clock world for the changes wrought since noon.

“You have good reason to hate him,” I said, “and the answer to your question is ‘yes.’ The hunting season is open. I see no way to deal with him other than to destroy him. I hated him myself for so long as he remained an abstraction. But—now—it is different. Yes, he must be killed. But do not let that hatred be your baptism into our company. There has been too much of it among us.”




“If I had wanted more than I have, I knew what to do. I did not do it.”

“I wish . . . I wish that some time, long ago, something had not been said that was said, or something done that was not done. Something, had we known, which might have let him grow differently, something which would have seen him become another man than the bitter, bent thing I saw up there. It is best now if he is dead. But it is a waste of something that might have been.”
There is always a reason. Whenever anything has been mucked up, whenever anything outrageous happens, there is a reason for it. You still have a mucked-up, outrageous situation on your hands, however, and explaining it does not alleviate it one bit.

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The Courts of Chaos

Copyright © 1978 by Roger Zelazny


“One needs to fix one’s vision firmly on the Absolute and learn to ignore the mirages, the illusions, the fake sense of identity which sets one apart as a false island of consciousness.”

“I had a fake identity once. It helped me a lot in becoming the absolute that I am now—me.”

“No, that’s fake, too.”

“Then the me that may exist tomorrow will thank me for it, as I do that other.”

“You are missing the point. That you will be fake, too.”


“Because it will still be full of those desires and strivings that set you apart from the Absolute.”

“What is wrong with that?”

“You remain alone in a world of strangers, the world of phenomena.”

“I like being alone. I am quite fond of myself. I like phenomena, too.”

“Yet the Absolute will always be there, calling to you, causing unrest.”

“Good, then there is no need to hurry. But yes, I see what you mean. It takes the form of ideals. Everyone has a few. If you are saying that I should pursue them, I agree with you.”

“No, they are distortions of the Absolute, and what you are talking about is more striving.”

“That is correct.”

“I can see that you have a lot to unlearn.”

“If you are talking about my vulgar instinct for survival, forget it.”

“I have had a long life, Hugi. You insult me by assuming I have never considered these footnotes to sophomore philosophy. The fact that you find consensus reality barren tells me more about you than it does about that state of affairs. To wit, if you believe what you say I feel sorry for you, in that you must for some inexplicable reason be here desiring and striving to influence this false ego of mine rather than free of such nonsense and on your way to your Absolute. If you do not believe it, then it tells me that you have been sent to hinder and discourage me, in which case you are wasting your time.”

Hugi made a gargling noise. Then: “You are not so blind that you deny the Absolute, the beginning and end of everything?”

“It is not indispensable to a liberal education.”

“You admit the possibility?”

“Perhaps I know it better than you, bird. The ego, as I see it, exists at an intermediate stage between rationality and reflex existence. Blotting it out is a retreat, though. If you come from that Absolute—of a self-canceling All—why do you wish to go back home? Do you so despise yourself that you fear mirrors? Why not make the trip worthwhile? Develop. Learn. Live. If you have been sent on a journey why do you wish to cop out and run back to your point of departure? Or did your Absolute make a mistake in sending something of your caliber? Admit that possibility and that is the end of the news.”




I might have told her that I do not recognize rules when my life is at stake, or that I do not consider war a game. I could have said a great number of things, but if she did not know them already or did not choose to understand them, they would not have made a bit of difference. Besides, her feelings were already plain.

So I simply said one of the great rite truths: “There is generally more than one side to a story.”

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