Egyptian gods fighting in space. That’s what this weird little book is about. I wouldn’t call it a novel – the story isn’t comprehensible enough for that – but more of an extended prose poem, or even a collection of prose poems.
When I say that, what I mean is that we’re dealing with some very good writing here. Lots of literary fireworks. Zelazny does that thing where you have a long sentence that forms its own paragraph, with clauses separated by semicolons. Some chapters are written in actual poetry and the conclusion is written like a play. The book’s fantastic/futuristic setting affords Zelazny many opportunities for bizarre imagery, and he generally takes these opportunities.
Didn’t get much sense of a plot, though. Far as I can make out, Anubis trains a champion to restore order to the galaxy, and the champion makes an honest fist of it. He goes to a planet bursting with babies, watches a man commit suicide at a carnival, meets up with a tough nurse and later on it turns out that he’s Set. There’s also a verbose poet running about, three quarreling craftspeople arguing about pins, and Yahweh might be hiding in the backstory. To be honest, I would have put this book through a lot more editing before publishing it. The general vibe of awesome incomprehensibility put me in mind of some of Grant Morrison’s comics.
We don’t get so much in the way of characterisation, but we do get some very well-done character sketches. One character, the Steel General, stands out. At times a cyborg and others a normal meat-man, he is a weirdo who plays banjos and always supports the losing side in any war. And his horse has eight diamond hooves.
You can make your own decision whether or not you should read this book based on the above review. For myself, I’ll just boast that the edition I read may have been published as early as 1970. Only cost two dollars, as well.