This was my second attempt at reading Zelazny, and although I enjoyed this one more than the last one, I am beginning to think that Zelazny's style just doesn't agree with me.
The best way that I can think to describe it is that I feel like I'm seeing the events of the story out of the corner of my eye, that I can never quite get the full picture. We're given hints, references to puzzle out, dialogue that both reveals and obscures, and a narration that is restrained and secretive. Everything is parceled out in small increments of info... a hint here, a clue there, which matches the fact that most of the characters are also figuring it out, but there is knowledge and history that our narrator has but doesn't share with us. At the same time, we're just thrown into it and expected to either sink or swim, get it or don't, or just go with it and hope it makes sense by the end.
This is really frustrating for me, because I want to be drawn into the story and live in it a little while and just enjoy it for what it is. But Zelazny's style, in both this story and the previous one I read, requires the reader's having external knowledge in order to understand what's going on. The previous one required quite a bit of classical Greek history and mythology knowledge, and this one requires quite a bit of classic mystery and/or horror and lore knowledge as well. If one is not a classic reader, they will not get or understand many of the references here. And there are MANY, MANY references to be found. I have read many of the classics referred to, and I still felt like... well, like I could only see part of the picture.
I'm sure that this kind of style works for a lot of people, especially those who like to puzzle things out and find those little Easter Eggs and such. And usually, I am that type. I like stories that don't give up all of their secrets all at once, that allow you to find something new with each reading. It's one of the things that I loved about the Harry Potter series, seeing all the mythological and historical references and figuring them out and trying to see if they signified anything that was to come in the main storyline. But the difference, at least as I see it, is that even if one didn't see those references at all in Harry Potter, there was a story to be enjoyed anyway. The characters were well developed on their own, the history was provided, and we knew what was going on, and the storyline made sense without needing to know that Albus means "white", etc. In a story like Harry Potter, those references are like the edible glitter on top of the icing of a cake. They add depth and something special... but without them, you still have a damn delicious cake.
I don't feel like that was the case here. I got quite a lot of the references, because I HAVE read many of the books hinted at, and have at least a semi-passing knowledge of other types of lore, but I know that were I to have more knowledge, I would have enjoyed this story more. I have nothing against Zelazny, but I do feel like he kind of has an "ideal audience" in mind for his stories. I'm just probably not in it.
Anyway, I did like this story, after I hit the halfway mark and the chapters got longer than 1 or 2 pages. I did like the references to the classics, and enjoyed the overall concept itself. I liked the Lovecraftian feel of the Things and the slitherers, and the 'through the stones' section. I liked how the mystery kept building up, but I would have liked for the resolution to be more complete and explained.
Overall, I thought the story was good, but I would have liked it to be more fleshed out as a whole. I'm glad that I read it, it's a good Halloweenish story, but giving a bit more background and filler knowledge would have benefited it, I think.
Horror October 2011: #6