i just started re-reading the first amber books. as my favorite fantasy series, i re-read them every few years. each new reading brings me some new realization. this time around (and this may be too subjective to get across without talking about it for a long time) i feel like A) i’ve nailed down why i like the first series more than the second and B) Shadow is waaay more insubstantial than i first thought.
regarding A, because corwin’s understanding of the world is so limited (compared to merle’s when it comes to shadow, magical effects, sorcerers in general, the courts of chaos, powers like shapeshifting) there is a much more powerful feeling of mystery. that, along with my friend chris mccubbin’s (savvy) rant about the latter parts of the 2nd series being “too many marvels per page” sum up for me why i prefer the first series. (don’t get me wrong, though–i like the 2nd series too. just less so.)
regarding B, there are all these little one-liners here and there that imply that the ‘stuff’ rippling between amber and the courts is extremely malliable and very much influenced by all sorts of events. it ties in with why some of the amberites don’t care about shadow dwellers. this seems obvious, i know, but it’s the degree to which shadow is insubstantial and can be influenced that has taken me aback re-reading the series.
take for instance chapter IV in NPiA. random talks about the shadow creatures harassing him and says, “i moved the plane several times to subtract them but it didn’t work.” so these things are following him through shadow (obviously). he tries slightly different versions of the reality he’s in–one in which he is over our earth, that time of year, in a plane, heading over denver and most other details the same…he alters the world around him, switching to harmonic variations or something in which the shadow followers do not exist. however, they continue tracking him, moving along with him to those slightly alternate realities. they can manipulate shadow, at least to a degree that allows them to follow someone.
*then* in flora’s earth living room, a few pages later, random says, “there exists a probability that they will gain entrance. therefore they will enter.” i once used to chalk this up to him being cocky or fatalistic. now i see this as something stronger, supported by adding up all these little one liners that i am coming across on the subject. it now seems to me that he is saying that he could will himself to a slightly different reality without them, but because they can also warp shadow, they would continue to come.
note a bit later, the same thing: corwin, when the shadow beings knock on the door, says, “what about carmela (flora’s maid)?” flora responds with, “i have decided that it is improbable that she will answer the door.” random says, “but you don’t know what you’re up against.” and, as if to prove him right and flora wrong, random leaves the room and barely reaches carmela in time to stop her from answering the door. i used to see this as flora guessing about her servant’s behavior and simply being wrong. now it seems clear that more is going on (when all these things throughout the first 2 books are taken in toto). i think flora is attempting to alter reality so that carmela stays in her room, but the will of the shadow followers is stronger and instead reality is established so that carmela *does* go answer the door.
and this type of thing is done in lots of places. i would not mention it save that it happens over and over, and it’s a bigger deal than i previously thought.
damn, i’ve killed 30 minutes on writing this up. that’s 30 minutes i could have spent on Deus Ex. arg. crunch mode sucks. (but we really are getting close, btw.)