Fred Cassidy is a normal student – as normal as Zelazny’s characters can be. His uncle provided him with good money for college until he graduates if he maintains a full-time status, so no wonder that guy does everything not to. He was successful avoiding finishing the college for eighteen years changing majors just in time before he fulfills a graduation requirement for a particular department. Currently he has a problem as his is about to run out of classes offered. Fred also likes walking on the roofs of tall buildings (later he managed to outdo himself by climbing famous Sydney Opera House). In short, he is a pretty normal average student (yeah, right!).
One night his former adviser broke into his apartment and tried to beat him up – for no apparent reason. It gets much weirder after this. Sufficient to say it is easy to see the influence of Alice in Wonderland on this novel – Zelazny himself did not deny it and even used some quotes from the classic book (“curiousier and curiousier”).
I forgot to mention, the narration is not exactly straightforward but for people that has not read the book (and why have not you done this, especially if you are a fan of science fiction, I might ask) I will not spoil it. It is somewhat disorienting, but in this case it works perfectly fine.
My review can be summarized in two following sentences. Have you even wanted to read Alice in Wonderland in science fiction settings? This is the book you have been waiting for. The former heavily inspired the latter, but this one is not a retelling.
The novel has to be experienced as my words fail to make it justice. If I tell you the events of the first half of the book after about the second chapter you would think I made it up – after I took some very potent mind-altering drugs. How is about an extra-terrestrial kangaroo?
And what do you think about a telepathic donkey?
I will not tell anything more related to the content, but I will tell that it takes a high level Master of Science Fiction to make this work and Zelazny was one. Surprisingly everything starts to make sense in the second half – kind of.
Fred is in a rabbit hole – relatively speaking. Add to this trademarked Zelazny’s humor in both situations and dialog. The story is fast-paced and never drags – considering its relatively short size and a great number of ideas it contains, it simply cannot afford to be slow.
The novel was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula, at the time when these awards meant something. I cannot recommend it enough for fans of Science Fiction; even fans of Fantasy owe it to themselves to take a look at it. It is also more fun to read this one in a group as some things could be overlooked during the first time.
My special thanks to Carol
for organizing the group read. It was (and still is) fun.