Completed 12/25/2015, Reviewed 12/31/2015
This is a short novel about time travel. It is represented by a highway with exits and entrances that get you to and from the time you want to visit. Only a few people have access to this highway each century. One such person is Red Dorakeen. He’s being hunted by assassins while trying to find his destiny. The plot for the assassins is a little thin, but provide a decent framework for understanding the highway and meeting a cast of strange and sometimes humorous secondary characters along the way.
This is the second novel of Zelazny’s I’ve read where he plays with form. Unlike “Lord of Light” where our English professor let the class in on the timeline of the chapters before we read it, I had to figure this one out. All the chapters are labeled Two or One. The One chapters follows Red fairly linearly. The Two chapters are about all the secondary characters who also have come upon the highway. They usually have something to do with Red, but not always directly. And these chapters are not necessarily linear, reflecting how you can get off and on the time travel highway wherever you want.
Red being the main character is the most fleshed-out. With a cigar always clenched between his teeth, he travels the highway in a pick-up truck with a book and a robot as travelling companions. The book is an artificial intelligence with its own distinct personality and powers, helping navigate their truck and even changing its shape when needed. The robot was left on earth by an alien species when the robot proved defective, residing in a monastery making pottery. Together, they work to elude and overcome the assassins.
All the secondary characters remind me a bit of “A Night in the Lonesome October” though a little more interesting. I especially liked the knight from the crusades who much preferred washing windshields to war. Though the randomness of the chapters labeled Two make for a confusing start, it all comes together by the end and eventually it all makes sense. This book is primarily about having fun with a really interesting premise. I give this book four stars out of five. It’s solidly enjoyable. It’s another book which makes me realize that while I don’t think he always wrote the kind of novels that move me emotionally (I’ve only given Zelazny one five star rating), he had a great imagination and produced consistently fantastical, entertaining, and experimental science fiction.