To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny

To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny is a 174-page science fiction novel originally published by Doubleday & Company in January of 1973. The book is actually the second in the Francis Sandow series–I guess I’ll have to read the rest of the series now! The book can stand alone, though, as it’s not *technically* a sequel. I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing any information about characters, plot, or setting. I read To Die in Italbar as a part of Vintage SciFi Month.

To Die in ItalbarThe story revolves around the journeys of a mysterious man called “H” who has a unique power that allows him to heal even the most terminal of illnesses. Another important point of view is that of Malacar Miles, a military man who is determined to find H to use the horrifying flipside of his healing power–the ability to spread diseases that H has contracted–in order to strike at Malacar’s old enemies. There is one female POV of note–a girl who works in a brothel but secretly idolizes the military prowess of Malacar and wishes to meet and help him take revenge on their mutual enemies. I loved her raw anger, but I can’t remember her name.

The story switches back and forth between points of view so often with no indication of who is the current POV that I was continuously just trying to figure out whose story I was reading. This is in part because four of the main characters are all relatively similar male points of view. What kept me going was the overarching plot and divine nature of H’s gift and the fact that he waivered back and forth between periods of healing and periods of diseasing people near him.

I also really enjoyed Malacar’s plotline. There was a deep political background to the novel through Malacar’s history of war with a planetary alliance that overtaxed and refused to accept his planet as a part of that alliance. His story grounded the otherwise fantasy-like tale of H. Malacar also had a friend of an alien race named Shind that had telepathic powers and was just truly fascinating. I would have been happy to read an entire book about Shind, who helped to give Malacar a little emotional depth.

The resolution of the novel tied up all the loose ends that I didn’t think Zelazny would even bother with. It was a bit surprising but completely satisfying. The cameo by Francis Sandow intrigued me enough to want to read Isle of the Dead (Francis Sandow #1). Sandow is a planet builder, and his story reminded me a bit of the Magratheans from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is one of my favorite space-faring series.

To Die In Italbar was a quick read, although I originally only read 10 pages before putting it down. Vintage SciFi Month encouraged me to reread those pages and finish the book. I’m glad I did, because it was seriously intriguing! This was the first book I’ve read by Zelazny, and I’ll definitely be picking up more books by him. I’d recommend this novel to fans of sci-fi and fantasy that has military and religious overtones.

TITLE: To Die in Italbar
———————————————
AUTHORRoger Zelazny
———————————————
PAGES: 174
———————————————
ALSO WROTE: Chronicles of Amber, Lord of Light
———————————————
FIRST LINE: On the night he had chosen months before, Malacar Miles crossed the street numbered seven, passing beneath the glow-globe he had damaged during the day.

 

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is a 369 page science fiction novel by Andy Weir. It was originally self published, then picked up for publication by Crown in February of 2014.

The MartianThe book begins with Mark Watney writing in his log that while his team (of astronauts on Mars) thought he died in a windstorm, he actually survived and now is living alone on Mars. As an engineer and botanist, Mark devises many different ways to extend his survival on Mars–all the while trying to figure out how to contact his team or Earth, both of whom believe him to be dead and his mission to be scrapped. The plot revolves around his triumphs and failures on Mars and his ingenuity as a lonely man and only resident Martian. More

Doodling by Jonathon Gould

Doodling

I was completely drawn in by this cover, it’s both dark and bright, and uses excellent colors. It makes it onto the top of my list of favorite covers, which is why I thought I would include such a big picture of it.

I don’t usually use quotes, but the beginning of this story so well introduces itself that I thought I would include it…

Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is about Neville, a man who has fallen off the earth and is looking for a new home in an asteroid field. He finds many strange people on the asteroids, including a group of people who worship toasters, some cyclists who are endlessly racing, and two party people, who drink dust in champagne bottles.

This book was pretty short — I don’t really know how short, because Kindle only has ‘locations’ and not pages. The plot of the story was very enjoyable, and of course the setting (space) made it all the better. I read it in one sitting, and I wouldn’t recommend it any other way. It’s a quick read and it is very fun.

Like Jonathan Gould suggests, I definitely felt a Hitchhiker’s Guide vibe from this book.  A quick romp through space is something everyone can (or should) enjoy. I highly recommend looking into buying and reading this book.