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The Road runs from the unimaginable past to the far future, and those who travel it have access to the turnoffs leading to all times and places--even to the alternate time-streams of histories that never happened. Why the Dragons of Bel'kwinith made the Road--or who they are--no one knows. But the Road has always been there and for those who know how to find it, it always will be!

185 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1979

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About the author

Roger Zelazny

691 books3,455 followers
Roger Zelazny made his name with a group of novellas which demonstrated just how intense an emotional charge could be generated by the stock imagery of sf; the most famous of these is A Rose for Ecclesiastes in which a poet struggles to convince dying and sterile Martians that life is worth continuing. Zelazny continued to write excellent short stories throughout his career. Most of his novels deal, one way or another, with tricksters and mythology, often with rogues who become gods, like Sam in Lord of Light, who reinvents Buddhism as a vehicle for political subversion on a colony planet.

The fantasy sequence The Amber Chronicles, which started with Nine Princes in Amber, deals with the ruling family of a Platonic realm at the metaphysical heart of things, who can slide, trickster-like through realities, and their wars with each other and the related ruling house of Chaos. Zelazny never entirely fulfilled his early promise—who could?—but he and his work were much loved, and a potent influence on such younger writers as George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman.

He won the Nebula award three times (out of 14 nominations) and the Hugo award six times (out of 14 nominations). His papers are housed at the Albin O. Khun Library of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).


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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
March 3, 2018
3.5 stars. Full review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Roadmarks is a fragmented, experimental type of SF novel, tied together by a Road (with a capital R) that leads to all times and places and alternative timestreams in our world’s history, for those who know how to navigate it (a certain German named Adolph briefly pops up in an early chapter, eternally searching for the timeline where he won). The other constant is the character of Red Dorakeen, who has been traveling the Road for years, trying to find something, or somewhen. Sometimes he’s in company with Leila, a woman with precognitive talents. He’s also generally accompanied by one of two sentient AIs in the form of books, called Leaves (of Grass) and Flowers (of Evil) (Les Fleurs du Mal).

But life has gotten more complicated for Red since he had a falling out with his old partner Chadwick for some reason. Now Chadwick has paid ten highly skilled assassins ― known as the “black decade” ― to kill Red, hunting him down through space and time. Meanwhile, a young man called Randy Dorakeen is also on the Road, led there by a copy of Leaves of Grass, which introduces itself to him (“I am a microdot computer array”) and lures him onto the Road in search of his unknown father. And then there are the time-traveling dragons of Bel’kwinith, who originally made the Road …

In what frankly struck me as a rather gimmicky move by Roger Zelazny, the chapters of Roadmarks are all titled either One or Two; the first chapter is called “Two” and they alternate from there. The One chapters are linear and relate Red’s ongoing adventures. The Twos, about his would-be assassins and other characters that Red meets up with on the Road, are nonlinear and almost completely random. Zelazny told the story that he put all of the Two chapters on pieces of paper, shuffled them up and simply inserted them into his draft of the book in that order, although he admitted that his publisher eventually convinced him to put at least a few of these chapters in an order that made a little more sense.

Like the other two experimental novels I’ve read by Zelazny in recent months, A Night in the Lonesome October and Doorways in the Sand, Roadmarks is essentially one big mental puzzle, where Zelazny is hiding the ball from the reader on exactly what’s going on until you get quite deep into the novel. To get any real enjoyment out of these quirky and rather humorous novels, you just have to be on board with that approach and roll with it. For Roadmarks I had an entire page of notes that I took on each chapter of the book, just to try to keep all of the players and moving parts straight in my mind. It was definitely a challenging mental exercise!

The concept of the time-traveling Road is very much like that in Peter Clines‘s latest book, Paradox Bound; in fact, I think Clines owes Zelazny a rather large tip of the hat. The kaleidoscopic and non-linear nature of Roadmarks can be fairly confusing, though, and in the end I found it not as intrinsically appealing as A Night in the Lonesome October. But the many colorful characters ― both fictional (some, like Doc Savage, borrowed from pulp novels) and historical ― and Zelazny’s sheer inventiveness are impressive. Roadmarks strikes me as the type of novel that may improve greatly on reread, and at less than 200 pages, I’m sure I’ll be tempted to give it another shot sometime.

Feb. 2018 buddy read with the Zelazny group. Thanks to Evgeny (who formed the Roger Zelazny Newbies group and urges us on) and the buddy read gang!
July 9, 2020
Actual rating: 3.3999999 stars.

🎓 A Soon to Be Seasoned Newbs Zelaznian Buddy Read (StBSNZBR™) with Evgeny, aka the Malevolent Instigator and Cunning Culprit (MIaCC™), Choko, aka My Dearest of Wives (MDoW™) and Tadiana, aka the Stealthy Buddy Reader (SBR™) 🎓

I am currently feeling a little uninspired, a teensy little bit sluggish, a tad lethargic, and kinda sorta narcoleptic, too. Don't say I didn't warn you and stuff.

What do the Marquis de Sade, a Road, a Tyrannosaurus rex, Babylon, The Flowers of Evil, a killing machine, Leaves of Grass, touchy AIs, dragons and the Battle of Marathon have in common? Me Nothing. Except this book, that is. Except Roger Zelazny, that is. Not sure what the guy smoked when he wrote his books, but it must have been high quality stuff. I've only read three of his novels so far, but let me tell you, my Little Barnacles, Sci-Fi/Fantasy doesn't get much more creative and imaginative than this. Much like my other Wacky God Tom Holt, Zelazny's books might be hit or miss, but the unpredictably eccentric is always strong in his stories. And that is quite glorious indeed, if you ask me. You know what that means, don't you? Yep, that's right, time to dance and stuff!

I'm the hot-looking, hips suavely-swaying, blue leotard-wearing babe in the center, in case you were wondering.

You know what is really scrumptious? Zelazny is deliciously evil. He likes nothing better than to befuddle, bemuse, confuse, and generally mystify his poor readers. And to make them feel like complete morons. Which makes me think he must be related to Glen Cook somehow. Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's God Cook's third cousin thrice removed or something. But anyway. Zelazny, being the Machiavellian schemer that he is, developed a Cunningly Devious Stratagem (CDS™) to keep his readership's decaying grey cells on their toes and stuff (what? You didn't know grey cells had toes? You really are abysmally clueless, my Tiny Decapods). It usually goes something like this:

1. Take a bunch of seemingly unrelated events and characters.
2. Throw them in a nuclear explosion-proof shaker (don't ask).
3. Hand said shaker over to a rabid barnacle in heat (this is important) to ensure maximum agitation.
4. Randomly empty the contents of the shaker in a Magic Story-Holding Device (MSHD™). The technical term for said device might be "book," but I'm not sure.
5. Gleefully watch your readership get most beautifully puzzled, perplexed and baffled.
6. Exclaim "Tada! Mission accomplished! And stuff!"

Sooooooo, Roadmarks. Let's see, what do we have here? A Road. I kid you not. I bet this comes as a huge surprise to you, and that you would never have guessed it based on the title of the book alone. But anyway. So there's a Road. And there are exits. The Road, being a Road and not a road, enables you to travel through time. And to change, um, you know, stuff. Want to visit my Neolithic (if slightly nefarious) ancestors in the Marianas Trench? Sure, no problem, you can do that. Just don't forget to pack your diving mask and snorkel and cement shoes (to ensure maximum buoyancy). Want to go all Girl Power Chicks Rule and Stuff (GPCRaS™) on Henry VIII and chop his little head off, just to see how he likes it? Feel free. Just don't forget to let me know when you do it. I have a rarely used guillotine in storage and have been wanting to test it on a misogynist scumbag for ages. Oh, one thing before you go on the Off With His Lovely Little Head Field Trip (HWHLLHFT™): the Road exits change when History is altered, so try not to get lost and stuff. It would be most inconvenient. Then again maybe not. Anyway, that Road thing is pretty awesome. And, needless to say, I have put a few villainous plans in motion as soon as I learned of its existence. The crustaceans' exoskeletons are positively pulsating in anticipation. You, however, might want to shudder in fear at the thought of what I might have in store for puny humans.

Yes, the name in question is mine. Duh and stuff.

Sorry, what? You're wondering what the fish this story is about? How would I know? It's not like I read the book or anything. Anyway, since I'm feeling uncharacteristically generous and compassionate and stuff today, I had a quick look at other—more informative, but revoltingly shrimpless—reviews and here is what I found out: so there's the Road, and there's a guy called Red. There's also a chick called Leila. And another one named Strangulana, who sounded deliriously delicious but was only around for a few paragraphs which sucks and is a total rip off and I am the reviewer who mentioned this is not amused and stuff. The story alternates between chapters One and Two. There are books (not this one. Not that I know of, anyway. But I could be wrong. Or not) that masquerade as AIs. Or is it AIs that masquerade as books? I forgot. One thing is sure, they are easily pissed off. The books, not the IAs, I mean. Then again it might be the IAs, not the books. Or vice versa. Or not. Follow me so far?

You look a little confused. Or did you eat something that didn't sit right with you?

There is also a bunch of assassins who are, you know, trying to assassinate someone and stuff. There are no chapter ten or fifty-eight or twenty thousand and half, by the way. Just, you know chapters One and Two. And I was told those who cherish their sanity should not to inquire about this, just so you know. There's a guy called Randy. Oh, and it seems Red (not Randy) is looking for something. Don't ask me what it is because I have the reviewer who mentioned it has no bloody shrimping idea. And neither does Randy Red. There are fantastically sophisticated death machines. Oh, and Leila is also looking for something, by the way. No bloody stinking fishing idea what it is, either. Because what would be the fun in that? There is stuff about my—very distant—cousin Rasputin (I inherited my beard from his side of the family). And stuff about extrudable claws that come in very handy when trying to disembowel a man with a single swipe. The shrimps were slightly ecstatic when they heard about that, obviously.

That's kids for you. Sigh and smh and stuff.

That's pretty much all I could extract from other reviews. Doesn't make much sense does it? To think the people I stole this stuff from call themselves "reviewers." They really have no shame, if you ask me. I'm fairly certain I would have done a much better job of recapping the story, had I read the book. But I didn't, so I didn't.

Now you might wonder why (sorry, what? Am I nearly finished, you ask? Yes, I am almost done, you impatient flock of rude, pesky arthropods). Where were we? Oh yes, you were about to wonder why I didn't give this book I didn't read a higher rating. That's because a) it is delightfully disjointed and bloody shrimping original and stuff, but it wasn't as fantabuliciously wacky and nonsensical and hilarious as Doorways in the Sand, b) the ending was a surprise but the Disappointing Meh Blah Oh That's That Then (DMBOTTT™) kind and c) there are no raisins in this story. QED and stuff.

➽ And the moral of this Soldier On the Zelazny Newbies Mercenaries Shall and Endeavor to Read Another Exotically Bewildering Tale of His They Most Assuredly Will Crappy Non Review (SOtZNMSaEtRAEBToHTMAWCNR™) is: don't ask me, I didn't read the book. Obviously.

[Pre-review nonsense]

Know how to rate this I do not. Like the book very much I did. Quite wondrous the premise is. But not quite as glorious as I expected the story proved to be. And kinda sorta disappointing the ending was. Now ponder over this most troubling experience I must. A deliriously painful ordeal undoubtedly this will be.

➽ Full Evgeny I Think I Read the Book Wrong Will You Pretty Please Unfriend Me Now I Obviously Deserve It and Stuff Crappy Non Review (EITIRtBWWYPPUMNIODIaSCNR™) to come.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,178 reviews2,570 followers
February 8, 2018
*** 4.65 ***

A Buddy Read with the Roger Zelazny Newbies Group, where people like me are in the process of discovering his greatness!!!

Wow! This is only the second book by this author I have picked up and I know I love him already! He is smart, he is quirky, he is subtly eloquent, and he has a river of imagination... Or a never ending rode of it with potential for infinite possibilities:) Just like the Rode he is writing about in the Roadmarks, published first in 1979. The Road is a place some are born with an affinity to and stumble upon it in one point in life. It is a way to travel not only in time, but also in alternative possibilities and with every alteration a new time line with its own exit on the road is created. Those lines which are most established keep their exits easily traveled, while the others which are not so popular fade and loose the easy way to them... Very few travel this Rode and it spans all the history and future of the World.

"..."“Sorry. I got carried away. It’s a romantic life you lead. Where are you from, originally?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I can’t find my way back. Once it was on the main drag, I think, then it became a byroad probably, then it just disappeared into the misty places which are no longer history. I guess I just waited too long to begin looking. Got occupied. It’s not even legend anymore.”..."

Yes, it is a Time Travel Novel centered on two characters, Red and Randy with the star of the show being the Road itself, but in its essence, this is a novel of self-awareness and finding out who and what you are, where do you belong, and what gives us reason to go on. Does it matter if we know what the end is that our journey takes us and what would we do to in order to fit in our own place and skin... All of this is packaged in a very minimalistic, initially disjointed seeming and at times completely ridiculous story of a guy who has had an assassination hit put on him for a big reward and bunch of hitmen try their hand at it. There is a martial arts battle between two such masters of the assassination craft, which had me rolling with laughter at its absurdity!!!

"..."“Well, I take it we are here for the same purpose, You can go home now, I don’t need any help.”
“We are not here for the same purpose.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I look upon this job as my own. Your presence, through no fault of your own, offends me. Therefore, I must bid you depart and leave this matter in my hands.”
Archie chuckled.
“It’s silly to argue over who kills him.”
“I am glad you think so. I will bid you good night, then, and be about the thing.”
“That is not what I meant.”
“What, then?”
“I have my orders. I have even been conditioned to hate the man. No, the job is mine. You go your way. It will be done.”
“Alas I cannot. With me, it is a matter of honor.”
“Do you think you are the only one who might feel that way?”
“Not any longer.”..."

I know that this style of writing is not of everyone's liking and I understand, but for me, this is the type of writing which tickles your brain and makes it feel awake and alive. It makes you question, speculate and at the end usually proves you completely wrong, because RZ is always going to come up with something you are just not prepared to expect. I loved the characters, I loved the concept and I loved the Artificial Intelligence Units with an attitude:):):) I am very happy to be on the exploration Road of his work and looking foreword to more of it!!!

Now I wish you All Happy Reading and may you always find what you Need in the pages of a Good Book!!!
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,634 reviews5,007 followers
December 30, 2015
"I foresaw this reaction. I can't convince someone else of the existence of a version of reality that is temporarily my subjective vision."
is "Reality" what you make it? I guess it depends on who you ask and how their reality is working for them.

there's a man named Red who travels down the Road. the Road can lead to all places, all times. the man has a goal but he's not sure what that goal is. unfortunately for Red, someone is out to get him and they've hired 10 assassins to get the job done. but is it really so unfortunate? this is a tricky book and Red is an equally tricky protagonist.

Zelazny puts all of his themes and a whole lot of characters and philosophies and amusing trifles and mysterious back stories and intriguing possibilities into a petite novel clocking in at 185 breezy pages. the author knows how to juggle a whole lot of different balls, that's clear. and he does it in a way that makes it look so easy and fun. mind-boggling mysteries are hinted at, dropped, picked up again, and solved with a minimum of fuss. Zelazny is a master juggler and he wants his audience to have as good a time as he's having, and if he can pull a heart string or two, all the better. that said, this is a minor novel, and often feels half-baked in its execution despite the richness of its ideas. well maybe not "half-baked"... it's just more of a snack than a whole meal. who doesn't like snacks?

as always, his cheeky humor is also on display. and who doesn't like cheeky humor? there's a lot of things to like about this trippy little adventure tale. plus it has time traveling dragons!
The tyrannosaurus grunted several times. The dragon laughed and caressed him.

"He's not much on brains," she confided. "But what a body!"
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,862 reviews1,897 followers
February 22, 2021
Solid three-star effort to use the Amber/Shadow idea in a different way. Characters were flat, uninteresting puppets, which is a major disappointment in a Zelazny book. This man created Corwin and Brand! He can do better men than this, though his women are always this uninteresting. I suspect he was uninterested in them in a general sense. When the book stops, the story feels as though it wanted to keep going so I wonder what else is hiding in his papers.

Now his worshipful pal George RR Martin is executive producing an HBO series created by Kalinda Vasquez based on the book. Given how little I liked Nightflyers after he participated in adapting it for SyFy (and will they please undo that idiotic piece of misbranding already), I'm not expecting his name-cachet to spell much more than "access to the C-suite washrooms" does.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,479 reviews941 followers
October 9, 2014

We are on the Road. It traverses time - Time past. Time to come, Time that could have been and Time that might yet be. It goes on forever, so far as I know, and no one knows all of its turnings. If the man you seek is the death driven man I once accompanied, we may find him somewhere along it, for his was the traveler's blood that allows a man to take these routes.

I wonder how they managed, back in the seventies, to write such wide ranging and far reaching adventures in less than 200 pages, filled with so much invention and speculation that you can hardly find today in the pages of doorstopper trilogies that need three or more thousand pages to tell a similar story. Are we so shallow that we sneer at thin volumes, believing we are not getting our money's worth, so publishers and writers alike feel pressed to offer us mostly bloated epics? I know I am exaggerating and simplifying the issue, but I am simply in awe at how much Zelazny can say with so few words, at his range of emotions, going from mawkish sentimentality to sarcastic humour by way of western style shootouts and even some Godzilla style rampage.

The premise is not too complicated: Red Dorakeen is a man who has travelled back and forth in time along the Road in his battered Dodge pick-up. He's done this for so long that he has forgotten where he came from originally. Not everybody can find the Road and travel on it, but Red, like other journeyers of his ilk, has been born to it. Something in his blood allows him to see the exits and to follow them to alternate realities where the Greeks may lose the battle of Marathon or the Crusaders are still entrenched in the Holy Land. Red tries to alter the outcomes by smuggling modern arms or technology to the side he favors, hoping he might change the reality back to the one he originated in.

I have been up and down that damned Road from Neolithic to C Thirty. I have followed every side road, footpath and rabbit run along the way. I am known in a thousand lands by different names. Yet in none of them have I found what I sought, what we seek. Is it worth it? Is it worth wasting your life looking when you can have your choice of times and places, go anywhere, do anything you want?

He is trying to make sense of his life, of his destiny, but he has a slight problem. A former partner has put out a contract on him:

"Vendetta is what I call it. My enemy gets ten shots at me without interference. If they all miss, he's supposed to quit. It's kind of a game. Last night was the first."
"Can't you hit back?"
"Sure. If I knew where to look. In the meantime, I'd better run. The Road is long. The game can take a lifetime. Always does, in fact, one way or another."

Right here's another typical Zelazny touch : the story is always more than appears at first glance. Instead of the entertaining adventure romp of being chased across parallel universes by Shaolin monks, angry robots, sensual black widow type female assassins, gangsta thugs or monsters from the Paleozoic, the quest becomes an existential one, a search for the meaning of life, a parable of life as a journey. Red Dorakeen's travels become a fundamental restlessness that cannot accept a static and predictable present, no matter how comfortable and tranquil it may be. He will always hear and answer to the call of the unknown, to the dangers and thrills of the chase. ( Even if there were nothing special I were seeking, even then ... I'd just get restless.)

The Road has always been here, and those of us who can travel it always have. The world goes on, the Road goes on - from creation to destruction, amen, for all you know.

In keeping with the time travel theme, the structure of the novel is non-linear, we meet the characters first old, then young, we have events take place out of sequence, an assassin fails in his attack then we see how he was recruited, and so on. Yet, it all makes sense in the end. The details accumulate and point out to an explanation of sorts, to a final revelation, to an ultimate duel on the highway - in a place appropriately marked with a roadsign: "Last Exit To Babylon".

More than the intellectual challenge of making sense of a twisted tale, the charm of the novel relies on the wacky characters and their unconventional dialogues, on meeting historical or fictional characters along the Road, like the Marquis de Sade or Ambrose Bierce. My favorites are the two artificial intelligences that serve a similar role in the plot to the infamous HAL computer from Arthur C Clarke's Space Odyssey, or like that iPhone application that uses voice to give you answers to quizzes. In Zelazny's novel, these two A.I.'s are portable and have a mind of their own, which they like to express at length in sarcastic comments. 'Flowers' and 'Leaves' are awakened volumes of poetry, always ready with a quote at appropriate or inappropriate moments, either from Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, or respectively from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. If you need more convincing regarding the A.I., there's cybersex of a sorts when ...

Zelazny has always been elusive when it comes to pin him down to one category or another of speculative fiction. I get the feeling that for him all the definitions and artificial borders between science-fiction and fantasy were irrelevant. Imagination will run where it will, unhampered by genre conventions. So I was not surprised to see some dragons by the side of the Road:

Dreaming roadmaps and gold, the great dragons of Bel'kwinith drift and twists on the breezes of the morning, when they were not dreaming in their caves. Timeless collaborators with destiny, they move their wills across the landscape of dream and desire ...

A roadtrip novel needs some music to while away the distances, so I have a couple of suggestions, mostly blues oriented:

- Robert Johnson - Hellhound On My Trail, I Believe I'll Dust My Broom, Crossroads Blues, Travelling Riverside Blues & more
- The Travelling Wilburys - End of the Line & more
- J J Cale - Magnolia & more
- Van Morrison - Moondance & more

One of the last lines in the novel makes me feel that Zelazny also knew what the blues is all about:

"The miles ticked inside him like years."
Roadmarks may not be the best novel in the author's catalogue, but it is still well above average and thought provoking. And fun! One of the characters exclaims at one point, regarding the main hero Red Dorakeen:

Does reality always seem a little out of step around him?

I could ask the same question pointing out at Roger Zelazny and my answer would be : Who cares? I'm just glad to be here for the ride!
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,895 reviews10.5k followers
October 3, 2010
Okay. I liked this one but I'm not exactly sure what actually happened.

The Road is a highway (or system of connected highways) that connects the future, the past, what might have been, and what still may be. Red Dorakeen is traveling the Road in his blue pickup,searching for something but not precisely sure what. He remembers being an old man and aging in reverse (Take that, Benjamin Button!), along with his experiences with a woman named Leila with a similar affliction. A black decade has been declared and Red's enemy gets to make ten attempts on his life. In another time and place, Randy Carthage finds a talking copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and finds his own way to the Road...

Roadmarks was pretty entertaining. The chapters alternate between Red's adventure, Randy, and Red's enemies. Red encounters historical figures as well as those who are ficticious, at our point on the Road, anyway, like Doc Savage.

Not my favorite Zelazny but still more engaging than most books written these day. Besides, it's 200 easy readin' pages. Now go out to your local used bookstore and get it!
Profile Image for Eilonwy.
814 reviews203 followers
February 27, 2018
How to describe this book, especially without spoilers?

[looooong pause, crickets chirp in the background, the sun comes up, the crickets get bored and fall asleep; a few small snores break the silence]

The story opens with a very short chapter numbered Tw0. It’s followed by chapter One (equally short). It proceeds to continue this way, alternating “Two” and “One” as it follows seemingly random people doing random things in who-knows-where kinds of places (the Twos), and a guy named Red Dorakeen who travels the Road, a highway through time past, present (whatever that means in this situation), and future. Typical of a Zelazny book, some kind of puzzle is happening around Red. But what? And will any of the clues given actually steer the reader to the correct conclusion? (Ha, of course they won’t!)

One thing I’m starting to love in Zelazny (aside from the amazing sheer creativity of his plots) is how even the minor/sidekick characters have strong personalities and their own stories. This book introduced me to “Flowers” and “Leaves,” who both charmed and delighted me (especially Flowers.) I’ll never look at a book quite the same way again (and people who have read this book will read that sentence one way, while everyone else will read it a different way).

This particular book will stand as the one where I discovered that Evgeny and I have Kent State in common. :-) Go Flashes.

So, if I’ve both confused you and intrigued you with this review (especially the confused you part), my mission here is done! Bwahahahah.

But seriously, this was a quick and very fun book. Thanks again to Evgeny and the rest of the Roger Zalazny Newbies group for kicking me into reading this at long last.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,023 followers
November 6, 2018
Nov2018 Review I've been on a Zelazny kick, rereading several of my old favorites. This, like so many of his books, only gets better each time I read it. It straddles/wanders/jogs all over the various speculative fiction genre lines as sentient machines speak to dragons & magic vies with technology. Unique characters deal with those from history, myth, & popular literature all in a tangled web that only Zelazny could pull off.

Apr2014 Review (ebook): Can't find an ebook version on here & not sure where this one came from. Oh well, I've got a paperback copy here & have given away a dozen more, so I guess this bit of 'piracy' is OK. The publisher should port this to ebook format ASAP. I keep a few old favorites on my device for those times when I need to start a new book during lunch or have a particularly rough day & need a comfort read. This is definitely one.

I like it better each time I read it, too. It makes far more sense after the first read, like so many of Zelazny's books, so I can concentrate more on the variety of flavors. Even knowing the ending doesn't hurt.

Aug2009 Review (paper): Another novel done in a very unique way. The book is broken into chapters (I & II) which are really time lines Of Red, the hero, & the rest of the cast, respectively. The few who can travel 'the road' through time & various realities. Supposedly, Zelazny wrote both sections linearly & then tossed the #2 chapters into the air & stuck them in between chapter 1 sections in random fashion. It makes the time flow really work.

Interesting characters are met along the way. Some are quite recognizable, others less so. Some time investigating them is worthwhile. Nothing ever seems to be quite what you think. The plot isn't very complex, although it is somewhat convoluted & the style typically understated. Another long, strange trip...

Fantastic. Well worth the re-read. As usual, now that I know the story, I can spend more time recognizing subtle clues, puns & obscure references. It's not as much of a treasure hunt as "Lonesome October", but it has its moments.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,143 reviews100 followers
December 4, 2021
Like much of Zelazny's work, Roadmarks is a bit mystifying, more intriguing than entertaining. A puzzle with the clues scattered about haphazardly. While a deliberately opaque narrative can be frustrating I didn't get the sense that Zelazny was attempting to keep the reader in the dark for its own sake so much as he was trying to put one in the shoes of the protagonist, wandering the road that stretches through time on a journey of self discovery, with its shifting on and off ramps and forks representing alterations in the fabric of time and history. It's a journey filled with quirky characters and unexpected twists.

The narration on the recently produced audiobook version I listened to was truly excellent as well. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy for review.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,805 followers
February 2, 2010
Another book I read years ago and wore out. I wish I could find a copy of this one. What a fanciful take on time travel and existence. I suppose it was (again) back in the 70s that I read this one the first time. Even though I have a couple of good used book stores I frequent, i never see it. That's a good recommendation in itself, no one lets go of it.
Profile Image for Mitticus.
986 reviews209 followers
June 24, 2016
Popsugar Challenge 2016: (#36) Un viaje por carretera.

Caminante no hay camino
se hace camino al andar

(Antonio Machado)


Donde sabemos que: -hay un camino
-el tiempo no es lineal
- Zelazny parece que andaba en la misma fiesta fumandose lo mismo que ese señor de la autopista galáctica (publicaron el mismo año)
-O sea igual te dejan marcando ocupado o como sea con muchas interrogantes
-O sea que Zelazny debe estarse riéndose de todos los giles que todavia estan tratando de hallarle un sentido más profundo a la mansa volá que se mandó.

Eso es lo que pasa durante uno de los 'experimentos literarios' de uno de los mejores escritores del género, cuando se le ocurrió marcar como Uno todos los capitulos en que aparece Red Dorakeen el protagonista de la historia. Y como Dos los capitulos en que aparecen todo el resto de personajes, a quienes repartió como cartas entremedio de sus Uno (con eso de que el tiempo no es estrictamente lineal, ven) , saltandose y dejandote a ti tratando de ver de que va la historia mezcla de misterio , fantasia, y ciencia ficcion.

Esta carretera que va por todos los siglos, que contiene muchos senderos olvidados, es recorrido por cantidad de viajeros que andan, pues, en busca de algo... dinosaurios, robots, una sarta de personajes históricos, templarios y AI con alma de libros de poesia.

¿Y Dorakeen? Busca lo de todos, creo: se busca a sí mismo.

Tal vez con un pequeño desvio llevando un contrabando de armas a las Termopilas...

Eso si logra esta vez vencer a sus asesinos.

Red Dorakeen permaneció en silencio algunos instantes. Luego se echó a reír.
—La muerte —dijo— se sentirá por cierto desconcertada si no tarda en cruzarse conmigo. Dirá: "¿Qué hace este hombre en la Atenas de Temístocles cuando tiene otra cita conmigo en la última salida a Babilonia?"
Su sólido cuerpo se sacudió cuando volvió a reír. Luego exhaló humo y levantó el brazo derecho en un ademán de burlona despedida.


Como es usual en sus libros, siempre hay implicancias de seres casi dioses, y si le rebuscan algo de mitologico en este caso.

O tal vez sea como dice Flores:

Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 185 books2,513 followers
February 13, 2017
Already sadly half-forgotten, Roger Zelazny was one of the best science fiction/fantasy writers in the generation that came after the golden era greats like Asimov, Heinlein, Wyndham and Clarke. He often wrote in a science fiction - fantasy crossover known unimaginatively as science fantasy, which seems to have almost disappeared as a genre - and why it can be so good is demonstrated masterfully his short novel Roadmarks. It's science fantasy in that it operates like science fiction, with logical, science-based content providing the setting, but it contains a couple of off-the-wall elements that don't have any scientific basis. Arguably, the one area science fantasy has flourished is in superhero stories - but Zelazny's are far more interesting.

Although Zelazny is probably best remembered for his highly entertaining Amber fantasy series, Roadmarks is significantly more sophisticated in its approach. To begin with it's not totally clear what is going on - in a good way. You just have to go with the flow as you go from chapter 2 to chapter 1, then the next chapter 2. Objects and people seem to change without reason - but all will become clear in what is one of the best time travel stories I know. Interestingly, time travel really doesn't play much of an active part in the story, despite being the backbone of its setting. The way it is used is wonderfully casual - at one point, for example, we meet an ex-crusader making a living by washing car windscreens.

The book's one flaw is something that dogs much of Zelazny's work (and may be why he wrote with co-authors so frequently) - he appears to have been rather a quick and dirty writer. It feels like he dashed off a book, then wanted to get onto the next project. I frequently complain that books are too long, but this one could have been a bit longer. The ending for example, though effective, seems rushed. The whole thing could have done with just a little more work. But that doesn't stop it being a gem of the genre. Rereading it for the first time in 20 or more years has inspired me to go out and hunt up some more vintage Zelazny - he was, without doubt, a master of the craft.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 12 books1,266 followers
February 1, 2019
I'll take any excuse I can to read another book by sci-fi "New Age" author Roger Zelazny, who had a long career but is mostly known for his head-tripping cross-genre exercises of the 1970s; so while recently researching Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and learning that Zelazny once wrote a novel in which this poetry book was combined with an AI computer to become a self-sentient creature, I decided "what the hell" and checked that book out of the library at the same time, 1979's Roadmarks.

The book's been almost entirely forgotten at this point, and for good reason -- clocking in at only 180 pages and entirely taking place in just one location, it's fair to call this one of Zelazny's minor works, and people new to him should gravitate instead towards his major classics like Lord of Light or the "Amber" series. But still, this was a fun little read, a gently comedic time-traveling actioner that will remind many of Tim Powers, entirely set along a highway that stretches from the beginning of human existence to the end, and with various drivers from differing parts of history who have found their way there through various obscure metaphysical means. (The sentient books, including not only Leaves of Grass but Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil, are inventions from the future that have themselves found their way onto the "Road," essentially personal assistants but with the snippy, wisecracking personalities of KITT from Knightrider.) Our particular story, then, follows one such full-time driver of the Road, an arms dealer who purchases weapons from the future and delivers them to armies from the past, who learns that a former business partner has taken out a futuristic hit contract on him, and must learn why and how to get out of it alive.

Zelazny has a lot of fun here with world-building, presenting a Road that's equally populated by horse-drawn wagons and sonic-booming bullet cars, and presenting a theory of time traveling in which the most important moments in history have fully paved exit ramps complete with fast-food joints and motels, but that through the manipulation of Roadsters always have the danger of turning into obscure moments in history, whose off-ramps become weed-covered dirt tracks that barely anyone even remembers are still there. It isn't exactly an easy book to track down (Amazon isn't even currently selling a Kindle version), but a pretty fun little read if you ever happen to come across it at a used bookstore or yard sale. I recommend doing so if you ever have the chance, but don't beat yourself up trying to get your hands on a copy.
Profile Image for fantasy fiction is everything.
188 reviews113 followers
June 27, 2022
Since I've read Amber, I was impressed by Roger Zelazny's imaginations. Scarcely I've seen a fantasy and Sci-Fi writer can display various ideas in each fantasy book. Always render to readers novelty experiences of original secondary world, even now is not 20 century I still hardly find any fantasy writers could match his/her imaginations to Roger Zelazny! Therefore, most of time I think the stories by Roger Zelazny are always too short because The length of each fantasy books by Roger Zelazny are less 200 pages but the grant setting could explore more than a few pages.
Roadmarks is about the road has many possibilities to create a peculiar world and it would leave a mark for someone else to find or relocate. Dragons in Roadmarks like the road creators (kind of), not very specifically detail what those dragons can do. Each chapters just one and two, yes, that's confusing me at first, however it's really unexpectedly interesting, our protagonist, Red drove a car and carried a talking book called Flowers on the road, the whole chapter one is about him. On the other hand, chapter 2 seems randomly narrate other characters on the roads. For regular fantasy readers, it's hard to find the center plot in Roadmarks. I think readers just browse those chapters and see what kind of interesting things happened in the novel and enjoy. No need to figure out what the story actually happen. Roadmarks is kind of experimental SFF book for readers, but the idea is really terrific, still nowadays, Roadmarks could still be highly imaginative SFF compared to other Roger Zelazny's books.
Profile Image for Azumi.
236 reviews166 followers
October 20, 2016
Este libro es una ida de olla, y como tal me lo he tomado, porque ha llegado un momento en la historia en el que no me estaba enterando de lo que me estaban contando. Supongo que Zelazny sí tenía bien claro en su cabeza lo que estaba contando (o no...xd) pero yo directamente me he liado.

La forma propuesta de viajar en el tiempo me ha gustado mucho: Esa carretera con gente yendo y viniendo, con gasolineras, bares e incluso hostales, y todos esos caminos y senderos que llevan o bien al pasado, o al futuro, o a lo que podría haber sido y no fue, o a lo que puede llegar a ser, me ha parecido genial.

La forma de estructurar los capítulos también es muy original, se titulan todos o bien "uno" o bien "dos" y se van alternando, pero todo ello tiene una razón.

No te da tiempo a pillarle cariño a los personajes, aparecen bastantes y son todos muy pintorescos pero yo me quedo con los libros inteligentes y parlantes *--*

Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
October 17, 2013
I mean it: spoiler city ahead.

This is one of Zelazny's more cryptic works and I seem to like it more each time I read it. It's structured in a way that requires attention in order to gain comprehension and I wonder if it influenced the structure of Use of Weapons? Reading it twice makes it all pretty clear if one doesn't quite get it first time round.


See the complete review here:

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ola G.
403 reviews26 followers
September 28, 2020
9/10 stars

The full review can be found on my blog here.

Roadmarks’ original title was “The Last Exit to Babylon”, but the publisher declined it, so it became a part of the cover illustration instead. One of the best-known novels by Zelazny, Roadmarks is a rather short and seemingly unprepossessing, ending in less than 200 pages. As do most of Zelazny’s books, one might add ;). Roger Zelazny, as befits a poet, was a great believer in succinctness. Forget 700-pages bricks in hardcover, suitable mostly for beating somebody to death with them. If you want to read his works you will need to be content with stories tightly bound in a very limited amount of choice words.

The structure of this book is somewhat baffling at first – it starts with chapter “Two”, followed by “One” and then by another “Two”, and so on, right to the end. The names of the chapters have nothing to do with chronological order, they are just two perspectives on the events happening in this book: “One” follows the fate of the main protagonist, Red Dorakeen, while “Two” shows us jumbled in time vignettes of other Roadmarks characters: from Randy, Red’s son, through a bunch of all-time assassins, to a left-over alien killing machine currently engaged in the art of pottery, and finally to dragons. Apparently Zelazny wrote all “Twos” and then shuffled them and inserted each between the chronologically structured “Ones” in this new, chaotic way. It was supposed to serve as a physical reminder that on the Road there’s no such thing as timeline – whether successful or not, that is the reader’s decision.

But what is this novel really about? I’d say it’s a slightly atypical road trip plot, both literally and metaphorically: it’s about one’s growth and change through experience. It’ also about one’s roots: Zelazny’s favorite, all-pervading theme of relations between a father and a son, the lost-father figure, the question of one’s forgotten or unknown past – they’re also here.

It’s a slightly melancholy book; a poetic paean to the American roads, clean and empty and never-ending; to the horizon, always being tantalizingly close, but yet ever out of reach; to the multitude of choices, seen as the roads converging and diverging from the nexuses – the people making each choice, the moments in time when each choice is made. It’s build of short impressions, alternated with broad, impressive visions of different pasts and futures. The Road becomes much more than just a setting – it becomes a way of life, a worldview, a message.

But Roadmarks is also funny. There are many moments ranging from humorous to ironic, to outright absurd, such as de Sade breaking out to take control over a live, full-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex, or a fight between two of the assassins, ensuing to determine which of them will get the chance to personally kill Red. At the same time Zelazny’s novel can be poignant – full of cameos of people still looking for the right past, for their own, more friendly place in some alternate reality.

That said, I closed the book with a sense of something missing. I wanted a conclusion to Red’s story; instead I got, very much like in life, only a part of it. A promise of future, a glass half full. It has to be enough now, as Zelazny’s not gonna write anything else, but one can always wish for a more complete ending ;).
Profile Image for Alazzar.
261 reviews24 followers
January 19, 2014
I could start this review by talking about how Zelazny’s creativity never ceases to amaze me, but I’m pretty sure I say that in all of my Zelazny book reviews. So I won’t say it here.

(But know that I’m thinking it. I’m thinking it hard.)

This book is one of those that will suck you in with its solid 1-2 punch of premise + cover art: time is represented by a highway where exits can take you to various historical moments spanning over past and future centuries.

Now, look at the cover of the book. See the beaten-up blue pickup driving down the desert road with the “Last Exit to Babylon” sign, think of the premise, and tell me you’re not interested in reading the book. You can’t do it.

Because it would make you a liar.

As with any Zelazny book, the premise alone isn’t all you get. Yeah, it’s about traveling through time in a rusty old pickup on a desert road, but it’s also about dragons and robots and assassins, greed and revenge and searching for a purpose. There may even be a little magic along the way, if you play your trumps right.

Oh, and don’t forget that Zelazny loved to experiment with form—you’ll get some of that here, too: chapters alternate between “One” and “Two,” where the “One” chapters follow the main character (Red Dorakeen), while the “Two” chapters follow supporting characters. When Zelazny wrote the book, he said that the order of the “Two” chapters was so irrelevant (remember, we’re on a road where time essentially means nothing) that he shuffled up all the “Two” chapters and randomly placed them between the “One” chapters. How awesome is that?

Overall, Roadmarks was a swell book, but there was just something that kept it from being top-tier Zelazny in my eyes—not exactly sure what that something was, though. I mean, if you asked me to list my complaints about the book, I couldn’t do it; and yet I just wasn’t quite as into this book as I was some of his other masterpieces. Though from what I gather, it gets better every time you read it, so maybe in the future I’ll be upgrading this to a 5-star story.

Update (01/18/2014): Just read the book for a second time, and I'm still not sure if I should bump it to 5 stars or not. I feel like the book was even more enjoyable than before, but I may just be telling myself that because I've got a friend who really loves it and his enthusiasm is infectious.

What the hell, it's Zelazny--of course he gets the fifth-star bump.
Profile Image for Jim.
389 reviews283 followers
December 26, 2019
What a strange and intriguing read!

I was never certain what was going on, but I kept turning pages to get to the next part for more of that uncertainty... brilliant!

Essentially, a meditation on the possibilities of having access to the time-space continuum in the form of a road. Zelazny reveals just enough of the rules of the road to keep our interest. Exotic characters, strange vendettas, and stranger transformations... entertaining from start to finish.

Comic bonus: The Marquis de Sade as guest writer for a creative writing course....
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,587 reviews125 followers
January 4, 2022
One of my all-time favourite books from one of my all-time favourite authors. There is something about Zelazny's writing that is completely addictive to me and while I loved every book of his that I encountered as a kid, I always felt that this one was my favourite (at least until he wrote A Night in the Lonesome October)

Anyhow, our first chapters are with one Red Dorakeen, traveling the road as he has for as long as he can remember, in a pickup truck with a sentient microarray computer (disguised as a book) as his only companion. This is our introduction to The Road and it does an amazing job of it. Next we go to somewhere in America, where one day at the end of a university term/semester/year Randy Blake in a nostalgic moment picks up the book that is the only possession of his father that he owns. The father left before knowing Randy's mother was pregnant and he has always wondered about him. Noticing for the first time that various passages are underlined, he starts reading them aloud and activates the microarray book, which then takes him to The Road in search of Red Dorakeen, who might be his father. It is a very fun quest style story, with assassination attempts making it a true adventure and the diversity of the Road and it's inhabitants making it a story that could have gone on forever as far as I was concerned. Though the ending is as perfect as an ending can be - I do wish there was more.

It is such a clever, diverse book - as an adult I get so much more out of it. SO much more; my knowledge of history, philosophy, religions and literature as a teen was patchy, I did not get a fifth of the references that Zelazny draws upon and I am pretty sure I don't even get all of them today. Not that you need to get the references to enjoy the story, you can just cruise, knowing there is always more beneath the surface than you realise (much like life) but at least today I know the Greeks did win the battle of Marathon, a detail that I was never sure about as a teen. Roadmarks stands out for me from Zelazny's earlier work in that while in previous novels he sourced individual mythologies (such as Egyptian mythology in Creatures of Light and Darkness or Navajo in Eye of Cat) The Road gave him the perfect opportunity to throw in anything and everything he was interested in from any mythology, any history and then invent his own as well. And I love it thoroughly and enjoy it as much as ever every time I re-read it.

As an adult I am a bit surprised that of all the books he won awards for, he does not seem to have won any for this book. The writing in Roadmarks is lighter and flows better than some of his earlier books, where it can be a little cumbersome at times, the theme is delightful: I mean, come ON, who would not like to travel this road, which stretches as far into the past as you can imagine, as far into the future as is possible. A road where you can visit every branch of any history you can imagine and if the one you imagine is not there you can tinker with history until you MAKE it be there.... This concept first my imagination as a teenager and it still fires it every time I read this book, decades later. Take that Nebula Award (not that I have anything against Ursula K. Le Guin who won that year, but who remembers The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia the novel she won with?).

Well. Enough rambling, wonderful book. Happy to make it the last book of 2021, may it herald a better year in 2022.

31 reviews5 followers
December 4, 2010
Amber in miniature. We have a gifted caste who can traverse the multiverse, but the multiverse is smaller -- world history plus some alt-history forks; the talent is inherited, but the dynastics are reduced to a single father-son deal. Characters diffidently want to kill each other for no very clearly defined reason, and abruptly stop wanting to kill each other and make equally diffident alliances; nobody really has anything resembling an emotional history. 20th-century American idiom, attitudes and technology are juxtaposed against fantasy/historical fiction tropes, but the latter are never treated very closely. And there's a conception of plot arc in there, somewhere, but the actual plot just sort of shambles randomly along on three legs.

And it's pretty short, so things feel rather hurried. There are lots of cool ideas and cool scenes, but they don't hang together much.
Profile Image for Richard Guion.
498 reviews45 followers
December 5, 2011
Amazing book, playing with time in a very clever way. When the first chapter was titled TWO I looked to see if my book was damaged! Thankfully Jim's review cleared that up. I loved how time was consistent in the ONE chapters and the character of Red has all the Zelazny trademarks. Loved the references to famous poets and the Marquis de Sade was a hoot and a holler. I read this in a single day and encourage anyone to do the same, it will help keep track of the characters. After I finished I immediately went back thru the other chapters to piece things together.
Author 46 books76 followers
September 14, 2022
Zelaznyho jsem v mládí žral – a není divu. Bizarní nápady kombinované s civilními postavami. Střet a patosu a obyčejnosti, hlášky a dravý děj. Co chtít víc? Ale léty jsme se nějak odcizili, strašně dlouho jsem ho nečetl a teprve teď jsem využil nové vydání Poslední odbočky na Babylon (v překladu Richarda Podaného) pro znovusblížení.

Odbočka na Babylon je to fakt hodně specifická záležitost. Vše se odehrává na dálnici procházející časem, kterou patrně vybudovali kdysi dávno draci. A to je jen začátek. Zelazny na vás pálí nápad za nápadem (mezi jinými markýze de Sade ovládajícího Tyranosaura Rexe, nebo Adolfa ve volkswagenu, hledajícího odbočku, ve které vyhrál válku), … a kapitoly jsou sice očíslované, ale jen číslicemi jedna a dva. Pokud by kofeinem nadopované veverky z animovaných filmů psaly knihy, vypadaly by asi takhle. Zelazny na vás vrhá nápady, situace, postavy, souboje… a než se stačíte rozhlédnout a potřást novým hrdinům rukou, už jsou zase pryč. Někdy věnuje větší prostor představení postavy, než jejímu použití v ději.

On tedy děj… je tu několik lehkých dějových linek, ale na žádnou se moc netlačí. Každá by vystačila na samostatnou knihu, ale tady jsou to spíš jen taková poznámka pod čarou. Je fakt, že kniha není dlouhá, je jedna z těch, co máte přečtené během jízdy výtahem - a i když mám stručnost rád, tady jsem si skoro v každé chvíli říkal, sakra, zabrzdi, věnuj se víc tomuhle nápadu, téhle situaci, tomuhle hrdinovi. Už jen to, co slouží coby úvod do děje, že se hlavní hrdina snaží pašovat střelné zbraně Řekům bojujícím u Marathónu proti Peršanům… to samo by vystačilo na samostatnou knihu. Tady je to jen součást všedního dne.

Částečně je v tom je i Zelaznyho síla. Že téměř nic nevysvětluje, neomlouvá se, prostě máme tu umělou inteligenci ukrytou v Boudelairově sbírce básní a jedeme dál. Ale tady mě to i mrzelo, že jsem se tímhle světem jen prořítil v maserati a už jsem zase pryč.
Profile Image for Nawfal.
321 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2023
I had heard it can be a difficult read due to its structure and style. I would agree with that, but that sort of stuff works out at least midway through the novel. The problem is that, at best, I can describe this novel as “interesting” when there is so much about it that should have developed into awesome and tremendous.

The novel is too short and too brisk to give the ideas and layout the room it needs to develop and breathe. Like I said above, so many neat ideas in such an unusual format that it is a supremely interesting novel. But capping at 189 pages, it does not give the reader enough of what is really, really good. It does not allow the ideas to play out.

I loved banging down the Road in a beater truck that is also a Transformer when it gets the aid of Baudelaire’s “Alexa” device. I totally loved the books qua A.I., in other words. I also think this is one of the better time-manipulation stories because a Road with exits and on-ramps that relate, in some way, to history is fantastic.

Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1961) does it better. And Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) does, too. No, those are not the same as Roadmarks, but I would hands down give those five stars. For all its interesting quirkiness, Roadmarks is fairly empty. Readers should read this novel so they know what the heck the rest of us are talking about. Yes, its a bit difficult. Yes, it is strange. A very interesting novel is the best I can say.
Profile Image for Jeff Suwak.
Author 17 books41 followers
August 31, 2013
For whatever reason, most of my favorite books tend to gravitate towards the darker side of things. The top shelf of my bookcase displays names like Cormac McCarthy, Clive Barker, C.S. Friedman, Toni Morrison, and Richard Price. Roger Zelazny's "Roadmarks" is one of the few 'good-times' reads to make it into that vaunted company. Yet the book indisputably stands as one of my favorites of all time.

Thinking back on it now, it might not be inconsequential that I first read the book when I was 20 years old and in the midst of a summer-long cross-country hitchhiking tour. The road consumed my blood then, bits of asphalt swimming in my veins. Perhaps that's why I found my way to "Roadmarks." Perhaps the real reason I decided to walk into the Flagstaff, Arizona library was because the book and I were tuned to the same exact resonance. Or, perhaps it was sheer coincidence. Regardless, 15 years later, I have read the book cover to cover four times, and have opened it up to look around for a few pages at least a hundred times. And still, 15 year later, I remember clearly the first day that I read it, sitting in the Flagstaff library, backpack at my side, completely absorbed from beginning to end.

For a 20 year old kid thumbing across America, the road is a mythic place, a world of its own, scattered with all times and all things, where every mile promises adventure and every smile insinuates deep leagues of knowing. It is, in short, a place very much like the Road in Zelazny's "Roadmarks."

Make no mistake about it, the greatest magic of the novel, as with many of Zelazny's works, is the setting and the characters. The main plotline, which is a kind of death-match narrative in which various assassins try to take out the cigar-chomping, gunshot-wielding Red Dorakeen, is a very entertaining follow. But, really, the item of central interest in the book is the Road upon which the events take place.

The Road in "Roadmarks" traverses all times that ever were, or would ever be - concepts which sort of become convoluted when you're traveling along a line that bisects everything that ever was. Every few miles, there are exit and entrance ramps leading to some other reality. But the Road is not merely a stage for those temporal refugees to play, it also affects the various alternate histories, so that any action can open up or block one of the exit ramps.

The book alternates between two narratives. The first is the relatively linear tale of Red Dorakeen as he smuggles guns to the Greeks at Marathon and tries desperately to find a way back to his own, distantly remembered time.

The second narrative is non-linear jump between various characters, everything from a malfunctioning, pottery-making assassin-robot to a dragon that's fallen in love with a T-Rex. The whole thing is a collage of interesting personages, sort of a sci-fi version of Steinbeck's "Cannery Row."

The novel is violent and somewhat profane, yet there is an undeniable playfulness about it - a statement that could be equally said of life, of course.

Along the journey of the novel, we meet Jack the Ripper, Doc Savage, and Adolf Hitler, among others. It's the kind of tripped-out romp that one might expect from a book published at the tail end of the 70s, possessed by a sort of energetic irreverence for plausibility that rests quite nicely in my palate as a fine respite from all those tomes of brooding seriousness.

When I was 20 years old and first read "Roadmarks," I was fresh out on the road and certain that the asphalt stretched out infinitely. Now, as I've gotten a bit older and have become a house-dog, every time I go back to read the book I find myself identifying just a little bit more closely with Red Dorakeen's quest for an exit to his past.

Zelazny's "Roadmarks" is a ticket to a fascinating world where lines of logic overlap so often that they become a big tangled ball of "wow!" It's a ticket to an older and less serious world where time is just something to be played with. I highly recommend you get off the next exit and visit Zelazny's "Roadmarks." It's a couple hours well spent.
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