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Tag: roger zelazny

READING THE TBR, DAY 147: Damnation Alley (1968) by Roger Zelazny

I have long loved Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, a sci-fi/fantasy series of depth and breadth and significant scope. But strangely, those ten books are the only Zelazny I have ever read, probably because I once attempted reading Lord of Light, another of his works, and couldn’t get past the first chapter. (It really is awful.)

But many years back I found this post-apocalyptic tale of his, and since I have something of a collection of those, I could not pass it by. And while it has its flaws — it’s a bit abrupt, and sometimes opaque, and its treatment of women is pretty lacking, of course — I am nevertheless very pleased to have it on my shelves.

The story: In a land blighted by nuclear war, with society in tatters and with a plague on the loose, convict Hell Tanner is given a pardon from all his many crimes if he will ferry a load of serum from Los Angeles to Boston – the oly two remaining functional major cities. The only way to get there is along Damnation Alley, a route laden with outlaws, the occasional hopeful township, the increasingly virulent plague, and giant monsters out of the worst radiation-based “When Animals Attack!” B-movie. Action-packed, but seeded with no little philosophy (and sexism), Tanner’s epic journey is a compelling series of near-disasters, proves him to be a pretty fascinating anti-hero in this future world where true heroes are few and far between.

The book was turned into a film in 1977 (starring Jan-Michael Vincent, who pretty much is the 70s), which I shall now be looking up. And, not long before, UK band Hawkwind delivered themselves of this:

Amazing!

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 146: Damnation Alley  by Roger Zelazny
GENRE: Science Fiction, Apocalypse
PUBLISHED: 1969
TIME ON THE TBR: ~8 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Op shop.
KEEP: Yep.

READING THE TBR, DAY 102: Penny Pollard’s Diary (1983) by Robin Klein

I remember the jolt of pure joy that ran through me when I spied the distinctive tartan check cover of this book, its corner peeking out below an avalanche of others at a school book fair late last year. “Penny Pollard’s Diary!” I may or may not have exclaimed out loud. “I remember this book!”

I, of course, bought it immediately. (It was 50c. A crazy bargain.)

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that no, I actually didn’t remember that much about the book. I remembered loving Polly, in that she was totally different to any girl that I knew. But as I sent my mind back through the decades to that Grade 2 student who had re-borrowed the book so many times in a row from the school library that I was eventually banned from ever doing so again, I realized that I could not recall a single detail of the story, and resolved to read it again to relive that childhood obsession.

And I get it. I had good taste back then. This book is gold. Penny is THE BEST. She’d be diagnosed as on the spectrum nowadays, but in the 80s, she was just a bit of an eccentric, as she sorted and resorted her horse swap cards (swap cards! Oh, the flashback that gave me!) and refused to wear dresses and made friends with an elderly lady who is just as non-conformist as she is. 

Text-heavy for a picture book, and featuring actual photos that makes it all seem remarkably like a true story (if it is: where is the real Penny now, and why is she not my friend?), this “diary” features some Klein touches that are familiar to readers of her best-selling novel Hating Alison Ashley and — my favourite of hers — Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left, like the perfect pattern card of ladylike virtue that our heroine detests for no real reason, but that is all part of its appeal. 

One thing of which I was utterly unaware until this very day is that there are FIVE sequels to Penny Pollard’s Diary that I guess my school librarian just never bothered to get in, because she hated me or something. How have I made it so advanced an age without learning that there was a sequel to a book that I — admittedly — didn’t remember, but did remember loving so very much?

We’re agreed, I do not need any more books to read. The whole point of this book-a-day TBR mission is to clear the decks of all the books I already own. But you don’t understand, I NEED these books more more than I need chocolate. More than I need air. They are now a physical requirement. My life will be incomplete until my Penny Pollard collection is, at last, now that I know that’s a thing, complete — and in original first edition format, too.

This is who I am. I can’t fight it, so I have to embrace it. I need to buy five kids’ books very, very much, and I will not be able to rest until I have found them and read them and they are mine. They’re currently running at about $13 each on eBay, by the way.

Turns out my 50c bargain is going to cost me more than $50. 

Totally worth it. 

SCORECARD

TBR DAY 102: Penny Pollard’s Diary (Penny Pollard #1 [!!!]) by Robin Klein
GENRE: Children’s Fiction
PUBLISHED: 1983
TIME ON THE TBR: 6 months. 
PURCHASED FROM: School book fair.
KEEP: Yep.