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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat - Roger Zelazny In this edition, two Zelazny novels are paired together. While initially seeming quite distinct in style and plot, both are interpretations of the theme of reflecting on an unusually long life veiled in the conflict of the chase. One primarily explores the inward journey and the other the outward journey, but both arrive at spiritually satisfying conclusions.Eye of Cat... eenterestinnng. Written in 1982 and supposedly one of Zelazny's top five favorites (according to the Wikipedia who knows all). The story's setting is foreshadowed by Zelazny's dedication to Tony Hillerman and his heroes, Chee and Leaphorn. Billy Singer, also known as Star Tracker, is a Native American tracker who specialized as an intergalactic tracker/hunter who captured beasts alive for zoological specimens. Recently returned home to his native southwest America to reflect and connect, he is plagued with feelings of isolation. As a Navajo, family is everything; his family has long since died out as he was traveling the stars. His attempt at a spiritual quest is interrupted by a corps of diplomats visiting Earth who solicit him, along with a team of psychics, to protect an ambassador and to capture an assassin. Acting on moment of intuition, Billy visits one of his prior captures at the zoo, a shape-changing alien who has developed communication skills, and solicits the alien's help. In the course of their discussion, they discover they are both the last of their kind. The alien, also known as 'Cat,' agrees, with a dangerous stipulation for Billy. While that summary implies an active, external conflict, there is a deeper exploration of Billy's alienation from his own self and heritage. Ultimately, the story reminds me of a dreamquest, undoubtedly an effect Zelazny was trying to achieve, a mythic journey meant to create spiritual change. Stylistically, Zelazny creates the journey by intermixing time, narrative style and structure. The present time of Billy and the alien hunt is interspersed with his personal history, Native American mythology, dream sequences and poetry/prayer. As a result, pacing and conflict felt uneven; first the tight focus on the inner search for peace, then a longer hunt-driven focus that ends up leading back to the inner conflict. Disjointed and highly metaphorical, it was a style that generally does not appeal to me, although I do like think Zelazny perfected it later in a number of his shorts and novellas in [b:Frost and Fire|1393058|Frost and Fire|Roger Zelazny|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1305637561s/1393058.jpg|18319].Despite a collage of narrative styles, the language is sparsely beautiful, and if no phrase in particular stands out for it's perfection, I will say that he captures setting and melancholy in a way that has me longing for desert skies and the smell of sage. I also felt the story was respectful of Native American culture and not merely appropriative. Although it probably deserves a thoughtful re-read from me, I'm not sure it will make it to the top of the to-read pile. More of a two-star read for me.Actual story: lib.ru/ZELQZNY/eyeofcat.txt****************************************************Isle of Dead... a more traditional Zelazny sci-fi, nominated for a Nebula for Best Novel in 1969. A galactic world-builder is reluctantly pulled out of a luxurious retirement by an unknown nemesis to deal with his past. Francis Sandow is the last remaining man from twentieth century due to a strange intersection of technology and timing. Emotionally lost, he became one of the only non-natives trained by a race of world terraformers, and his skills have made him wealthy. They have also made him a god in the terraformers' religion. We first meet Francis luxuriating on his own planet, when he is jolted out of retirement by a request for help from a friend as well as mysterious photographs of people he knows have been long dead. Investigators from Earth soon visit him to request his help as well, as certain genetic samples have been stolen from Earth prime--perhaps not coincidentally, samples from people that were significant in Francis' life. In the midst of investigating, his alien teacher requests his assistance in administering the terraformers' death rituals. Apparently the inspiration was partly the issue of time dilation and partly a painting by Arnold Bocklin. According to Wikipedia, it's also a tribute to Hemingway. It resonates with typical Zelazny themes, however, of creation opposing destruction, love lost/betrayed, and female redemption. It has a feel very similar to the Amber books for me, especially with the world-shaping, and Francis is very similar to Corwin. The slowly unfolding conflict between Francis and his antagonist also reminds me of Corwin and the conflict with his brothers. Francis shows up in at two other stories, the book Zelazny most hated, [b:To Die in Italbar|1393081|To Die in Italbar (Francis Sandow, #2)|Roger Zelazny|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1258819883s/1393081.jpg|19165084], and a short story in [b:Unicorn Variations|536800|Unicorn Variations|Roger Zelazny|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1304286167s/536800.jpg|2204975]. Also deserves a re-read. The stronger of the pair, this was a three-and-half star read.