In The Trumps of Doom, Roger Zelazny’s sixth installment in the Chronicles of Amber shifts the focus to a new hero, young Merle Corey, a computer programmer and Prince of both kingdoms Chaos and Amber. He lives on shadow earth where every April 30, somebody tries to kill him. After 7 or 8 years, Merlin finally decides this is getting a bit personal, when a former girlfriend is slaughtered in her home. The prince will go after the killer. He soon becomes embroiled in the snarled family politics of Amber, where more of Oberon’s children are mysteriously dying, and each sibling is introduced as a suspect with probable cause to murder. Merlin has created an interdimensional computer called the Ghostwheel, that reads a slice of each Shadow world, and processes that data.I’ve found Zelazny’s Merle Corey a much more appealing character than Corwin, maybe because he comes closer to mensch than übermensch, thus more identifiable to the author’s geeky reader core (reviewer included. No clamoring to kill me, folks). You get the feeling that despite his powers, he runs the chance of getting the poop kicked out of him at any moment. Although he possesses some of the requisite “magical” powers of the Merlin of Arthurian Lore, it’s only a name borrowed from our Western European historical past. There may be another reason for the attraction to the character, since he’s no more fully developed than Corwin of the first five Amber novels. Where Corwin was taciturn, Merlin seems much more a social creature; while Corwin was part of the family, Merlin has to sense his way though the social dysfunction that comprise the Amberite clan.
The writing is solid and well plotted. I have a feeling the five books that comprise the Merlin arc of the Amber stories could hold up as a single book: this novel (Avon mass paperback edition) is a mere 180 pages. Several cliffhangers will either nauseate fans, or cause them to return to the next novel. I noted a few mentions of 80s personal computing subculture: “If Apple takes off,” a character said at one point in the book. I must take exception with the title itself. The Trumps of Doom? Aside from its profound lameness, it has no real bearing on the novel itself, at least yet. Still reeling at that one. Trumps of Doom… I guess you can make just about *anything* scary, if you put the words “…of doom” at the end of the sentence. (Checkered thermos of DOOM! Yep. I was right.)
In all, Trumps is a solid start with a promising premise. I believe I will like the second five Amber novels, and also Zelazny’s young magician Merle, much more than Corwin. I enjoyed the book. My fingers are crossed in hopes of an excellent Book Seven (Blood of Amber).