Monday, October 3, 2016

Jack of Shadows

Summarizing Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows" is a lot like sketching the blindspot in your eyes where your optic nerve hides or mapping the terrain of the back of your skull.

But here goes nothing ...

Jack is a thief (aka artist), a collector of beautiful things. He’s cast down to the dunghole of his world for a crime he didn’t commit … yet. (A crime Jack would’ve done for love; his lover betrays him, too.) His punishment is undeserved, unjust, unfair. But life isn’t fair, especially in Jack’s world. His earth doesn’t turn. The cosmic clock is stopped—its gears forever stuck on the either/or of science (on the dayside) and magic (on the nightside). A good Jack would say, “Well, that’s the way it is,” and accept the punishment, the humiliation, the tasks imposed, the lives lost, the dues he’d be forced to pay, one forced march from the dungheap after another for millennia. There’s no alternative! That’s just the way it is! But Jack isn’t good. Not the most Christlike of literary figures, Jack breaks the world to pay back the beings that !@# him. And so the world starts turning again. Jack falls from the edge. A fallen angel may or may not catch him.

What's the point of this twisted fable?

Well, shake that treasure box and a universe might fall out, possibly more. Contradictory universes that rob you of your sanity.

Zelazny's novella jams two opposing notions together that fight like magnetic chess pieces with the same charge.

"Jack of Shadows" is a parable of absolute revenge in response to absolute injustice.

"Jack of Shadows" is a hall of mirrors where the mind is its own place, quantum uncertainty is the only certainty, and Schrodinger's cat roams in heat.

Bloody vendetta and bloodless epistemology.

Like magic and science, like Ellison and Borges, they just don't go together.

But Zelazny united them like it's the whole damn point.

You know they come together. You just can't quite see where.

The connection's in the damn blindspot.

And the only way to maybe find it is to read the book again.

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