And now for something different. I came to an interesting realization as I walk to work. I do get a bunch of good ideas doing it. For the uninitiated, I do take a 30 minute walk to work everyday, unless the weather is bad, when I find alternate means. And today, I got to thinking about Amber and the lack of a River. I don’t just mean a river with a small r, but a big one as well.
It’s proof that Zelazny really did make it up as he went along, to miss one of the big archetypes so easily. There is a Mountain, of course, and all that implies from a mythological standpoint, and a City, and an Ocean (complete with a ‘lost city’ beneath it). Even more noticeable than any of these is Arden, the First Forest, the Greenwood.
But a River is missing! The way I got to thinking about this was reconsidering whether or not I wanted to re-read the Confluence series by Paul McAuley. (First book is Child of the River). The River is the heart of the artificial world Confluence. I also then thought about the Hyperion/Endymion books (First book: Hyperion) by Dan Simmons, and his River that ran from world to world by means of Gates. Another example is the Otherland novels by Tad Williams. (first book: Otherland: City of Golden Shadow). In that milieu, all of the virtual reality worlds are connected by a worlds-spanning River which provides a gate mechanism from world to world. And it was then I realized that Amber lacks such a primal entity.
Rivers are as old as humanity! The first real civilizations grew along the banks of the great rivers of Eurasia-Africa…the Nile, the Tigris/Euphrates, the Indus, and the Yangtze. In fact, straying into Jared Diamond territory, I’ve always thought that one of the handicaps to the Native Americans developing civilizations to anywhere past the Paleolithic is the fact that there are a lack of rivers in warm climates to foster similar circumstances…proto civilizations growing along its banks, fusing to form great cultures. The Aztec are in the mountains of Mexico, the Maya in the jungles of Central America, the Inca in the mountains of South America. The mound builders in the Mississippi valley only started too late.
Anyway, Rivers and man have been together a very long time, and Zelazny missed an opportunity by not having a major River as part of the Amber world. I had a sudden interesting thought of scions of Amber traveling up and down a River much like the one in Hyperion, shifting shadow to other worlds connected by a Great River.
Interesting idea, no?