Reading the first in the Willey trilogy, finally, after forgetting everything that happened in the other two books. Partly that's Willey's 'allude, don't tell' narrative style. Her characters know what all these terms mean and where all these places are, so there's no need for us to. Which gives a deep sense of verisimilitude to the story, like something seen happening on the street or, rather, like coming into a series half way. But like reality and halfways, there's no coherent sense of story, just highly-coloured impressions.
Still, they're very engrossing highly-coloured impressions. I've been dreaming a lot lately, most unusually for me. Remembering my dreams has always been a bitch. The story's perfectly clear if I review it with my eyes closed; I can make a coherent narrative of it which I then tell myself; but the minute I open my eyes the details and sometimes the whole content vanishes. These last few days I'm never sure, as I try to remember what the dream was specifically about, that I'm not remembering a passage of the novel that I read last night. It's that kind of book.
I see why people keep comparing it to Amber. Zelazny's much more flat-footed exposition is the one thing that lets you make over-arching sense of Willey's take-it-or-leave-it world.
I read the first two books in '05, long after I began wrestling with details of dragon king lifestyles. But what strikes me this time is the almost total lack of servants where one expects them. This ruling family gets up and draws its own baths, dries itself off, dresses itself, gets its own breakfast, and serves itself at the table, like any middle-class American household. And it does this even after the holiday season is over when (unthinkably) all the ordinary servants are sent home to their families. That's not how servant systems work in any pre-late 20th century society I know of that has servants. Wish I'd kept the book my mother (who else) gave me as a kid- Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, Darwin's granddaughter growing up in Edwardian England and mentioning how her aunt said she'd never posted a letter of her own in her life. That's what servanting was like, and explains the peculiarly disgruntled tone of some post-WW2 Brits (mostly middle-class, note) when they found themselves compelled to, gasp, wash their own dishes.
(And whatever happened to that book anyway? I thought I brought all my Bedford books to Borden when we sold the house. It's another thing that's slipped into the black hole that follows me around.)