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Posted November 6, 2012
This Immortal, known in an earlier incarnation as Call me Conrad, is one of Zelazny's heroic epics with no less than the fate of humanity at stake. The principal character, Conrad, is typical of most of Zelazny's heros. He is for all practical purposes immortal. Like Bugs Bunny, he does not go out of his way to cause trouble for others, but does not suffer abuse lightly. He plans carefully, trying not to act rashly. And he changes his feelings and views as he grows older and wiser. These traits lead, of course, to conflict. Conrad is retained to give a high caste alien from Vega named Cort Myshtigo a tour of earth for a survey. Because of the relationship between Vegans and humanity, this incites some resentment against the alien and concern for the future of humanity. The smart money has wagered that the way to save humanity is to kill Cort. Conrad makes it plain that he prefers to wait until he has enough information to decide, and spends most of his time shielding Cort from attempts on his life.
The novel contains a great deal of irony which is used to show mankind returning from the brink of extinction and beginning the process of healing its wounds.. Episodes occur in which the putative destroyer is the instrument of salvation. The first of these occurs in Egypt. Hasan has been hired by the Agency to protect Cort. But as is known or suspected by everyone except Cort, Hasan is also a Radpole agent sent to kill him. In the final ironic twist of this episode, Hasan saves Cort from a boadile while trying to kill him. Other ironies abound. Twice, those thought lost are returned and bring salvation with them. The first returned is Conrad's dog, Bortran. Bortran had gone missing years earlier and has been searching for his master ever since. After Conrad returns to Greece on this tour, Bortran crosses his trail. He catches up with Conrad just in time to rescue him from the Kouretes. Next to return from the presumed dead is Conrad's wife, Cassandra. While burning an old friend, Conrad and his party are set upon by the Beast of Thessaly. In a dramatic sequence worthy of Dickens, they battle the Beast until Cassandra plays Zeus and strikes the Beast dead . In a more prolonged twist, the Radpole is trying to kill the one Vegan who can save earth and set it free. Throughout the story Conrad repeatedly intercedes to stay his execution, opposing the Radpole which he had founded decades before. The final irony is in the very nature of the Kallikanzaros. Rather than being the instrument of the world's destruction as in Greek myth, he is to be its savior.
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Posted February 14, 2011
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