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To Die in Italbar/A Dark Travelling [Paperback]

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4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting/sprightly Feb. 3 2003
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
These books are two of Robert Zelazny's lesser-known works, "To Die In Italbar" and "A Dark Travelling." "Travelling" is a sort of YA novella, a little frothier than usual Zelazny books, and "To Die" is a deeper, darker, more horrifying story.
"To Die In Italbar" brings us to a future where one man, Heidal (known as H), is given strange, mysterious powers -- he can be afflicted and then cured of any disease, no matter how hideous or incurable. (Thanks to a disease/healing goddess who visits him in his dreams) When he accidently infects and is attacked by the people of Italbar, he becomes a walking plague machine. Malacar, the one man still living on Earth with his telepathic alien translator, wants to find Heidel with the help of a vengeance-loving girl from a brothel. But Heidal is becoming more and more dangerous with the goddess's help...
"A Dark Travelling" has a family that makes yours look downright normal. Jim is a teen werewolf. His sister is a witch. His brother is an assassin who lives in a castle. His father travels dimensions, or "bands." But one night his father mysteriously vanishes, and Jim goes on a desperate, magical search for him. And it leads him to sorcerers and rebels on one of the "darkbands," where his father has been taken captive for a shocking reason.
These books aren't the most prominent ones that Zelazny wrote, but they're enjoyable reads. "Dark Travelling" has a sort of frothier edge to it -- the plot almost never stops going until the end, with a small cast of characters (several of whom remain a bit underdeveloped) and no philosophical musings. "Italbar," on the other hand, is much deeper and darker, with a lot of dream conversations and telepathic linking. A lot more action is going on inside the characters' heads.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting/sprightly Feb. 3 2003
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
These books are two of Robert Zelazny's lesser-known works, "To Die In Italbar" and "A Dark Travelling." "Travelling" is a sort of YA novella, a little frothier than usual Zelazny books, and "To Die" is a deeper, darker, more horrifying story.
"To Die In Italbar" brings us to a future where one man, Heidal (known as H), is given strange, mysterious powers -- he can be afflicted and then cured of any disease, no matter how hideous or incurable. (Thanks to a disease/healing goddess who visits him in his dreams) When he accidently infects and is attacked by the people of Italbar, he becomes a walking plague machine. Malacar, the one man still living on Earth with his telepathic alien translator, wants to find Heidel with the help of a vengeance-loving girl from a brothel. But Heidal is becoming more and more dangerous with the goddess's help...
"A Dark Travelling" has a family that makes yours look downright normal. Jim is a teen werewolf. His sister is a witch. His brother is an assassin who lives in a castle. His father travels dimensions, or "bands." But one night his father mysteriously vanishes, and Jim goes on a desperate, magical search for him. And it leads him to sorcerers and rebels on one of the "darkbands," where his father has been taken captive for a shocking reason.
These books aren't the most prominent ones that Zelazny wrote, but they're enjoyable reads. "Dark Travelling" has a sort of frothier edge to it -- the plot almost never stops going until the end, with a small cast of characters (several of whom remain a bit underdeveloped) and no philosophical musings. "Italbar," on the other hand, is much deeper and darker, with a lot of dream conversations and telepathic linking. A lot more action is going on inside the characters' heads.
On a quality front, these ibook reprints have good smooth paper and good bindings. Teens as well as adults will probably enjoy these -- there is a tiny amount of ...content in "Italbar" (Jackara works at a brothel) but nothing major. Fans of Robert Zelazny and thoughtful SF/F should definitely check these books out.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of mr. Zelazny's finest books. Nov. 9 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you liked Isle of the dead then this one is a must-read! The story is set in the same universe with its Pei'an pantheon and also has the protagonist of Isle of the dead - Francis Sandow - in it. In fact he's the one who brings the story to a good end. I don't agree with the author himself, saying that this book was not up to his standards and that he just wrote it in a hurry, after quiting his job as a civil servant and turning into a professional writer.(I read this in the biography that Jane Lindskold wrote about him.) If he did write it in a hurry, he made a good job of it. The story has a good plot, believable characters and, most of all, the real Zelaznian descriptions of certain scenes. As in the Amber-novels and a novel like The dream master, in this book mr. Zelazny again succeeds in visualising to the reader the images the characters in the book experience. In this particular book these are the dreamsequences that Heidel von Hymack goes through when he is sleeping and, while sleeping and dreaming, being in touch with Myra-o-arym, the Pei'an goddess of healing, who, after Heidel has been mistreated, turns into Arym-o-myra, the goddess of sickness and death. But there's more. The skills of John Morwin and the ways he uses them, the dead dr. Pels in his space-ship and Malacar Miles with his telepathic servant Shind. This is a very rich book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Yet a part of me, somewhere, seems to be screaming" March 16 2005
By Marc Ruby™ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I decided to review this slim volume because To Die In Italbar has the distinction of being the second (and last) volume in the series he started with Isle of the Dead. While Francis Sandow only puts in a momentary appearance, it is a significant one, and once again the story turns on the clash between two Peian gods. This time the goddess the Shimbo faces is Arym-o-Myra, goddess of healing and disease. And this time the conflict is over the survival of the human race.

The novel works several threads, the most important is that of Heidel von Hymack, who has accidentally become Arym-o-Myra's avatar. Able to bring the diseases of his body into balance, he can cure any disease. Unfortunately, the side effect is that when Hymack's body isn't in balance, he is a disease carrier. He delays too long on one planet, causes a plague, and is nearly killed by a crowd. Anger replaces his concern, and suddenly he is overcome by Jackara's darker side. Now humanity is the disease to be cured.

Two people see a potential use for Hymack. Malacar Miles is an insurrectionist, bound to oppose the planetary commonwealth and defense the existence of the planets that were one part of earth's influence. Malacar lives in the shattered remains of his planet, living th life of a terrorist. When he discovers the existence of Hymack he sees an opportunity to launch a truly destructive campaign. Also tracking Hymack is the dead Dr. Pels who is seeking a cure for his own condition.

And then there is Francis Sandow, who the Peians have called in to deal with the resurgence of Arym-o-Myra. He has no agenda other than keeping folks alive and putting a god that has legitimate reason to be awake back to sleep. On one last planet all these forces meet - telepath against telepath against god.

Again, Zelazny demonstrates creativity that refuses to fall into a rut. He poses bit questions in human packages without hubris or theatrical deliver of messages. The result is a poignant tale that can set you thinking about what is and isn't important in a universe full of possibility.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced, dark, exciting read Jan. 7 2008
By Doug M - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This book is the sequel to the excellent Zelazny novel, Isle of the Dead, and I consider it a worthy sequel. This book does not actually feature Francis Sandow until half-way through the book, and the Pei-ans play only a very minor role, but the book does a great job of building to the climactic final battle. The prominent characters, Cmdr. Malacar Miles, the last Man on Earth, Dr. Pels, the walking undead and Shind the psychic alien all fill out a great cast of characters all bent on finding one man, simply called "H". H is the sole survivor of a plague, but is reborn with the ability to cure or kill with any disease. In the novel, he gradually goes mad and goes on a rampage, leading to an exciting finish.

While Isle of the Dead was more psychological and philosophical, this book is decidedly more action-packed, but still retains that dark, brooding mood I enjoyed so much in the first book.

This book is somewhat hard to find, but don't hesitate to pick it up if you enjoyed Isle of the Dead. Enjoy!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Zelazny's early classics April 7 2005
By LVX - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"To Die In Italbar" is the sequel to "Isle of the Dead," but this story stands on its own two feet. While familiarity with "Isle of the Dead" will probably help the reader understand certain events in this second and final book in the series, it is by no means required reading.

"To Die In Italbar" contains just about everything that Zelazny fans have come to appreciate about his writing-- complex characters who are nonetheless easy to get a handle on, crisp and vivid writing, lurid imagination, and a sense of purpose and destiny as the events of the book unfold. It's all here. This may not be Zelazny's best novel, and it isn't my personal favorite, but it really has an endearing quality to it. In fact, "To Die In Italbar" is probably one of Zelazny's most enjoyable reads-- a piece of quality fiction that doesn't read like quality fiction.

Roger Zelazny once said that he thought "To Die In Italbar" was a disappointment-- that he'd been in too much of a hurry when he wrote it, and that it lacked the subtlety and nuance of "Isle of the Dead." Frankly, "To Die In Italbar" is easily the better of the two books for this very reason! While "Isle of the Dead" is a great work because it lets the reader enter the complicated mind of Francis Sandow, experiencing and learning about the complex Pei'an pantheon of dieties from his unique vantage point, at times Sandow's philosophical musings slow the novel's pacing a bit. It's an amazing novel, and Sandow is a fascinating character, but readers should be forewarned that "Isle of the Dead" is anything but a light read! Having thus set the stage, however, Zelazny then rewarded his readers with "To Die In Italbar," a straightforward science fiction romp set which is set against this rich tapestry-- but without being weighted down by it.

The story weaves several pointedly different characters together into a single tale. All of these characters stand out, for one reason or another: Captain Malacar is the last inhabitant of a bombed and pitted earth, waging a one-man guerilla war against the human government that laid it waste; Dr. Pels is a brilliant pathologist who managed to stop all of his personal bodily functions at the exact moment of death, allowing him to continue his research in a sort of medically-induced undead state; Jackara is a prostitute, bitter and angry about being forced into this profession by a community which refused to accept her; Francis Sandow, avatar of the Pei'an god Shimbo, is a famous builder of worlds and the wealthiest man alive; and last, but certainly not least, Mr. H. is imbued with an odd power over life and death which he doesn't understand and cannot completely control. As the novel progresses, these characters' individual dramas slowly merge and meld, becoming secondary plot elements in a much larger struggle.

Towards the end of the book, Zelazny really plays with the reader's perceptions. The story's climax is basically described from a third-party point of view, as one character describes events to another-- and that character is terribly confused about what he witnessed, making his account of events somewhat suspect. In short, the reader doesn't really know exactly what happened at the end of this novel, and Zelazny only fills in enough very broad details for the reader to make a pretty educated guess. Somehow, though, instead of making the book less fulfilling, the book's open ending only adds the ring of truth to Zelazny's storytelling. Sometimes life doesn't provide us with easy answers! Zelazny gives enough of the story to satisfy, but withholds enough details to preserve a sense of mystery. Brilliance!

I can't say enough good things about "To Die In Italbar." This is truly one of Roger Zelazny's most enjoyable novels. I'd strongly recommend this book to anybody who is looking for lighter, smarter science fiction.
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