Sunday Book Reviews – 3/31/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

The Lazlo Letters by Don Novello (Workman Publishing, 1977)

How does someone powerful respond to a well-meaning fool? This question, at the core of many “comedy of manners” productions, was examined by Don Novello in the 1970s.

Novello is a professional comedian best known for his alter-ego Father Guido Sarducci, as whom he was a regular guest on early episodes of Saturday Night Live. For the Lazlo Letters he adopted a different guise, that of Lazlo Toth, “everyman”.

As Lazlo Toth he began writing to prominent and influential people, sending letters to political offices and to corporations. He wrote to the head of McDonalds, to President Nixon, to foreign leaders. While Don Novello’s political bent becomes clear over the course of the book, it is only rarely apparent in any single letter. Some of the responses are polite but simplistic; often, however, the people to whom Novello was writing sent handwritten or individually typed responses specifically addressing “Laslo Toth”‘s concerns.

Novello kept up the correspondence for decades, but in all subsequent volumes there are responses from people who are obviously familiar with the true identity of “Toth”. In the first compilation of correspondence there was no such recognition, and the willingness of people to engage with a fan providing absurd and often amazingly shallow ideas provides fertile soil for humor.

Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny (Arbor House, 1985)

One might think, from the title, that Zelazny was prescient. In this fantasy novel, however, the “trumps” are tarot-like cards which allow some people to either telepathically contact the person depicted on the card or teleport directly to the location of the illustration.

Trumps of Doom is the first book in the second sequence of Amber novels. The Amber series works on a multiverse theory; rather than the standard equivalency of alternate dimensions, however, the Amber books place the world of Amber as the only true world with all other worlds “shadows” of the original.

While the original series focused more on traditional science fiction and fantasy roots, the second sequence, starting with Trumps of Doom, leans very heavily upon Zelazny’s knowledge of thriller and mystery stories. For much of the book the protagonist, Merle Corey, is on Earth learning computer science and attempting to determine who has been trying to kill him every April 30th.

Zelazny was an imaginative and innovative author who had a gift for language and intricate plotting. The Amber books have earned a recommendation. The biggest drawback of this particular title is that, as the first book in an announced series, it leaves several major plot points unresolved in order to build anticipation for the next title in the series.

But… Trumps of Doom. That’s a title.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.