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Sometime in the early 90's, I borrowed an audio book from a local library. I would be interested in reading it in full, but I don't remember the author or title. Given that it was an audio book in a small town library, I suspect the novel was originally written in the 70's or 80's.

The basic premise was that there were many different worlds, but all of them - including our own - were just "shadows of the one true world."

In the first scene, the protagonist (a middle-aged man) is visited by an old childhood friend. The friend reveals that he is a wizard and asks the protagonist to come with him to the one true world.

In a later scene, the two characters are riding in a truck, but when the wizard's spell takes effect, the scenery changes from a highway to a dirt road in the middle of a forest. Likewise, the truck transforms into a carriage.

I didn't get much farther than that and the rest is hazy. I vaguely remember the description of a city filled with ivory towers, nestled in forested hills and alongside a river or lake. Also, if I recall correctly, the friend was forced to go, leaving the protagonist alone in the city; other wizards were scheming to use the protagonist to further their own ends.

Any ideas of what the novel may have been?

  • 6
    Have you phoned your library to get your lending record? – Valorum Apr 18 '17 at 23:49
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    @Valorum, as I understand it, most libraries will not keep lending records once items have been returned on time. They do this for privacy reasons. – Jeff Apr 19 '17 at 19:42
  • @Valorum I was a kid, so even if they still had the records, it wouldn't be in my name. – Ohndei Apr 20 '17 at 1:12
  • @Jeff Our library system has had an opt-in lending history functionality for a while now. – hBy2Py Apr 20 '17 at 10:50
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    This sounds like "Nine Princes In Amber", the first of the Amber series. I'm re-reading it right now, as all 10 novels were re-published in a single volume. Now, if they'd just republish "Roadmarks" (I have gotten a bit lost driving around Kent, OH - never stumbled upon the on-ramp though :-) and "Creatures of Light and Darkness" ("Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness") I'd be happy. (Why, yes - I AM a big Zelazny fan. Why do you ask? :-). – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '17 at 11:36
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If you are misremembering a few details, you may be partially remembering the first book of Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series. The first book is 'Nine Princes in Amber' (1970).

  • The 'Childhood Friend' would be his brother, Random
  • They set off in a car to get to Amber, the one, true world (well, as of what we know at that time in the series) that casts the 'Shadows' that the inhabitants think are their worlds.
  • As to the truck changing to a Carriage, it's never exactly described as such, but it does change, several times during the journey.

    The steering wheel changed shape beneath my hands. It became a crescent; and the seat seemed further back, the car seemed closer to the road, and the windshield had more of a slant to it.
    ...
    The steering wheel changed shape three more times, its latest version being an octagonal wooden affair. The car was quite tall now, and we had somewhere acquired a hood ornament in the shape of a flamingo. I refrained from commenting on these things, but accommodated myself to whatever positions the seat assumed and new operating requirements the vehicle obtained. Random, however, glanced at the steering wheel just as another howl occurred, shook his head, and suddenly the trees were much higher, though festooned with hanging vines and something like a blue veiling of Spanish Moss, and the car was almost normal again. I glanced at the fuel gauge and saw that we had half a tank.

  • An element that might jog a memory - do you remember something about 'Kentucky Fried Lizard Parts' (with an anachronistic spelling) - a KFC becomes that, during the drive, and it often sticks in people's heads.

    We looked around us, and we saw a picture of a gent who sells Kentucky Fried Chicken in another place, staring down at us from a big sign.
    ...
    We drove over to Kenni Roi's and got us a bucket full of Kentucki Fried Lizzard Partes and another bucket of weak, salty tasting beer.

  • Their destination is a castle on a forested mountain, surrounded by a city and mirrored by a version of itself in the ocean right next to it.
  • Corwin (the Hero), or 'Cory' as some know him isn't really middle-aged; he's FAR older than that. But, being of the blood of Amber, he seems far younger, yet his memory and attitudes are from a different era, so it's easy to believe you would read him as being middle-aged, based on his speech and such.
  • As I recall, when they travel to the underwater echo of Amber (Rebma), his brother is stuck staying behind to fulfill a betrothal agreement.
  • As to other friends scheming to use him... oh, my.. Scheming is a major industry for all of them. He ends up blinded, and tossed in a cell for part of the book, and is trotted out as a power gesture by the current king.

    He gets better, and escapes, at the end of the book. Amberites can regenerate incredibly well; he grows new eyes while in prison.

The first book starts with him waking from an apparent Coma, and he uses clues in his possessions to track down his sister. While visiting her (and with amnesia, knowing nothing of his real nature or history), Random shows up. After bluffing him into thinking Corwin is not amnesiac, further bluffs lead to the two of them heading off to Amber, with Random 'Driving'; that is to say, he controls the reality shifting to get back there, something Corwin doesn't remember how to do, but hides from Random.

  • 10
    This is exactly what I thought of when I read the question. – Ixrec Apr 18 '17 at 23:49
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    I had almost the same thought - however, my memory is claiming that the first of Merlin's quintet (TRUMPS OF DOOM?) may match up better with the description given (except Merlin is even younger (seeming) than Corwin). Note: I do not trust my memory, in general, so.... – RDFozz Apr 19 '17 at 0:39
  • It absolutely is the Amber series, and the Corwin series. The very first scene is in a hospital from which Corwin escapes, and he visits Random, not the other way around, to find his lost memories again. Merlin never has a memory loss event, and I don't remember the Merlin series starting with a road trip. – Tom Apr 19 '17 at 9:25
  • I don't know. Random isn't "an old childhood friend"; he's a brother (an important plot point), and the word 'wizard' isn't used anywhere in Nine Princes that I recall. They drove a car to Amber, not a truck, and it never turned into a carriage... There are some similarities in the poster's details that are similar to Amber, and you've done a great job with the details of the Amber series, but unless the poster's memories are horribly mangled or mixed with something else, I don't think Amber is the answer here. – LAK Apr 19 '17 at 19:25
  • @LAK Yep; that's why I started "If you are misremembering a few details" -- as I recall, tho, Random changed their clothing, money and a few other things as they changed, and I want to say he made minor changes to the vehicle; I could be misremembering, and Corwin just noted OTHER vehicles that were different -- sadly, I don't have my copy to check at the moment. All that said, if the OP read it roughly 20 years ago, the changes aren't beyond the possibility of what could be confused in memory. – K-H-W Apr 19 '17 at 22:23
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The other answer is on the right track, but I think you read one of the later books in the first Amber quintet. I think most likely Guns of Avalon : In it, Corwin reunites with someone who seems to be an old compatriot named Ganelon (traveling in Shadow is tricky that way) who encourages him to make a go for the vacant throne in Amber.

You may also be conflating more than one of the books together.

Regardless, what you read was definitely from somewhere in the 10 book series by the late Roger Zelazny. You can find it in 1 large paperback volume for a reasonable price these days.

I would also suggest you also find his earlier short novel Roadmarks for a look into one of his earlier forays into multiverse building.

  • "Roadmarks" was written between the writing of the first and second Amber series. Its structured oddly - all the chapters are titled either "One" or "Two", and the "Two" chapters are non-linear in time, which threw reviewers (and his editors :-) into a tizzy. It's one of his best and most original pieces IMO, and I wish he'd written more about the Road. Also - at the time Corwin meets Ganelon (again) the throne of Amber is NOT vacant - it's occupied by his brother Eric, although Corwin had earlier crowned himself - and there's a hint that his missing father, Oberon, is still alive... :- – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Apr 20 '17 at 11:49
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This sounds somewhat like Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry:

The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Guy Gavriel Kay, first published in 1984-1986. The novels are partly set in our own contemporary world, but mostly in the fictional world of Fionavar. It is the story of five University of Toronto senior law and medical students, who are drawn into the 'first world of the Tapestry' by the mage Loren Silvercloak. Once there, each discovers his or her own role and destiny in the framework of an epic conflict.

To your specific points:

The basic premise was that there were many different worlds, but all of them - including our own - were just "shadows of the one true world."

In the books, Fionavar was the 'true world,' and ours was one of many different shadow worlds. IIRC, 'true world' and 'shadow worlds' are very close to the terms used in the books.

In the first scene, the protagonist (a middle-aged man) is visited by an old childhood friend. The friend reveals that he is a wizard and asks the protagonist to come with him to the one true world.

This is exactly how the first book of the trilogy, The Summer Tree, opens -- Loren Silvercloak has come with Matt the dwarf to bring five chosen individuals from our world to Fionavar for a particular event. He reveals himself to five friends as being a wizard, and convinces them to come.

In a later scene, the two characters are riding in a truck, but when the wizard's spell takes effect, the scenery changes from a highway to a dirt road in the middle of a forest. Likewise, the truck transforms into a carriage.

This is where things diverge a bit. There is a scene in the series where some of the main characters are riding in a truck in our world, but I don't recall any morphing of the scene from highway to dirt road, nor a transforming truck-carriage.

Also, if I recall correctly, the friend was forced to go, leaving the protagonist alone in the city; other wizards were scheming to use the protagonist to further their own ends.

Circumstances did separate the five friends at various points throughout the plot, and other wizards were definitely involved in a lot of scheming, especially in the first book.

So.... not a perfect match to what you describe; but, close?

  • I just recently reread the Fionavar Tapestry. I wondered about it from the title, but once I read the question I didn't think it had anything to do with it. – eshier Apr 20 '17 at 2:39

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