The Last Defender of Camelot, by Roger Zelazny (2002, not 1980)

The title of the third story in this collection is given as "Engine at Heartspring's Center", and the second paragraph, as presented here, is:

She was regaining her feet, the signs in the sand indicating flight and collapse. She had on the same red dress, torn and stained now. Her black hair—short, with heavy bangs—lay in the only small disarrays of which it was capable. Perhaps thirty feet away was a young man from the Center, advancing toward her. Behind him drifted one of the seldom seen dispatch-machines—about half the size of a man and floating that same distance above the ground, it was shaped like a tenpin, and silver, its bulbous head-end faceted and illuminated, its three ballerina skirts tinfoil-thin and gleaming, rising and falling in rhythms independent of the wind.

That of course is a problem. The title of the story is usually given as "The Engine at Heartspring's Center", and the second paragraph is, memorably:

Choose any of the above and you might be right.

An entire page has been omitted from the ebook. I repeat, the entire first page of the story has been omitted. In fact, the last page of the previous story, "For a Breath I Tarry" is missing as well. Other pages are missing throughout the ebook. I don't think that I have ever seen this before, from any other ebook that I have ever read. It is shockingly contemptuous of the author and of the reader. I acquired this over a decade after publication, so there is no excuse for not fixing the problem.

In addition, the very title of the collection shows disrespect to both reader and writer. In Zelazny's lifetime, a largely different collection of stories was published with the same title, in 1980. Each story had an introduction from Zelazny, shedding light on what he was trying to do (and largely succeeding) in each case. There's none of that here, just an introduction from Robert Silverberg saying that Zelazny was a great guy and a great writer.

I never thought that the day would come when I actively disrecommended a book by Zelazny, one of my favourite authors, but that day has in fact come. All of the stories here are great, but all of them are readily available elsewhere, mostly in collections authorised by Zelazny in his lifetimes, and many of them can be found for free online. Shame on ibooks, Inc. for publishing such a crappy effort, and shame on the Zelazny estate for authorising it. I understand that the print edition of this collection was poorly produced and some buyers found that their copies fell apart.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2016 (as part of a Zelazny bundle). Next on that pile is The Space Machine, by Christopher Priest, of which I have somewhat higher hopes.


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