"The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth," by Roger Zelazny, is a collection of 17 science fiction tales that range in length from two to 88 pages. Altogether the collection is over 500 pages long. Some of the most striking selections in the book are as follows.
"The Keys to December": A group of bioengineered intelligent beings seek to re-shape a planet in order to suit their unique needs, but the massive project has some unintended--and ethically challenging--consequences. "Devil Car": In a future where cars have artificial intelligence, a human and his heavily armored vehicle embark on a mission to hunt down a killer rogue car. "This Moment of the Storm" takes place in a human colony on the planet Tierra del Cygnus, a world of monstrous beasts and dangerous weather. This story's main character is almost 600 years old, but has spent most of his life "sleeping" during long interstellar space voyages. In the quirky "A Museum Piece," an unappreciated artist decides to live in a museum, posing as a statue--thus becoming a living work of art. "Divine Madness" is a stunning tale about a man suffering from a condition in which time seems to be moving backwards. And the book's title story tells of a quest to catch a gigantic sea monster on the planet Venus.
Zelazny has crafted some remarkable gems in this collection. These stories, while clearly in the great tradition of science fiction, often have the flavors of myth, fantasy, and folklore. Zelazny's prose is truly a sumptuous banquet; his style is extremely literate and learned, with a crisp, clean elegance. He weaves many cultural references into his writing; along the way he cites Dante, "Aida," Dylan Thomas, Miniver Cheevy, the Iliad, Poe, Havelock Ellis, Vishnu, Rimbaud, and more. Such references strike me as an integral and intriguing part of Zelazny's style.
Zelazny succeeds in marrying strong science fiction concepts and settings to some really "down-to-earth" emotions and situations. He creates well drawn characters, and is skilled at fashioning alternate worlds and cultures. The stories touch on many powerful and resonant themes: love, loss, religion, crime, the passage of time, man's relationship to technology, the desire for a home, etc. Lovers of serious literary science fiction should not miss this fine collection by a truly gifted prose stylist.