If you are going to produce a complete collection of the short stories of one of Science Fiction's greatest writers then this is the way to do it. This is the first of four volumes of a 6-book series, with the final two due to be published next year. They are printed on high quality acid-free paper with a cover by Michael Whelan with each volume progressively revealing more of one long painting packed with allusions to Zelazny's work. The spines also match up to appear as one single image which looks great on the bookshelf.
Apart from the stories, there are introductions by other writers, notes by Zelazny on each story (and poem, for they are there too), notes on the stories by the editors explaining various references, essays by Zelazny, plus a variety of other material `-curiosities'-, unclassifiable bit of Zelany writing- original publication details, biographical and autobiographical pieces. It would be churlish to criticise this book for putting too much in, though not everything will be of interest, though that point should be noticed. Although I like the poetry of Zelazny's prose, poetry itself is not something I have much interest in.
They appear in order of publication which is not synonymous with the order in which they were written. I was amazed to learn that the story he wrote first was A Rose for Ecclesiastes but which he held back from submitting due to his being insecure about science already making the story implausible. As if that mattered! Some of the stories have never been collected before but that doesn't mean they are bad stories, rather they are minor ones in the Zelazny canon though this is not synonymous with `without interest'. A few stories in the later volumes are collaborations.
I tend to think that Zelazny works best at novelette or novella length and there are many examples of this including the original magazine versions of The Dream Master as He Who Shapes, and This Immortal as And Call Me Conrad, plus the stories which make up the My Name Is Legion sequence, and many more.
Some authors improve as they get older. Sadly, this wasn't the case with Roger Zelazny. He exploded into action in the 60's and, I'm afraid, never bettered, or even matched, his initial splendid outpourings. He maintained a high standard, of that there's no doubt, and it's arguable but plausible that his later short fiction did reach a higher level than that of his later novels which were, by the standard of his earlier works, a touch pedestrian. No matter, these stories were, are, and will remain a high watermark of Science Fiction.
This is simply an amazing work. NESFA have done the late author very proud indeed and provided a service to his many fans. The editors -David G. Grubbs, Christopher S. Kovacs, and Anne Crimmins- surely deserve some kind of recognition at the 2010 Worldcon for this labour of love.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.