Book Review: For a Breath I Tarry by Roger Zelazny

Every so often I like to read something from the classic grandmasters of SFF, and Zelazny has always been a favourite of mine. This came up during a conversation with a friend, so I just jumped on it.

What to Expect

After the extinction of man, the machines he has set in place are trying to rebuild and maintain the earth. They have differing opinions, though, on what man might have wanted.

In the midst of this, one of them becomes obsessed with understanding man, and how those who created logic were superior to it. In a true Zelazny fashion, even though this is a novelette you can read in an evening, it’s packed with layers of meaning and complexity: on the nature of art, of experience vs knowledge, of trying to understand and quantify our world, and human nature in general.

What I liked

Zelazny is truly a grandmaster, and this very quick read shows that. It’s dense, yet extremely readable; it makes you think, while enjoying and caring about machines.

What to be aware of

It is a product of the time it was written (the 60’s), with views about machines and artificial intelligence that might seem dated. Some readers, I’m sure, might also object to the use of ‘man’ for humankind.

But going beyond these, the themes are timeless just as human nature and its pursuit of art are.

Felix’s Review

Felix, I’m sad to say, didn’t get this. I guess abstract works of meta-literature are a bit beyond him, and perhaps I should leave him with the comedies and detective stories.


If you haven’t read this or if it’s been a few years, and if you enjoy the more philosophical type of SFF, this is definitely a novella worth a try (like most of Zelazny’s works).

Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He’s the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.

Come meet Felix and his world on the free short stories and novels!

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