The crew behind Game Of Thrones has run out of books to adapt and is rapidly running out of story to tell, which means there’s a new kind of power gap coming. Instead of contenders in Westeros fighting for the Iron Throne, we’re about to see contenders on cable fighting to fill the attention gap Game Of Thrones leaves behind after its final season. Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has a possible solution: Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles Of Amber, a classic 10-book fantasy series that could potentially keep TV viewers up to their necks in squabbling, murderous siblings for at least the next decade. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kirkman and business partner Dave Alpert have acquired the rights to Zelazny’s series for their company Skybound Entertainment, which manages Kirkman comic series like The Walking Dead and Invincible, and recently moved into producing with the TV adaptation of Kirkman’s Outcast books.
Zelazny’s Chronicles Of Amber, written between 1970 and 1991, have some notable things in common with George R.R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones novels. The series, starting with 1970’s Nine Princes In Amber, is an episodic, epic story about a sprawling family of power-hungry schemers using magic, intrigue, and alliances to vie for control of Amber, one of two "true worlds" that’s spawned an infinite number of "shadow" universes with widely varying physical laws. (The other true world, the Courts of Chaos, is a sort of evil opposite.) The first five books follow Corwin, a Prince of Amber, while the second five books follow his son Merlin. The series evolved considerably in tone and content over the course of 20 years — the Corwin books start as lone-fantasy-hero novels with a touch of hard-bitten detective story (much like the Dresden Files books), and turn into an epic war story, while the Merlin books are more about a cosmic hacker on a quest, trying to reshape reality. There’s certainly a lot there for a long-running TV show to dig into, as Corwin’s family members battle each other and the Courts of Chaos for control.
There’s certainly a lot in Amber for a long-running TV show to dig into
There are a lot of other shows on TV right now trying to capitalize on the interest in series-length fantasy Game Of Thrones has sparked, and the Amber series varies enough in tone and approach throughout the 10 books that it could wind up looking like a lot of those series put together. The Amber world is a multiversity of infinite possibility, where individual shadow worlds contain everything from unicorns to Sherman tanks. An Amber series could potentially have the high-fantasy formality of MTV's The Shannara Chronicles, the practical real-world grime of Fox's Lucifer, and the bratty character dynamics of Syfy's The Magicians, while building up to huge battles like the Game Of Thrones combats.
About all that's missing from Zelazny's work is George R.R. Martin's tough-fantasy grit. The Amber books aren't as grim and nihilistic as Game Of Thrones, or The Walking Dead, for that matter. They frequently let in a little wry humor, and there's a lot less focus on rape — but they were one of the many influences on Martin's series. He even named a house of Westeros after Zelazny, and one of its prominent members, Corwin Rogers, after the Nine Princes In Amber protagonist. (The house's crest, nine silver unicorns around a circular maze, is a direct reference to the nine princes of the series, and the mystical Pattern that forms a significant part of the Amber story.) Zelazny was one of Martin's friends and influences, and Martin wrote a touching tribute when Zelazny died in 1995. If the Amber books really do become the next Game Of Thrones-esque fantasy phenomenon, it'd be fitting. It'd also be a coup for Kirkman, who's become a master of protracted, sprawling, constantly evolving stories. Skybound would need a considerable budget to do it right, but if Game Of Thrones has proved anything, it's that there's a lucrative audience out there for the right kind of absorbing, ongoing complicated fantasy story.