Put aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not androids dream of electric sheep. The question today is why Phil Deckard dreams of unicorns.
And why he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
I think it’s obvious: the man’s an Amberite. An amnesiac Amberite – although as his unicorn dreams suggest, his memory is trying to heal itself. And there’s only one Amberite he could be: Corwin.
Obviously, this suggests that the Amber story as we know it would need to be revised somewhat: clearly, Corwin didn’t awaken from his amnesia quite as early in this variant (or maybe this is it – Zelazny was blissfully non-specific about the exact timing in “Nine Princes In Amber”). The events of the rest of the story can play out more or less as we know them (at least for the first quintet of novels; the second quintet date themselves in our world a little more firmly).
The question then becomes: what was he doing there? And who knows that he is there? Is someone watching him? Is another Amberite behind the Tyrell Corporation? (And if so, is is Brand, or perhaps Caine?) The replicants could be a potentially unstoppable force in open warfare – is someone creating an army? For that matter, has their use in war attracted any Amberite attention – has Benedict glimpsed attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion?
It might defy belief, but simple logic argues that the cosmos of the Vorkosigans lies somewhere out there in the myriad worlds of Shadow. And consider for a moment the nature of their world: a high-tech society dominated by a feudal military caste, with intelligence capabilities and diplomatic weight beyond what its actual size would seem to indicate.
It almost seems tailor-made to be used as a tool by one Amberite or another in their never-ending power struggles. Not that the the Amberite now using this tool is necessarily the creator of it. Of the Amberites we know well, only Benedict seems like one who might create such a world, as a means of observing warfare between two armies of wildly differing levels of technology. He may well have been as surprised as anyone by the eventual Barrayaran victory over the Cetagandans. It’s likely that his interest in Barrayar and its neighbours waned a generation or so ago in Barrayaran times, when all the great wars were over.
But another, slyer Barrayaran might well have taken up where he left off. Likely candidates for this role include Caine, Fiona and Brand, with Bleys, Eric and Corwin as less likely choices. For one reason or another, few of the other Amberites seem likely to have been that interested.
Consider, for a moment, the likely effect on Barrayar when it was finally employed by its Amberite patron. Not only will it completely upend their ideas of the laws of physics, but the court of Amber might well be surprised to learn that there are Barrayarans who play politics at least as well as they do. Emperor Gregor and House Vorkosigan are unlikely to take kindly to being manipulated in such a fashion – which might well lead to a three-front war throughout Shadow with the throne of Amber itself as the stakes. And that’s assuming that Chaos doesn’t get involved…
To anyone familiar with the setting of Deadlands, the year 1863 is instantly recognizable as the year that Raven and the Last Sons set the manitou free. Or was there more to it than that?
Consider that Raven was ageless and apparently immortal, and utterly consumed by his need for vengeance. Is it possible that Raven is one of the amnesiac Corwin’s by-blows? A bastard son of Amber, unaware of his true heritage but still deadly because of it?
Moving on, at last, we leave the Planetary and take a turn in the direction of the cosmic. Our destination is Amber, legendary centre of all existence, and the only true reality. At least, that’s what it says in their press releases.