Anthony, Piers 1934–
(Born Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacobs; has also written as Robert Piers) British-born American novelist, editor, short-story writer, autobiographer, and author of young adult novels
The following entry presents an overview of Anthony's career through 2005.
The author of over one hundred and twenty works of young adult fantasy and science fiction, Anthony is one of the most prolific and best-selling genre writers today. Perhaps best known for his "Magic of Xanth" series, Anthony is also the author of a broad spectrum of ambitious works, from his "Incarnations of Immortality" series—which are fictional treatises concerned with such abstract concepts as the nature of life and death and good versus evil—to works of historical fiction, such as Tatham Mound (1991), and his most recent forays into so-called "speculative fiction" with the "Geodyssey" series, a theoretical look at a couple repeatedly reincarnated over the course of human history. From his early career, in which he was repeatedly nominated for several prestigious awards within the science fiction community, including both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, to his current status as one of the stalwarts of both fantasy and science fiction, Anthony has dedicated himself to entertaining his audience, noting that, "Writing and reading are one on one, writer to reader and back again, and the rest of the universe doesn't matter. The writer must know his readers, not the details of their lives, which are myriad, but their hearts and dreams. He must relate. He must care."
Born Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob on August 6, 1934, in Oxford, England, to Alfred Bennis Jacob and Norma Patricia Sherlock Jacob, Anthony was the eldest of two children. His father was an American who met his mother while both were students at Oxford University. A Quaker by faith, his father was ap-pointed the head of a British Friends Service Council relief mission to Spain during the rule of authoritarian leader Francisco Franco at the outset of World War II. Norma Jacob joined her husband in Spain, leaving Piers and his sister, Teresa, under the care of his maternal grandparents. When Anthony was four years old, his family was reunited in Spain. During this period, Anthony's father came under pressure from local Axis figures, and after his sudden detainment in 1940, Jacob was forced to flee Europe with his family to ensure their safety. Returning to his father's homeland of America, Anthony and his family lived near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. However, over the course of his childhood, Anthony found himself uprooted on a regular basis as his father sought work in different locales. After struggling through school due to his family's nomadic nature and an undiagnosed learning disability, Anthony was eventually placed in two well-regarded Quaker schools. There he was immersed in Quaker theology, including tenets of pacifism and egalitarianism, traits he has carried with him into his adulthood. After his graduation from the Quaker-sponsored Westtown School, he earned a B.A. in writing at Goddard College in Vermont in 1956. It was at Goddard where he met his future wife, Carol Ann Marble, whom he married after their graduation in 1956. After a period of financial struggle, Anthony joined the Army, and in 1958, gained his U.S. citizenship. Upon his return to civilian life, Anthony held a variety of professions, including working as an aide at a mental hospital and as a technical writer at an electronics company. However, he dreamed of becoming a professional writer, and in 1962, his wife agreed to allow him one year where she would support the family financially so that he could try to get his work published. Achieving only limited success, Anthony returned to work, becoming an English teacher, only to go back to writing full-time again in 1966. The following year, he witnessed the publication of his first full-length novel, Chthon (1967), a story based on his undergraduate thesis from 1956. Over the course of the next decade, Anthony continued to publish novels, primarily in the science fiction genre, and was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. His first widespread popular success came with the 1977 publication of his novel A Spell for Chameleon, the first chapter in his long-running "Magic of Xanth" series. His fifth Xanth book Ogre, Ogre (1982) is thought to have been the first fantasy paperback ever to make it onto the New York Times best-seller list, and each of his subsequent Xanth books have made the list—over thirty novels in total. Now the father of two daughters, Penny and Cheryl, Anthony lives on an isolated tree farm in Florida. Known for his devotion to his fans, he spends up to two full days a week responding to fan mail. He has become an outspoken critic of the publishing industry, going so far as to sue several of his former publishers for questionable accounting practices. To that end, he has created the Internet Publishers Survey with the hope of assisting new writers with their dreams of becoming published. Anthony has released two volumes of autobiography to date, Bio of an Ogre: The Autobiography of Piers Anthony to Age Fifty (1988) and How Precious Was That While (2001).
Most recognized for his "Magic of Xanth" series, Anthony has written a broad spectrum of fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. He has even authored a book of correspondence, Letters to Jenny (1993), which details his efforts to cheer up a young fan who fell into a coma after being hit by a drunk driver. His renowned loyalty to his fan base is reflected in the chapter length notes, addressed to his readers, that appear in each of his books, describing his writing process as well as the disparate elements that inform his work. Further, as the recipient of hundreds of fan letters weekly, he regularly attempts to include as many of their suggestions into his novels as appropriate. The novels in the Xanth series are generally less complex and easier to read than some of Anthony's earlier works—such as Chthon or its sequel Phthor (1978)—appealing more directly to young adult readers. A Spell for Chameleon, a 1978 Hugo Award nominee, introduces Bink, a protagonist confronted with two of the dominant recurring topics in Anthony's novels: maturity and control. The first Xanth installment chronicles Bink's maturation and his relationship with his son, Dor. Subsequent generations of Bink's family feature prominently in later books. The land of Xanth closely resembles Anthony's longtime home state of Florida in size and shape, and its place names are often wittily twisted versions of Floridian locales. In Xanth, everyone and everything—even rocks and trees—has a magical talent; everyone, that is, except for Bink. Chameleon follows Bink on his quest to discover his talent or face exile to the boring, powerless land of Mundania. In the process, Bink gains not only knowledge of his true magical ability, but he also learns of his emotional maturity as well. Bink sets out on another adventure in The Source of Magic (1979), in which he is assigned to discover the source of all magic in Xanth. In Castle Roogna (1979), Bink's son Dor travels 800 years back in time to rescue his nurse's boyfriend. Throughout each book, Bink and Dor encounter innumerable illusions and feats of magic. Much of the scholarship on the Xanth series has revolved around Anthony's trademark reliance on puns, the evidence of which can be seen in the titles of his Xanth novels, including Centaur Aisle (1982), Roc and a Hard Place (1995), Faun and Games (1997), and Pet Peeve (2005), which features a foulmouthed parrot called a "Pet Peeve." Cathi Dunn MacRae has suggested that Anthony's punning comes from his having "found a formula that worked phenomenally well, with puns, madcap humor, and wild leaps of imagination, which proved addictive to many readers, especially teenagers." However, MacRae has warned, "Xanth novels are an acquired taste; some never acquire it at all. Girls who enjoy feminist fantasy may find some of his attitudes or jokes at the expense of women just plain silly."
While peppering his writing with humor, Anthony's stories are often based on speculative scientific theories, as with Orn (1971), which appropriates the notion that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs was, in part, due to continental drift—an idea still under regular debate in scientific circles. Equally at ease with philosophical theory, several of Anthony's books tackle particularly dense subjects, as with his "Battle Circle" books, a novel series concerned with environmental issues and population control, or his complex novel Macroscope (1969), an examination of man's place within the larger universe and the dangers of acquiring too much information. In his "Incarnations of Immortality" series, beginning with On a Pale Horse (1983), the abstract concepts of Time, War, Nature, Fate, and Death are real people—the Incarnations—and are all involved in the ongoing battle between Satan and God. The division between Anthony's interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres is most readily apparent in his "Apprentice Adept" series, where two universes—one, Proton, relies solely on technology, whereas the other, Phaze, is a world of magic—exist on opposite sides of an invisible curtain. In this universe, the heroic Stile eventually discovers that the two worlds rely upon one another more than anyone in either tangential universe had ever expected. But Anthony's literary interests extend beyond the confines of genre, with the plots of many of his works encompassing broader real world issues. In Refugee (1983), the first of the "Bio of a Space Tyrant" series, Anthony tackles difficult social issues surrounding the boat peoples of Vietnam and Haiti in graphic, albeit subtly veiled, symbolic terms. In Tatham Mound, he tells the story of a young Toco tribe member living in Florida during the Spanish Conquest, utilizing a blend of historical nonfiction and fantasy to expose the harsh treatment of Native Americans during that period. Published in 1991, Virtual Mode introduces the "Mode" series, in which characters traverse the universe through the use of "skew paths" anchored by other people. As the anchors change, the paths and destinies of the travelers are affected and new stories are presented. In Virtual Mode, Darius of Hlahtar ventures to Earth to bring the girl he loves, the suicidal Colene, back to his universe. Together Darius and Colene discover that they must build a skew path to complete the journey.
Despite his broad commercial appeal and large fan base, Anthony has never received widespread critical acclaim. Though recognizing his international popularity, reviewers have continually faulted Anthony for relying too heavily on stock characterizations and formulaic narratives. While this has been a common complaint directed towards writers of serial fiction, Anthony has been further criticized for pandering to his readers and overindulging in puns and insider jokes. In her review of Pet Peeve, Frieda Murray has commented that the story "may be of great interest to seasoned Xanthophiles but may not be overly intelligible to relative newcomers, who may feel themselves in the presence of a standup comic addressing his veteran audience only." Another recurrent complaint about Anthony's canon has been the author's allegedly stereotypical portrayal of female characters. Critics have noted that, throughout the Xanth series, Anthony's women characters are constantly engaged in losing debates concerning the importance of beauty versus brains and are commonly portrayed as nubile nymphs and seductresses who only impede the way of Anthony's male heroes. This has caused some reviewers to label Anthony as a "misogynist." For example, Lois A. Strell has contended that Anthony "laces his book with overt sexism. In Night Mare (1983), beauty in a woman is equated with stupidity, and ugliness with intelligence." Discussing gender roles in Anthony's books, Judith A. Clark has argued that the Xanth series presents "a stereotyped Henry Higgins' attitude toward women, begun with the childlike Bink in A Spell for Chameleon, is now developed through adult, married men. Not until Castle Roogna is there any counterargument to this relatively puerile reaction to male/female relationships." However, despite such complaints, Anthony's supporters have been quick to note the author's wide range of female fans and frequent interactions with his readers. Surveying Anthony's career, John Clute has stated that the "fantasy work of Piers Anthony constantly enthralls with its scope and frustrates through the pun-ridden, excessive facility of its telling. It sometimes seems difficult for … Anthony to find worlds of the imagination that are sufficiently gritty to engage his full attention. When his imagination is properly involved, however, his work is explosive."
Anthony has received numerous awards and accolades, beginning with a 1966 Nebula Award nomination for his short story "The Message." His first novel, Chthon, earned nominations for both the Nebula and the Hugo Award. Sos the Rope (1968) was also presented with a Hugo nomination and won the Science Fiction Novel Award contest in 1969. Macroscope was nominated for the Hugo, and his short story "The Bridge" and his novella In the Barn received Nebula Award nominations. A Spell for Chameleon was nominated for the Hugo and won the August Derleth British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel. On a Pale Horse was named one of the ALA's Best Books for Young Adults in 1983. Among his many other honors, Anthony received the Golden Pen Award for Best Fantasy Author in 1982.
Young Adult Science Fiction
Chthon (young adult novel) 1967
The Ring [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1968
Macroscope (young adult novel) 1969
The E.S.P. Worm [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1970
Prostho Plus (young adult novel) 1973
Race against Time (young adult novel) 1973
Rings of Ice (young adult novel) 1974
Triple Detente (young adult novel) 1974
But What of Earth? [with Robert Coulson] (young adult novel) 1976
Steppe (young adult novel) 1976
Phthor (young adult novel) 1978
The Pretender [with Frances T. Hall] (young adult novel) 1979
Mute (young adult novel) 1981
Anthonology (young adult short stories) 1985
Ghost (young adult novel) 1986
Shade of the Tree (young adult novel) 1986
Uncollected Stars [editor; with Barry Malzberg, Martin Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh] (young adult short stories) 1986
Balook [illustrations by Patrick Woodroffe] (young adult novel) 1990
Dead Morn [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1990
Hard Sell (young adult novel) 1990
Mer-Cycle [illustrations by Ron Lindahn] (young adult novel) 1991
Alien Plot (young adult short stories) 1992
Caterpillar's Question [with Philip José Farmer] (young adult novel) 1992
Killobyte (young adult novel) 1993
The Willing Spirit [with Alfred Tella] (young adult novel) 1996
Volk (young adult novel) 1997
Quest for the Fallen Star [with J. R. Goolsby and Alan Riggs] (young adult novel) 1998
Spider Legs [with Clifford Pickover] (young adult novel) 1998
Dream a Little Dream [with Julie Brady] (young adult novel) 1999
Realty Check (young adult novel) 2000
The Secret of Spring [with Jo Anne Taeusch] (young adult novel) 2000
"Apprentice Adept" Series
Split Infinity (young adult novel) 1980
Blue Adept (young adult novel) 1981
Juxtaposition (young adult novel) 1982
Out of Phaze (young adult novel) 1987
Robot Adept (young adult novel) 1988
Unicorn Point (young adult novel) 1989
Phaze Doubt (young adult novel) 1990
"Battle Circle" Series
Sos the Rope (young adult novel) 1968
Var the Stick (young adult novel) 1972
Neq the Sword (young adult novel) 1975
"Bio of a Space Tyrant" Series
Refugee (young adult novel) 1983
Mercenary (young adult novel) 1984
Executive (young adult novel) 1985
Politician (young adult novel) 1985
Statesman (young adult novel) 1986
The Iron Maiden (young adult novel) 2001
Key to Chroma (young adult novel) 2003
Key to Havoc (young adult novel) 2003
Key to Destiny (young adult novel) 2004
Cluster (young adult novel) 1977; republished as Vicinity Cluster, 1979
Chaining the Lady (young adult novel) 1978
Kirlian Quest (young adult novel) 1978
Thousandstar (young adult novel) 1980
Viscous Circle (young adult novel) 1982
"Dragon's Gold" Series
Dragon's Gold [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1987
Serpent's Silver [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1988
Chimaera's Copper [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1990
Orc's Opal [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1990
Mouvar's Magic [with Robert E. Margroff] (young adult novel) 1992
Isle of Woman (young adult novel) 1993
Shame of Man (young adult novel) 1994
Hope of Earth (young adult novel) 1997
Muse of Art (young adult novel) 1999
"Incarnations of Immortality" Series
On a Pale Horse (young adult novel) 1983
Bearing an Hourglass (young adult novel) 1984
With a Tangled Skein (young adult novel) 1985
Wielding a Red Sword (young adult novel) 1986
Being a Green Mother (young adult novel) 1987
For Love of Evil (young adult novel) 1988
And Eternity (young adult novel) 1990
"Jason Striker" Series
The Bamboo Bloodbath [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1974
Kiai! [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1974
Mistress of Death [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1974
Ninja's Revenge [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1975
Amazon Slaughter [with Roberto Fuentes] (young adult novel) 1976
"Magic of Xanth" Series
A Spell for Chameleon (young adult novel) 1977
The Source of Magic (young adult novel) 1979
Castle Roogna (young adult novel) 1979
Centaur Aisle (young adult novel) 1982
Ogre, Ogre (young adult novel) 1982
Night Mare (young adult novel) 1983
Dragon on a Pedestal (young adult novel) 1983
Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn (young adult novel) 1985
Golem in the Gears (young adult novel) 1986
Vale of the Vole (young adult novel) 1987
Heaven Cent (young adult novel) 1988
Man from Mundania (young adult novel) 1989
Isle of View (young adult novel) 1990
Question Quest (young adult novel) 1991
The Color of Her Panties (young adult novel) 1992
Demons Don't Dream (young adult novel) 1993
Harpy Thyme (young adult novel) 1994
Geis of the Gargoyle (young adult novel) 1995
Roc and a Hard Place (young adult novel) 1995
Yon Ill Wind (young adult novel) 1996
Faun and Games (young adult novel) 1997
Zombie Lover (young adult novel) 1998
Xone of Contention (young adult novel) 1999
The Dastard (young adult novel) 2000
Swell Foop (young adult novel) 2001
Up in a Heaval (young adult novel) 2002
Cube Route (young adult novel) 2003
Currant Events (young adult novel) 2004
Pet Peeve (young adult novel) 2005
Stork Naked (young adult novel) 2006
Virtual Mode (young adult novel) 1991
Fractal Mode (young adult novel) 1992
Chaos Mode (young adult novel) 1993
DoOon Mode (young adult novel) 2001
Omnivore (young adult novel) 1968
Orn (young adult novel) 1971
Ox (young adult novel) 1976
God of Tarot (young adult novel) 1979
Faith of Tarot (young adult novel) 1980
Vision of Tarot (young adult novel) 1980
*Tarot (young adult novel) 1987
Hasan (young adult fantasy) 1977
Bio of an Ogre: The Autobiography of Piers Anthony to Age Fifty (autobiography) 1988
Through the Ice [with Robert Kornwise; illustrations by Daniel Horne] (young adult fantasy) 1989
Firefly (novel) 1990
Tatham Mound (novel) 1991
If I Pay Thee Not in Gold [with Mercedes Lackey] (young adult fantasy) 1993
Letters to Jenny (correspondence) 1993
Tales from the Great Turtle [editor; with Richard Gilliam] (young adult short stories) 1994
The Gutbucket Quest [with Ron Leming] (novel) 2000
How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography (autobiography) 2001
*Collects God of Tarot, Vision of Tarot, and Faith of Tarot.
Piers Anthony (essay date August 1989)
SOURCE: Anthony, Piers. "Think of the Reader." Writer 102, no. 8 (August 1989): 11-13, 35.
[In the following essay, Anthony discusses his views on writing professionally and working as a genre author, arguing that a successful writer should fully understand his or her reader's wants, needs, and expectations.]
I am known as a writer of popular fantasy and science fiction, though my output is not limited to that. Thus my view is that of a genre writer who is trying to understand more general principles.
Back when I was struggling to break into print, I took a correspondence course in writing. The instructors knew a great deal about writing, but little about science fiction. No matter, they said; the fundamentals of good writing apply to all genres, and they could help me. They were only half right: the fundamentals do apply, but you do have to know the genre—any genre—in order to write successfully for it. I studied my market on my own, and in the end I made it on my own. From this I derive a principle: There is virtue in being ornery. I continue to be ornery and continue to score in ways the critics seem unable to fathom.
A writer should study his market, and study general principles; both are essential. He should also forge his own way, contributing such limited originality as the market will tolerate. There is plenty of excellent instruction elsewhere on such things. I am concerned here with a more subtle yet vital aspect of writing than most: the writer's liaison with the reader. This can make or break a piece of writing, yet few seem to grasp its significance. This is one of my many differences with critics, so I will use them as a straw man to help make my point.
I picture a gathering of the elite of the genre, who are there to determine the critic's choice of the best works of science fiction and fantasy of all time. That is, the List that will be graven on granite for the edification of the lesser aspirants. In the genre these would be Samuel Delany's Dhalgren, Brian Aldiss' Report on Probability A, and Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, and the finest writer of all time would be J. G. Ballard, despite his one failure with Empire of the Sun.
Have you read any of these? Have you even heard of them? No, except that you did like the motion picture based on the last? Well, the critics have an answer for you: You are an ignorant lout whose library card and book store privileges should be suspended until your tastes improve.
Yet any ordinary person who tries to read such books will wonder just what world such critics live in. The answer is, of course, a different world. They are like the poet Shelley's Ozymandias, whose colossal ruin lies in the barren sand. "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair." Yet his works are completely forgotten.
I am in the world of commercial writing, which means it is readable and enjoyable, and the only accolade it is likely to receive from critics is a mock award for Who Killed Science Fiction? (I was in a five-way tie for runner-up on that one last year, but there's hope for the future.)
But I maintain that the essence of literature lies in its assimilation by the ordinary folk, and that readability is the first, not the last criterion for its merit. Therefore I address the subject of writing, regardless of genre, from this perspective. What makes it readable? To hell with formal rules of writing; they are guidelines in the absence of talent and should be honored only so long as they do not interfere. If it's clear and interesting and relates to the needs of the reader, it will score. I like to tell audiences that they may love or hate what I write, but they will be moved by it. Then I prove it. The only person to fall asleep during one of my recent readings was a senior editor. Well, there are limits, and even I can't squeeze much blood from a stone. I am successful in part because I make connections with my readers that bypass the editors as well as the critics.
How do I do it? Well, there are little tricks, and one big secret. All of them are so simple that it's a wonder they aren't practiced by every writer. But they are not, and indeed critics condemn them, and editors try to excise them from my manuscripts. I have had many an internecine battle with editors, and finally left a major publisher because of this. I understand I am known as a difficult writer to work with, though no editor says it to my face. I can't imagine why!
All the tricks can be subsumed under one guideline: Think of the reader. Do it at every stage. Every paragraph, every word. If you are writing fantasy, don't use a word like "subsumed" because the reader won't understand it. It's a lovely word, but unless your readership consists of intellectuals or folk interested in precise usage—such as those who are presumed to read a magazine like this one—forgo your private pleasure, and speak more plainly. "All the tricks add up to this." I can with ease overreach the horizons of my readers, but I do my damnedest not to. Any writer who thinks he's smart when he baffles his readers, whether by using foreign phrases or obscure terminology, is the opposite.
When you refer to a character or situation that has not been mentioned for some pages, refresh the matter for the reader, so that he won't have to leaf back interminably to find out what you're talking about. Don't say, "The List is foolish." Huh? What list? Say "The List of the critics' top genre novels I parodied above is foolish." Editors seem to hate this; they blue-pencil it out as redundancy. But it enables the reader to check in with your concept without pausing, and that's what counts. Never let your reader stumble; lead him by the hand—and do it without patronizing him.
When you introduce a new character, don't just throw him at the reader unprepared. Have him introduced by a familiar character, if you possibly can. In my forthcoming mainstream novel Firefly, I start with one character, who later meets another, and then I follow the other character. That one meets a third, and I follow the third. In the course of 150,000 words, the only character the reader meets cold is the first one. Thus the reader can proceed smoothly throughout, never tripping. It was a job to arrange some of the handoffs, but that is my job as a writer: to do the busywork for the reader. Some of the concepts in this novel are mind-stretching, but the little tricks smooth the way.
When I do a series—and I've done ten so far—I try to make each novel stand by itself, so that the reader who comes to it new does not have to struggle with an ongoing and confusing situation. Yes, this means repeating and summarizing some material, and it is a challenge to do that without boring those who have read the prior novels. But it means, for example, that a reader can start with my tenth Xanth novel and read backwards toward the first, and enjoy them all. Xanth has many readers, and this is part of the reason: It is easy to get into, and it does not demand more than the reader cares to give. Perhaps no other series shows a greater dichotomy between the contempt of critics and the devotion of readers. I do know my market, and it is not the critics. I suspect the same is true for most commercial writers.
Science fiction is fantastic stuff. Little of it is truly believable, and less is meant to be. It represents a flight of fancy for the mind, far removed from the dullness of mundane affairs. Yet even there, human values are paramount. There needs to be respect for every situation and every character, no matter how far out. Every thing is real on its own terms, and every one is alive, even when the thing is as outrageous as a night mare who is a female horse carrying bad dreams and the one is the Incarnation of Death itself, complete with scythe. Can a robot have feelings? Yes, and they are similar to those of a human being. For in the tacit symbolism of the genre as I practice it, a humanoid robot may be a man whose color, religion, or language differs from those of the culture into which he is thrust, and his feelings are those any of us would experience if similarly thrust. The essence of the genre is human, even when it is alien.
As I write this article, I am in an ongoing situation that illustrates the way that even the most fantastic and/or humorous fiction can relate to serious life. A twelve-year-old girl walking home from school was struck by a drunk driver, and spent three months in a coma, barely responsive to any outside stimulus. At her mother's behest, I wrote her a letter, for she was one of my readers. I talked about the magic land of Xanth, and the sister realm of Elquist by another author, and the value of children to those who love them, and I joked about the loathsome shot the nurse would give the Monster Under the Bed if she saw him. I spoke of the character with her name who would be in a future Xanth novel, an elf girl or maybe an ogre girl.
The child's mother read the letter to her, and it brought a great widening of her eyes, and her first smile since the accident. She became responsive, though able to move only her eyes, one big toe, and her fingers. She started to indicate YES or NO to verbal questions by looking to placards with those words printed on them. She made her preference emphatically clear: an elf girl, not an ogre girl!
It is my hope that she is now on the way to recovery, though there is of course a long way to go. It was fantasy that made the connection to reality, her response to my interest and my teasing. I think that fantasy needs no more justification than this. I, as writer, was able to relate to her, my reader, and she responded to me. The rest will be mostly in the province of medicine, but the human spark was vital to the turning point.
And here is the secret I am working toward: Writing and reading are one on one, writer to reader and back again, and the rest of the universe doesn't matter. The writer must know his readers, not the details of their lives, which are myriad, but their hearts and dreams. He must relate. He must care.
When I write to you, it is as if we are in a privacy booth, and we are sharing things that neither of us would confess elsewhere. We love, we hurt, we laugh, we fear, we cry, we wonder, we are embarrassed—together. We feel, linked. We share our joy and our shame, and yes, I feel your tears on my face as you feel mine on yours. We may be of different sexes and other generations, or we may match—but we relate to each other more intimately than any two others, dream to dream, our emotions mixed and tangled—for that time while the book that is our connection is open. When it closes we are cut off from each other, and we are strangers again, and we regret that, but we remember our sharing, and we cherish it. We were true friends, for a while. How precious was that while!
Suzanne Elizabeth Reid (essay date 1998)
SOURCE: Reid, Suzanne Elizabeth. "Science Fantasy: Pamela Service and Piers Anthony." In Presenting Young Adult Science Fiction, pp. 136-37, 144-52. New York, N.Y.: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
[In the following essay, Reid offers a critical introduction to Anthony and his body of work, exploring how Anthony blends elements of fantasy and science fiction throughout his oeuvre. Reid discusses Anthony's Xanth series, among other works, and notes how the series fits within the genre of "Science fantasy."]
Science fantasy creates worlds that exist mainly in the imagination and often only lightly intersect with current scientific theory. Many fantasies are founded on magic and wish fulfillment, whimsical combinations of the more attractive aspects of reality and the alluring suggestiveness of scientific inquiry. At present the line between "fantasy," which exists only in the imagination, and "science fiction," which draws upon science and technology and may become reality, is so blurred that any distinction must be vague, with many exceptions easily argued. "Science fantasy" is often used to designate, though fuzzily, the tone of a work more than its actual subject matter or purpose.
In the last few years science fantasy has become increasingly popular with many readers. Perhaps one reason is that it allows a more complete escape from reality and satisfies the desire for novelty. Some readers of fantasy enjoy the elements of whimsy and surprise more than the intellectual exercise of playing out the logical speculation "what if?" Fantasy can be more romantic and seem more playful because it deals with talking animals, cute aliens, and arbitrary social laws. While science fiction extrapolates new inventions from technology to address and solve the larger issues of humankind, fantasy often uses a smaller focus and explores more personal issues in a more playful manner.
Another reason for science fantasy's recent popularity is that science and technology have been redefining "reality" and breaking through former boundaries at a fast rate. Phenomena that seemed fantastic only a few short years ago—cloning a sheep, exploring Mars by remote control, reading brain waves—have now become scientific history. Fantasy allows writers and readers to push beyond current definitions of the possible without the careful justifications required by scientific fiction.
A third possible cause for the tremendous appeal of science fantasy for young people is described by Pamela Service in an article for The ALAN Review.1 A writer of science fiction and fantasy herself, Service explains that the freedom of these genres is particularly appropriate for sensitive adolescents who generally avoid any literature that discusses potentially embarrassing situations too directly or deeply. When fantasy and sf allow young people "to identify with characters who are not human or don't even live in our world or time, then they can do so safely—without giving away too much of themselves" (Service, 17). More than just an escape from the confusion and discomfort of adolescence, this kind of reading also gives young people a way to begin sorting out questions about life's patterns and interpersonal relationships in the privacy of their own minds; where difficult meanings are cushioned by imagery and metaphor, self-awareness can emerge gently and comfortably.
Defining Qualities Of Science Fantasy
Service believes that science fantasy must be believable and consistent to be effective in helping readers relate the embedded principles and lessons to their own lives outside the story. Fantastic elements must flow smoothly from a kind of reality that the reader already accepts as valid, and the events of this in-vented world must develop logically according to the author's first descriptions. Fantasy is not so much a divorce from the reader's perception of the real world as an extrapolation of familiar psychological or social principles told in new language….
Piers Anthony: Invitation to Belong to Separate Worlds
Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacobs, who writes under the name Piers Anthony, was born in England on 6 August 1934. His American father, Alfred Bennis Jacobs, had come to England to study at Oxford University, where he met and married a fellow student, Norma Patricia Sherlock. Anthony's father was head of the British Friends Service Council mission in Spain during the years that the dictator Franco was gaining power as World War II approached. In 1940 Alfred Jacobs was forced to leave Europe suddenly to protect his family from increasing harassment by Axis officials. Piers, with his mother, father, and younger sister, Teresa Caroline, left on the ship Excalibur for the United States.
After a brief stay with Anthony's grandfather, Edward H. Jacobs, a Quaker whose wealth stemmed from mushroom farms, in Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, the family moved frequently as his father sought a suitable position. These moves through five New England states in fewer than five years may help explain why Anthony, who would one day be the author of hundreds of thousands of published paragraphs, had such a problem learning to read and write. In later life Anthony realized that he must have been dyslexic as a child, like his daughter Penny. At any rate, it took him three years to get through first grade. These frequent moves also prevented him from forming deep friendships; his memories of these early childhood years are tinged with feelings of rejection. Perhaps Anthony's later fondness for designing fantastic worlds where he has the security of imaginative control results in part from the early insecurities he remembers.
After these early forays into public education, Anthony attended two notable Friends schools, Rose Valley and Westtown. In his autobiography, Bio of an Ogre (1988), he depicts himself as a serious child particularly sensitive to injustice, with a persistent courage and determination to protest—characteristics that may stem from the American Quaker tradition.2 When a cousin near his age died of cancer at 16, Anthony developed an aversion to death that led to a lifelong habit of vegetarianism. When he was a student at Goddard College, slim finances and an appreciation for naturalness caused him to quit wearing shoes for several semesters. Although Anthony does not claim any religious affiliation, his strong ethical stances against unnecessary violence and his insistence on straightforward honesty in both personal and business matters seem rooted in his early experiences, and perhaps in his family connection with Quakerism.
The academic and moral climate of Goddard, known as one of the most liberal institutions of higher education in the United States, allowed Anthony to meet many like-minded people, including Carol Ann Marble, whom he married in 1956, the same year he graduated. Before the wedding the couple and two friends, all nearly six feet tall, drove down the coast from Vermont to Florida in four days, an adventure Anthony remembers with delight. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he learned about weather balloons and wrote for the battalion newspaper, Anthony worked as a technical writer, a high school teacher, and a social worker before becoming a full-time writer of fiction.
Anthony's first introduction to science fiction came from discovering an issue of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction in his mother's office when he was 14 years old. He was immediately attracted to the "array of wonderful worlds, each of which was better than his own" (Anthony, 83), where life's problems could be solved vicariously. Goddard permitted him to write a science fiction novel for his senior thesis, which needed years of improvement before it was published.
Anthony, however, is a determined writer, and his rich emotional life and excellent education served as wonderful resources for his kinds of fiction. In the years between 1954 and 1962 he submitted to magazines 16 pieces that were not published, but in his first year as a full-time writer, "Possible to Rue" was accepted for publication by Fantastic Stories Magazine. Only four years later, during which he worked outside the home, his short story "The Message" was nominated for the 1966 Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Since that year he has devoted all his time to writing fiction.
Piers Anthony's allegorical fiction, beginning with Chthon (1967) and Macroscope (1969), shares the intricacy of detail and the mythic themes of fantasy, yet includes elements of science fiction.
The Science Fiction Allegories
Chthon is a coming-of-age novel in which the character Aton Five, imprisoned within a planet, contacts the "mind" of the planet Chthon and eventually emerges metaphorically from his subterranean constraints. Conceived while Anthony was in college and in the army, Chthon unites numerous episodes into an intricate structure, like a doubled hexagonal puzzle. Three of the six sections pair the novel's present with a future time, and three match the past. Anthony believes that most readers did not appreciate the extent of artistry in this work, where every set of numbers matches and the stories parallel in both a literal and a figurative sense (Anthony, 192). It may be that science fiction readers and critics, who were attracted to the outer trappings of this psychological study, are less attuned to formal literary patterns than scions of fantasy. In the sequel, Phthor (1975), Aton's son Arlo conquers the planetary intelligence of Chthon, demonstrating an individual hero's conquest over a massive machine.
The theme of a universal order is also played out in Macroscope (1969), a complex but well-structured space opera where scientific devices are so imaginatively logical as to seem fantastic. People travel through space by melting through temporary black holes and then solidifying on another galactic layer, an idea that also occurs in Star Trek as "transporting." Four heroes are led to another universe, where their lives change and their minds are captured by Anthony's suggestive astrological images. The line between sf and fantasy genres is magnificently fuzzy here. Macroscope was nominated for the Hugo Award in 1970, and came in third.
Science Fiction Series
The complex allegory of Macroscope was followed by simpler adventures, whose characters move quickly through situations drawn to speed the action more than to foster thoughtful analysis. Sos the Rope (1968) (which won an award from Pyramid Books), Var the Stick (1972), and Neq the Sword (1975) make up the Battle Circle trilogy (1978). Anthony's plots sound ordinary, but he weaves a magical world with his skillful use of language.
Omnivore (1968) captures the damp, cloying mystery of a fungoid world on the planet Nacre. The sequel, Orn (1971), depicts the author's theory that the dinosaurs' extinction is related to the breakup of the continents, a theory the scientific world has not disputed. Ox (1976) captures the powerful logic of inanimate intelligence by using the metaphor of a three-dimensional game; this notion was especially inventive, as this book was published before the preponderance of computer technology in our thinking.
Anthony crafted the Apprentice Adept series to be precisely half fantasy and half science fiction, bridging a gap that usually separates readers into mutually intolerant camps. The series begins with Split Infinity (1980), its title a pun on the grammatical habit of inserting a modifier between the word "to" and the verb of an infinitive phrase. Blue Adept (1981), Juxtaposition (1982), and Out of Phaze (1987) continue the series, which also includes Unicorn Point (1989). These volumes unite unicorns with robots, computers with magic, and androids with dragons, trolls, and vampires. The model for the unicorn Neysa is Sky Blue, a small black horse Anthony bought in 1978 for his daughter Penny; it is also the model for Nightmare Imbri of Xanth.
Soon after Anthony started his popular and lighthearted Xanth series, a lingering illness spurred his decision to address serious issues in his writing, challenging his many readers to consider the political implications of their uninvolvement. He decided to launch a two-pronged discussion, one focusing on positive aspects and using science fiction as a framework, and the other a fantasy series presenting a roughly parallel view from the negative side.
The Bio of a Space Tyrant series is the science fiction part of the project. Refugee (1983) is an exposé of the plight of refugee boat people from Vietnam and from Haiti, a serious social commentary "spiced up considerably by blood and sex" (Anthony, 210). The Incarnations of Immortality is a dark fantasy series, beginning with On a Pale Horse (1983), where death is more popular than the life that the boat people yearn for.
The Fantasy Series
The Tarot series (1979–1980) returns to the themes of Macroscope, as does the Incarnations of Immortality series. The occult imagery of the Cluster series (1978–1980), including the Kirlian auras, is continued in the Tarot series in order to address the important religious question about the existence of a single omnipotent God. In his Bio of an Ogre, Anthony states that he considers the novel Tarot (1987), which compiles the three earlier novels of the series, "the most important one of [his] career" (200). It is less a galactic battle than an inward fight to resist temptations, to accept companions, and to face personal failings.
In contrast to these serious-minded moral epics, Anthony's most popular works are infinitely more superficial and lighthearted—full of puns and invention.
[Image Not Available]
Xanth was born while the author was walking with his daughters through their wooded land in central Florida and Cheryl got snagged by a blackberry thorn. "Instead of live oaks, there were tangled trees whose tentacles not only dangled, they grabbed. The cacti could literally shoot their needles. Paths were magic, sometimes being one way: existing only in one direction. And there was a huge forgotten chasm in the center. I had in fact transformed the entire state of Florida in the Land of Xanth" (Anthony, 204). The Xanth series of fantasies includes A Spell for Chameleon (1977), The Source of Magic (1979), Castle Roogna (1979), Centaur Aisle (1982), Ogre, Ogre (1982), Night Mare (1983), Dragon on a Pedestal (1983), Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn (1984), Golem in the Gears (1986), Vale of the Vole (1987), Heaven Cent (1988), Man from Mundania (1989), Isle of View (1990), and Question Quest (1991). The titles reflect Anthony's affection for punning. In Roc and a Hard Place (1995) and Yon Ill Wind (1997), the 19th and 20th volumes of the series, he incorporates over a hundred puns suggested by his many young fans of Xanth. Piers Anthony's Visual Guide to Xanth (1989), written with Jody Lynn Nye, helps readers keep all the various settings straight. Anthony selected the name Xanth from a name book; it means blond or yellow-haired. When the fifth novel of the Xanth series, Ogre, Ogre, was selected for the New York Times best-seller list, Anthony began calling the month of its publication "OctOgre" in its honor. Soon other puns followed: JamBoree, FeBlueberry, … NoRemember, DesMember. These, like the puns in many of his titles, endear him to some readers but elicit raised eyebrows from those who think public punning is beneath human dignity. This split assessment of Anthony's writing is generally indicative of readers' attitudes toward including fantastic elements in science fiction—they are either charmed by the imaginative lightheartedness of a story that ventures beyond everyday life or repelled by the frothy silliness. Like general attitudes toward science fiction, the tendency to either love or loathe fantasy is usually very strong.
The Dragon series of fantasies, written by Anthony with Robert E. Margroff, includes Dragon's Gold (1987), Serpent's Silver (1988), and Chimaera's Copper (1990). The Mode fantasy series describes travel between differing realities: Virtual Mode (1991) explores the roots of 14-year-old Colene's suicidal habit of slitting her wrists and her search for unconditional love as she finds relief in one of a great number of parallel realities that exist outside the world. Fractal Mode (1992) continues the story of Colene and the mind-reading horse, Seqiro, on a planet that glows with joy and beneficence but is threatened by the slave-trading people called Gaol. Chaos Mode (1993) relates a number of episodes in the various alternate realities of this series. Balook (1990) uses science fiction to travel to the past as a lonely young man, Thor, befriends a science project reconstructed from clones of past beings who introduce him to other prehistoric characters.
Historical Space Fantasies
Anthony admits that although he prefers to write thought-provoking fiction, his historical space adventure Steppe (1976), which necessitated months of research, sold no more than his other novels that took less time to write. In Steppe, the hero, Alp, revisits through a massive computer game the great empires of the Turks, the Mongols, and the Huns, who inhabit Asiatic plains. As Genghis Khan he conquers much of this world by clever manipulation of the rules of the game. Intelligent and fast moving, the book is singularly successful as an adventure unencumbered by any weighty proselytizing.
Like Steppe (1976), Isle of Woman (1993) is a work of fiction "based on research on the derivation and nature of the human kind," the first volume of the Geodyssey series (Anthony, 441). Rather than dividing this series chronologically, each volume moves from the beginning of humanity into the future, and each addresses a different aspect of the human condition. The first volume addresses the problem of overpopulation. Why are the human genitalia proportionally larger than those of other animals? How will we face a future without adequate food and land? Anthony traces a fictional family through the ages from the time of Lucy, the oldest "human" figure identified by anthropologists, to a future colony along the coast of Mexico when food is so scarce that cannibalism has lost its horror. The same characters reappear in each time frame as if reincarnated, until in the last chapter they are united as lovers, fulfilling the vague sense of longing they have felt through the ages. This is the only fantastic part of an otherwise plausible account. As in many of Anthony's other works, Isle of Woman contains many references to sexual arousal and erotic pleasure, but he never uses language that is commonly called offensive. Like Dickinson in The Bone of the Sea, Anthony uses the theories of Elaine Morgan in The Aquatic Ape to extrapolate an explanation for the "missing link" between animals and humans. Shame of Man (1994), the second volume of the Geodyssey epic, continues the adventures of the characters Hugh and Ann, focusing on multicultural themes as they are reincarnated in different times. The ambitious project continues in Hope of Earth: Geodyssey 3 (1997). Is this science fiction, or historical fiction, or fantasy? As usual, Anthony mixes genres to send a message, to relate personally to his audience, and to speculate on the future using the tools of logic and science. He is an engaging writer, but readers must pick and choose carefully among his books to rescue the gems from mere blocks of stone. However, the number of gems is amazing, considering his prolific output and the intricacy and length of many of his books. By his 50th birthday on 6 August 1986, he could (and did) list 50 novels in his autobiography. In 1994, with Richard Gilliam, he edited a highly praised collection of fantasy stories with Indian themes. Letters to Jenny (1993), the collection of selected letters he sent to a disabled fan at the behest of her mother, reveals a person who can be closely attentive and thoughtful.
Up to this point in his career, Anthony has chosen to focus more on his best-selling light fantasy in order to make money. Now that he is financially secure, he can spend more time and effort on more careful work, especially with the help of his research assistant, Alan Riggs. On the other hand, his loyalty to the many fans who prefer his escapist fantasies encourages him to continue in that style. A large part of Anthony's tremendous charm is his strong loyalty to his readers and his genuine concern about those who write to him. Each of his later novels includes a lengthy author's note in which he chronicles his life and his thoughts about subjects related to the novel. In these notes he establishes a personal relationship with his readers—a generous gesture, especially from a writer so prolific and popular.
Anthony is controversial, having had several public battles with publishers and critics. The prominent sf critic and scholar John Clute notes that many of Anthony's popular books are "helter-skelter …; only when he embraces a complex mythologizing vision of the meaningfulness of things [does] he become fierce" (Clute and Nicholls, 40). This comment reflects the opinion of those readers who prefer pure sf to this mixed genre; often they find the whimsy and playful silliness a disturbing detriment to the desire to treat sf as serious literature. Nevertheless, Anthony's writings, especially his fantasy series, are tremendously popular. His plots flow easily, his wit surprises with puns and other stylistic devices, and his ideas draw from wide-ranging research and a deeply thoughtful nature. Some detractors are irritated by his sexist humor and the cuteness of his punning, especially in the various series. Admirers, however, note the complex mythic power of his novels, and they appreciate the kindly humor, the beguiling imagery, and cheerful language that make them so readable.
For many traditional readers, the mix of science fiction and fantasy is uncomfortable, taking rationalists closer to the boundary between logic and imagination and threatening the comfort of readers who seek escape from literal reality. The most successful writers of science fantasy, however, have been able to stretch the parameters of both kinds of minds, a feat to be admired.
1. Pamela F. Service, "On Writing Sci Fi and Fantasy for Kids," The ALAN Review 19.3 (Spring 1992): 17-18; hereafter cited in text.
2. Piers Anthony, Bio of an Ogre (New York: Ace, 1988); hereafter cited in text.
Peter Brigg (essay date July 1975)
SOURCE: Brigg, Peter. "Analogies of Scale in Macroscope." Science-Fiction Studies 2, no. 2 (July 1975): 119-30.
[In the following essay, Brigg examines how Anthony uses scale as a method of presenting the complex thematic material at the center of his science fiction novel Macroscope. Brigg notes that Anthony's text is "is concerned with the various forms of expression of the unity of the cosmos from macrons and protoplasm through the human scale to the macrocosm of astrology and the 'traveller signal.'"]
Piers Anthony's Macroscope 1 assaults the reader with a multiplicity of ideas and with a tremendous and at times enervating slide along a range of physical scale from the sub-atomic to the extra-galactic. The novel is concerned with the various forms of expression of the unity of the cosmos from macrons and protoplasm through the human scale to the macrocosm of astrology and the "traveller signal." It is my intention to show that its single purpose is to discuss the problems of "knowing" the essential unity of all things, including the self, and that it also has a clear pattern in a series of images of this unity on various scales ranging from the minute through the human to the immense and back to the minute. This range of scales is the function of the eponymous piece of hardware, the macroscope itself. The novel proceeds by analogy, setting up systems on different scales, systems that are ultimately different ways of knowing. The resultant epic assimilates all the analogies of scale to describe the unity of the whole galaxy.
1. Context and Meaning: The Analogies
Macroscope is of course not the first work to experiment in scale, but it will be shown here that Anthony does so in a different fashion from previous writers. Most novels and stories about scale exploit the existence of men enlarged or reduced in size to make moral or satirical comments on the human situation. Swift's Gulliver's Travels is the prototype for this approach, venting the "fierce indignation" of its author by the tenfold increase and decrease of the manlike beings whom Gulliver meets. In Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God" (1941) Swift's method is modified when the tiny beings with accelerated life cycles whom James Kidder has created respond to Kidder as to a deity and numerous ironies are revealed in the relationship between creator and created. The distortion achieved through variations in scale is part of the satirist's principle of exaggerating reality in order to reveal its absurdities.
Scale changes also reveal the wonders of the microscopic world in stories such as James Blish's "Surface Tension" (1952) and Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage (1966).2 In these worlds man is miniaturized so that the human race can function in a puddle or travel through the wonders of the human bloodstream. Yet neither the stories with satirical intent nor those delighting in man's possible existence as a microscopic entity use scale in the way which Anthony does in Macroscope. His serious purpose precludes his choosing satire as a prime goal. More importantly, he does not employ the device of increasing or decreasing man's physical size, a central concept in the other stories. To prove the unity of all creation by showing how life and inorganic matter (such as the stars) are similar along the whole range of scale from the sub-atomic to the galactic and through time from the ancient world to the distant future Anthony places man in his formal position in a range of analogous images. Anthony does not change human size but seeks instead to establish mankind as an integral part and reflection of a greater whole.
It is difficult to find a starting point for a discussion of the various analogous patterns in Macroscope because they are points on a full circle. I shall begin with the device which reveals much of the pattern, the macroscope itself. At the beginning of the novel this machine is orbiting the earth and a group of scientists is using its unique abilities to see through the cosmos by perceiving macrons, which are variously described as "a form of light—or rather, a subtle harmonic imprinted upon light passing through the turbulence" and "the particle aspect of light, more than [with] the wave, and perhaps [with] particles of gravitation" (78,79/§2).3 The machine can see inside the earth and because it can examine life on planets thou-sands of light years away it can, in effect, see through time. It provides the hardware for the analogy of scale. It is an extension of man which uses a subatomic medium of wave-particle reception to reach anywhere in the universe. It can magnify to any extent at any range and thus puts man in a position to "know" all about the universe, or rather it could do so were it not for the mysterious destroyer signal carrying a mind-annihilating hypnotic programme. The problems of the destroyer signal's source and purpose provide the plot of the novel on one level as four people (Ivo Archer, Afra Glynn Summerfield, Beatryx Groton and Harold Groton) use the macro-scope and the technology of faster-than-light travel which it provides to attempt to answer the question of the destroyer. A major portion of the plot deals with their voyages and discoveries.
The plot of the novel also provides the vehicle for the discovery of the characters in a variety of analogous ways. The stress is on the activity of knowing, for the understanding of human personality comes only in terms of the actions of integration and self-definition. For example, Ivo Archer is the product of a project which attempted to crossbreed selected humans for intelligence but which appears to have been a relative failure. However, in the course of the novel we discover that Ivo is a cover personality for Schön (German: beautiful, fair), the supergenius produced by the project. The relationship is an adversary one, for Ivo, originally created by Schön to live what Schön considers the boredom of everyday life, has developed enough personality strength to wish to prevent Schön from "coming," a process which would annihilate the personality of Ivo. This conflict is a metaphorical presentation of the relationship between the human conscious and unconscious minds, a fact illustrated by the fashion in which Ivo's and Schön's selves are complementary. Ivo is moral, conservative, sentimental, emotionally sensitive to others and none too clever except for the special faculties of mathematical intuition and flute playing, both skills which Schön has given him. Schön is amoral, daring, logical, emotionally childlike and supremely intelligent. One of the principal processes illustrated in Macroscope is the Jungian individuation of Ivo-Schön as the hidden, unconscious Schön is brought into the consciousness in a controlled and integrating fashion by Ivo. The resulting Ivo at the close of the book has Schön's abilities without the disabilities of his childlike morality and selfishness. The process of individuation has been further complicated, for Ivo has emulated the life of Sidney Lanier, the Georgia Reconstruction poet, musician and aesthetician. The flautist's skills which Schön had given him led Ivo to follow and study the life of Lanier and images from Lanier's life keep recurring as flashbacks in the book, as do frequent quotations from Lanier's poems. In effect Ivo has been imprinting another personality on himself for better definition and to replace the lack of personality that he feels as a result of being Schön's "creation." In the content of Macroscope as a whole Lanier's presence provides a vital metaphor for the integration of knowledge on the artistic level, for Lanier hypothesized the unity of poetry and music and understood the role of the artist to be that of a free individual working to create a part of the universe in harmony with God's creation. When Ivo plays the instrument which brings living dreams to each of the participants he is "playing" Lanier's "The Symphony," a poem conceived congruently as music and poetry and which symbolises the unity of word form and music form.
Afra Glynn Summerfield also develops an individuated personality in the course of the novel. She shifts from a selfish and intellectually-based love for Bradley Carpenter (Ivo's companion from the project whose brain is burnt out by the destroyer early in the novel) to a gradual awakening of her emotional self and a growing love for Ivo. The Ivo whom she cannot love because he is not clever enough is replaced by Ivo-Schön at the close of the novel, and by this point Afra has been put through two educational sequences which bring her to maturity. The first is a pseudo-trial which follows her unsuccessful attempt to revive Bradley, and which teaches her the way in which her emotions distort her logical faculties. At the close of the novel Schön forces her through the symbolic education in the living horoscope which brings her to grips with the emotional block concerning the death of her father, a block that has cut her off from her own unconscious. Her ultimate success depends upon the taking of a total risk by baiting Schön into the room where the destroyer signal is produced. She wins because of her emotional strength rather than her intellect, for it is Schön's intelligence which endangers him and forces him to surrender his shared personality to Ivo when threatened by the destroyer. It is learning to use her gifts other than the intellect which integrates Afra's personality and releases the hidden part of her nature.
The problem of human integration is also dealt with in terms of the functioning of the personalities of Ivo, Afra, Beatryx and Harold as a single unit in their endeavours. Anthony has established this pattern of human personality in terms matching Jung's four basic psychological functions: feeling, thinking, intuition and sensation.
Harold, the engineer, uses logical thought and technological skills to aid the project and ultimately chooses to go with the Horven, the creators of the destroyer signal and a race committed to finding the ultimate intellectual and rational knowledge in the universe. Harold brings the extroverted thinking type's respect of external facts to bear even in his study of astrology, which he is careful to present and defend as scientific and logical.
Ivo exhibits the introverted sensational type's artistic ability to integrate objective reality with a subjective reading dominated by the self. Thus the external objective world of the macroscope, his relationship with Afra, Lanier's historical existence and the adventure Ivo is given in Tyre are all heavily imprinted by Ivo's personality and his way of looking at things. Like Lanier he is able to synthesize experience at a sub-rational level and give it coherence by filtering it through the self which is in contact with the archetypal and personal unconscious elements. Because he does not need to understand in a conscious rational fashion Ivo can see around the destroyer signal that only captures the consciousness of a rationalising intellect. He merely reproduces what he sees in the macroscope without being drawn into the intellectual trap of its meaning.
Afra is strongly influenced by feeling, which Jung defines as a rational judging function along with thinking but distinguishes from the latter by stressing its lack of visible or explicable chains of reasoning. Afra's feelings about Ivo's colour, her reaction of guilt towards Bradley's death (an event she causes by trying to save him) and her own emotional blocks that nearly defeat her in her competition against Schön are all functions of a feeling personality.
Beatryx completes the set of functions as a representative of intuition, the Jungian term describing an irrational integration and grasp of the entire content of event or situation. Beatryx is capable of deep sympathy and spontaneity. She frequently displays a sense of knowing right actions even when she does not understand circumstances in an intellectually ordered fashion.
To see the way these four types provide an analogue for a complete human personality consider their coordinated effort on Triton when they are establishing a base and preparing for interstellar flight. Ivo functions as the non-rational apparatus who can absorb the galactic information from the macroscope without having his mind burnt out by the destroyer signal. His understanding of this information on the basis of sensation is converted to logical thinking by Groton, who also has the mechanical logic to translate concept into hardware. Afra's feeling capacities are expressed in her role as pilot of the space vehicles (where rational knowledge must function beneath the level of immediate consciousness) and her limitations are also those of her feeling: her colour prejudice and her failure to restore Bradley when she subconsciously disregards parts of the information. Beatryx fits her emotional intuition into the scheme by providing domestic security for the group and by drawing out Ivo's talent with the flute and his close knowledge of Lanier. Her name, Latin for "one who makes happy," is a reflection of her skills.
On several occasions Anthony asserts that the four characters are complementary:
"Right now, Ivo's the only one competent on the scope, Harold and I can pilot—"
"If we can't get along without all of us," Ivo pointed out, "it doesn't really matter what one of us knows. We function as a group or not at all." (189/§6)
They were participating in superscience: Type III technology. None of them comprehended more than a fraction of it. But by accident or cosmic design, they were a team that could do the job, with the overwhelming assistance of the supervising programs from space.
It is clear that the four persons function most effectively when they are working together, as the four human functions only work effectively when they are in harmony with one element dominant. (Anthony must intend the developments in the characters of Ivo and Afra to fill the gap created when Beatryx and Harold are lost to the group at the climax of the novel.) Later the artistic aspect of Ivo's sensational function provides the key for all four characters when his playing of the galactic instrument launches them into fantastic worlds dominated by horoscope signs that lead to their individual fulfillment.
The others waited, knowing his problem, searching for some way to help. Harold Groton, whose astrological interpretations could do no good in this situation; Afra Summerfield, whose physical beauty and analytical mind were similarly useless; Beatryx Groton, whose empathy could not enchant his suddenly uncertain fingers.
Analysis, empathy, astrology …
Then he saw that they could help, all of them. Just by being available.
Ivo began to play.
(366/§9; suspension points in original)
Anthony never clarifies the state the characters exist in during Ivo's concert. Instead he integrates real physical events with the dream state and horoscopy to create a 'living dream' that can kill the dreamer permanently or transpose his consciousness to a different form of existence.
The concept of different beings as complementary parts of a psychologically whole, functioning unit bears comparison with at least two other sf situations, the second section of Isaac Asimov's The Gods Themselves and the Handdara of the Foretelling in Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness. In Asimov's novel the tripartite Soft Ones (Dua the mid-emotional, Tritt the right-parental and Odeen the left-rational) reach their maturity when they unite through melting, a process akin to sexual orgasm but buttressed by mental orgasm, and form a Hard One, the final stage of their development. Asimov's concept differs from Anthony's in that the destiny of the parts is to discover that they are a unity and to "pass on" to an actual physical unity whereas Ivo, Afra, Beatryx and Harold function as a team while remaining individuals. Asimov has said that he was working in terms of a tri-sexual society4 but Anthony is interested in the psychological traits of personality. Moreover, Anthony's characters are not unidimensional (Asimov's Emotionals, Rationals, Parentals) but are human beings whose strongest characteristics meld to allow them to work as a team. When Anthony has Ivo play the symphony it does not integrate the four personalities as the melting unites three in Asimov. Instead the symphony allows each character to have an experience suitable to his or her personality.
The Foretelling of the Handdara in The Left Hand of Darkness presents a temporary unity among varied individuals to achieve a specific purpose. In this respect it resembles the way Anthony's characters function as a team to achieve their goals, each bringing the assets of his or her personality type to the task. The Foretellers sit in a circle in a trance state under the direction of the Weaver, one of their number. The trance builds in psychic intensity until a predictive answer is given to a predetermined question. Genly Ai, the outsider who observes the phenomena, is given an insight into the sexual basis of this predictive trance-unity because his telepathic training involves him in it by accident: "I was surrounded by great gaping pits with ragged lips, vaginas, wounds, hellmouths, I lost my balance, I was falling…."5 The participants in the Foretelling include the Weaver, the Zanies (who are schizophrenics), the Pervert (who on Winter, a planet where sexual latency is the norm, is a male), and the Celibates (one of whom must be in kemmer, the active sexual phase). The Foretelling is quite like the melding that Asimov describes in that both are orgastic. In contrast Anthony deals with parts functioning as a whole but the parts are themselves whole personalities with bias towards one trait. He does not make the trait or bias the whole self as Asimov does. Asimov's Soft Ones seek and find a final unity by melding and LeGuin's Foretellers produce a temporary special state by collaborating but neither are representations of the balanced individual with all parts existing in harmony. In Anthony's analogical system Ivo, Afra, Beatryx and Harold are parts of an entity that is balanced, stable and wholly lacks the loss of self entailed in The Gods Themselves or the erotic ecstasy of the Foretellers.
Another analogue for human unity and knowledge functions in the novel. It is the basic protoplasmic nature of life presented in the melting process used to protect the four explorers from the gravities of high speed space travel. Ivo gets the information needed to perform the melting from the intergalactic signals and he and Beatryx see it represented in the macroscope as an immense living cell illustrating the way a cell performs and contains all of the complex functions of human life. In the actual melting each person is dissolved into component protoplasm and reassembled, a process Anthony describes with great lyrical intensity. On the first occasion they undergo melting Afra insists on being handled physically by the others before she allows herself to be melted so that the others can assure her of her selfhood when she is reassembled. The subconscious logic of the feeling personality demands this physical assurance that the self is not changed by this process (even though it is not proof in any external sense). Anthony's choice of a giant cell to illustrate the melting stresses the structural order of living matter which functions equally at the level of the cell and at the level of the whole human being. The characters gain confidence in the consistency of their selfhood. This can be seen by comparing their doubts about the initial melt with Harold's later acceptance of his consciousness trapped in the body of the Drone or with Afra's ability to accept the disguises and sudden changes of size in her combat with Schön. Ivo's fear that he will lose his individuality to Schön fades gradually until he is daring enough to take assistance from Schön. The melting process does for the physical body what experience does for the personality: It provides confirmation through testing that each human identity is unique and complex.
Other analogues for unity and knowledge are astrology and the traveller signal. Harold Groton practices astrology and defends it throughout the novel, stressing its age, maturity and scientific basis. His astrological predictions are verified in the plot of the novel and when he meets the Horven, the creature of superior intelligence who has planted the destroyer signal, he discovers that a far more precise system of horoscopy exists, one capable of predicting the exact moment of Beatryx's death. When Ivo is dropped in historical Tyre while attempting to locate himself in time and space with the aid of the macroscope, he goes to an astrologer for some suggestion on how to escape back into the present. The astrological symbols occur again in "The Symphony" Ivo plays, whose movements are divided by the primary signs of the characters: Schön in Aries, Beatryx in Pisces, Harold in Libra, and Afra in Capricorn. In following his sign each character lives out an experience which is part fantasy part event. Then Afra and Schön struggle for survival in a contest set in the context of astrological houses during which Schön explains Ivo's instrument to Afra:
"Actually, it is a teaching device," he continued. "By bringing to life the symbolic essence of a situation or personality, it instructs the participant and viewer. Of course it is necessary to interpret the symbols correctly, but anyone with a smattering of—yet you lack even that naturally."
Schön nearly defeats Afra because he understands symbolic patterns such as the horoscope. Astrological symbols are vital to the novel because they bind the human and physical universes, providing a symbolic pattern which makes all events comprehensible.
The unity of the universe is again stressed when the traveller-destroyer pattern is explained in the passages interposed between the four horoscope fantasies and in Afra's sudden burst of understanding. These reveal that the knowledge-carrying traveller signal is actually an intelligent being in macronic form which conveys knowledge to the entire universe while the destroyer signals are localised interference implanted to prevent immature species from grasping intergalactic travel from the signal for destructive purposes. Consideration of the macronic signal returns the reader's attention to the macroscope and he realises that the analogous patterns of unity in the novel have ranged over a scale from the sub-atomic to the galactic.
It can be seen from the above descriptions that Macroscope is comprised of a series of intricately interlocked sequences integrating the scientific and humanistic ways of presenting the doctrine of microcosm and macrocosm, of showing that the pattern of the unity of all things can be traced in the sub-atomic particle, in man or in the stars.6 This doctrine is actually a statement that the entire universe is related in terms of the analogies of scale. Anthony has chosen these analogies as his structural principle.
2. The Method of Presentation
To create a work with such a vast sweep, Anthony has attempted to develop a style to match the complexities of plot and concept. The style is premised on the method of integrating the levels of analogy to illustrate cosmic unity and on a variation of writing approaches including disguised lectures, sections of narrative action, "purple passages" of description and graphic-typographic devices. In the pages which follow I shall illustrate the integration of the levels of analogy and show how the actual texture of the writing makes it possible to sustain such a complex, multilayered novel.
Anthony has keyed his approach to the ideas of Sidney Lanier. Ivo serves as Lanier's spokesman and heir in the novel. Lanier sought an integration of music and poetry and, by extension, a union of all things under the auspices of Love. "Music is Love in search of a word" is a key from Lanier's poem "The Symphony" and Starke, one of Lanier's critic-biographers (and Anthony's source for the Lanier material), has stressed Lanier's sense of unity and harmony. Speaking of Lanier's last two years, when the poet was trying to state the principles of his art, Starke says:
We know, however, the aim of all Lanier's "present thought": it was the relation of man to the universe, to the supernatural, the natural, and to his fellow men, a subject he made the theme of his last course of Shakespeare lectures and pur-sued with the unbounded curiosity of Sir Francis Bacon, yearning for general understanding in a period of specialized information.7
It is as if Lanier, in the presence of nature, lost his own identity and became only an instrument on which nature played, an instrument capable of the most precise rendition of nature's harmonies.8
In Macroscope Anthony attempts to express Lanier's sense of integration and unity and in Ivo he actually implants Lanier's personality in the novel.
Macroscope integrates the analogical statements of unity in terms of plot. Several vignettes from the plot will illustrate how Anthony keeps the various ways of seeing things before us at the same time. Consider the sequence at the macroscope station when Ivo is introduced to the machine by Brad, meets Afra, Harold and Beatryx, sees Brad brain-burnt by the destroyer and wins the macroscope by playing sprouts. The trip to the station contains a passage in which Ivo dreams he is Lanier as a boy in Georgia. Then on the station Ivo meets Afra Glynn Summerfield and, on seeing her, lines from Lanier's The Marshes of Glynn pass through his mind.
She wore a dress of slightly archaic flavor, with silvery highlights, and her shoes were white slippers.
The lines of her:Inward and outward to northward and southward the beach lines linger and curl
As a silver-wrought garment that clings to and follows the firm sweet limbs of a girl.
On the short jump from the outer torus of the station to the macroscope Ivo again slips into the personality of Lanier, triggered by viewing the light given off by stars when the poet was a boy. Brad next shows Ivo the macroscope and explains its functioning, the problem of the destroyer and the need for Schön. When Afra and Ivo tour the station afterward she probes him a good deal about Schön and some of the mystery about Schön's whereabouts is created in the evasive answers which Ivo offers. Then after dinner in the Grotons' rooms Ivo is introduced to sprouts, the game at which he will win the macroscope. 'Sprouts' may be the name chosen to suggest organic growth, and it is a game in which the players link lines to complete a diagram. When Ivo wins intuitively at sprouts Groton asks him about his horoscope and introduces that topic. The subjects of the incidents outlined above will re-appear frequently in Macroscope, always dovetailed with other subjects. The catalogue of incidents could be continued but its operative principle is already clear: Anthony has woven the narrative so that all of its elements express their interrelationship by complex juxtaposition.
The actual technique of juxtaposing the passages stresses the "fit" between the various levels of the analogy of scale. Anthony consistently cross-references the parallel descriptions to stress their interconnected nature. The idea of vanity publishing is introduced in one of the passages where Ivo is reliving Lanier's life. Four pages later Ivo draws on the concept to explain the motive for the traveller's signal:
"That's why," Ivo said. "The memory isn't gone, because everyone who picks up the program will know immediately how great that species was. It's like publishing a book—even paying for it yourself, vanity publishing. If it's a good book, if the author really has something to say, people will read it and like it and remember him for years after he is dead."
Twelve pages later the same concept is invoked to explain Afra's desire to be handled before Melting: "'Merely your way of publishing for posterity,' he [Groton] said. 'I knew male and female weren't that different'" (163/§5). Besides multiple cross-references such as the above there are innumerable examples of single correspondences such as Ivo's explanation of his relationship to Schön in terms of the destroyer signal:
"And after that I might get a craving for physical dexterity—you know, be a champion at sports, be able to do sleight-of-hand, control the roll of dice—and at some point Schön would achieve controlling interest. It's more subtle than the destroyer, but the effect is the same, for me." And suddenly another reason he had been able to avoid the destroyer popped up: he had had a lifetime of practice protecting his individuality from oblivion.
The relationship between Ivo and Schön is analogous to that of the Traveller and the Destroyer, for Schön and Ivo block each other like destroyers until the integrated personality is mature enough to use new knowledge safely.
In another instance Anthony points out how the macroscope reveals the correspondence between a single cell and the entire galaxy:
And. Clear from this exquisite vantage, the pattern of the stellar conglomeration that was the galaxy emerged: the great spiral arms, coiling outward from the center, doubled bands of matter beginning as the light of massed stars and terminating as the black of thinning dust. Not flat, not even; the ribbons were twisted, showing now broadside, now edgewise, resembling open möbisus strips or the helix of galactic DNA. And yes, he thought, yes—the galaxy was a cell, bearing its cosmic organelles and glowing in its animation; motile, warm-bodied, evolving, its life span enduring for tens of billion of years.
This technique of finding comparisons and relationships within the symbolic patterns already in the novel is the basis of Anthony's style, and he has Schön state it when the latter explains the galactic instrument to Afra.
"There are many ways to view existence," Schön said. "Symbols are useful for minds of any potential, and astrology is an organized system of symbols as valid as any. I would accept it as readily as, say, religion. Of course, no symbol has validity apart from the values and qualities assigned to it by the user."
The technique of finding comparisons with other symbolic levels is a drawing together of all the patterns so a sense of unity in the diverse ways of looking at the cell is presented. Thus the entire galaxy is like a cell with the destroyer stations established to act like lycosomes and the travellers functioning like chromosomes to give it pattern and destiny. Thus the torus of the space station containing the macroscope resembles the pattern of the horoscopic planet houses and is in turn related to the whole circular pattern of the galaxy. The groups of humans also function like the cell as diverse talents are pooled for survival by Afra, Ivo, Beatryx and Harold or as the survivors of the genetic project fan out yet remain connected by their common history. Afra introduces the Unified Field Theory when Ivo is trying to break through the destroyer signal and Ivo suggests that the traveller can expand the theory to cover all other fields.
[Afra] "In this way [UFT] gravity, magnetism, and atomic interactions could all be derived as special cases of the basic statement. The practical applications of such a system would be immense."
[Ivo] "So that the theorems of one could be adapted to any other?"
"I believe so, if you thought of it that way."
"Like adapting astronomy to human psychology? And to music and art and love?"
This provides a valid linking of astrology and human behaviour, just as it relates the macron to the behaviour of the entire galaxy.
Anthony sustains the complex analogical structure of the novel by varying the way in which the plot is presented and the way in which great quantities of information about the analogical levels is communicated. The novel is potentially a nightmare of over-information and Anthony's achievement is the presentation of an integrated picture in an attractive variety of ways.
Portions of Macroscope are straightforward lectures to provide the information needed. Anthony evades didactic boredom by putting the presentations into the mouths of the characters and colouring the language with their personalities. Harold Groton, who has been a schoolteacher and an engineer, always has his audience in mind when he simplifies and clarifies what he is saying. He will explain anything to anyone, and as Ivo observes he frequently presents his information with the use of a blackboard. Afra releases information with a characteristic sharpness as though her listeners are slightly foolish and incomplete children.
[Groton] "How do you know [which element they have found on the destroyer station]?"
[Afra] "This is an elemental arrangement. Look at—"
"Elementary arrangement," Groton corrected her.
"Elemental. You do know what an element is? Look at these objects. The first is a sphere, which means it has only one side: outside. The second is a closed cone: two sides, one curved, one flat. The Third, the cylinder has three. Yours has four and so on. The first two aren't empty—they're gases!…"
Interposed with the sections which present material didactically are units of narrative action which reinforce points much more dramatically. Ivo's participation in the sprouts tournament provides an example of this, for the tension of the competition and the curious awarding of the golden steamshovel are a highly dramatic way of presenting Schön's superior ability at work in Ivo and of emphasizing Ivo's suitability to be the master of the macroscope. The climax of the novel is the exciting narrative of the conflict between Afra and Schön which dramatises the power of the zodiacal symbols and, in the final release of Ivo from the fear of losing his personality, dramatises the integration of the rational and emotional selves. Typically, Anthony follows the action proper with Ivo's sorting out of the meaning of the events and integrates these actions with all that has happened in the novel.
In addition to the disguised lectures and the passages of narrative action, Anthony employs his writing skill to produce passages of particular resonance, lyrical 'purple passages' inserted like small reflective gems in a golden setting to reflect the strength of the concepts of unification and the power of macronic technology. The description of the harnessing of the macronic technology in order to move Neptune is such a passage, carefully building to an explosive burst of action and ending with the simple yet spectacular statement: "Man's physical exploration of the cosmos had begun" (255/§7). The passages which reach the reader under the pressure of this heightened prose are almost all omniscient narrator's descriptions of the physical universe:
Red in the center where the old lights faded; blue at the fringe where the fierce new lights formed. A spectrum between—but also so much more! Here the visible splay extended beyond the range for which nomenclature existed, and rounded out the hues for which human names did exist. A mighty swirl, a multiple spiral of radiance, wave on wave of tiny bright particles, merged yet discrete. The Milky Way was translucent, yet mind-staggeringly intricate in three, in four dimensions.
No book could support too many of these passages and they are carefully allocated to further the picture of the unified universe. Besides those cited above, Anthony uses this strength to describe the melting process, Schön's use of the macroscope to trace the history of the universe, and the integrated vision of sound, cosmos and zodiac which Ivo creates by playing the galactic instrument.
Anthony's writing is augmented by the use of graphic and typographic elements. The book includes an illustration of the pattern of the zodiac, a map of the ancient Mediterranean, a chess problem, illustrations of sprouts and the printing of the zodiacal symbols before the relevant positions of the symphony which Ivo plays. It also has a number of simple diagrams to help explain concepts of physics. Illustrations are not usually proof of a well-written book, but considering the vast range which Anthony is covering they are most efficient in attaining his aims. He also employs limited variations in typography to set off special portions of the story or stress principal ideas. The quotation from Sidney Lanier early in Chapter One—
WHAT THE CLOUD DOETH
THE LORD KNOWETH
THE CLOUD KNOWETH NOT
WHAT THE ARTIST DOETH
THE LORD KNOWETH
KNOWETH THE ARTIST NOT?
—poses the problem of self-knowledge in epigrammatic form while the closing competition between Afra and Schön is interrupted by long italicised passages explaining the history of the traveller and destroyer signals.
Anthony varies his methods of presentation in order to sustain the novel through its complex development and to press home his point about unity. The large quantity of information which he must present is encapsulated in disguised lectures, conveyed in the outcome and events of the narrative line of the book and emphasised by the "purple passages" of lyrical description and the graphical-typographical devices. Just as there are variations in the scales of the analogies there are a variety of writing approaches which all tend to support the unity of the whole. The variety of methods functions like the instrument Ivo plays, integrating from variety to a sense of totality.
1. Published in 1969 by Avon Books; 6th printing 1975.
2. Based on the film developed from a story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby.
3. (78,79/§2) = Pages 78 and 79 of the Avon paperback, or Chapter 2 of presumably any edition.
4. Isaac Asimov to this writer, 7 August 1974: "In the middle section of The Gods Themselves, I began with the notion of describing a trisexual society."
5. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), §5.
6. Anthony has Harold offer Afra a microcosm-macrocosm statement like this in §4. It is taken almost bodily from Anthony's acknowledged source, M. E. Jones, Astrology and How it Works (Stanwood, Wash.: Sabian Publishing Society 1969, first pbd 1945), p. 17.
7. A. H. Starke, Sidney Lanier: A Bibliographical and Critical Study (1933; reprinted New York: Russell and Russell 1964), p. 302.
8. Ibid., p. 444.
A SPELL FOR CHAMELEON (1977)
Joanne Troutner (review date 1 October 1977)
SOURCE: Troutner, Joanne. Review of A Spell for Chameleon, by Piers Anthony. Library Journal 102, no. 17 (1 October 1977): 2083.
Bink, a very honorable and nonmagical person, is exiled from his magical homeland of Xanth [in A Spell for Chameleon ]. During his exile, Bink meets an evil magician, who is planning to overtake Xanth, and a woman searching for a spell to change her magical ability. The characters, Bink included, make mistakes, but their encounters are lessons in trust, perseverance, and honor. A good novel for fantasy lovers.
BLUE ADEPT (1981)
Susan L. Nickerson (review date 15 June 1981)
SOURCE: Nickerson, Susan L. Review of Blue Adept, by Piers Anthony. Library Journal 106, no. 12 (15 June 1981): 1325.
Sequel to Split Infinity (Del Rey, 1980), [Blue Adept ] continues the adventures of Stile, who is still seeking the unknown enemy menacing him in both the magic world of Phaze and the adjoining "real" world of Proton. In Proton, aided by the android Sheen, Stile advances in the all-important Game until he reaches the final rounds. In Phaze, aided by the unicorn Neysa, he kills a dragon, gains the use of a magic flute, and wins the love of the Lady Blue. Although the alternation of fantasy and sf chapters is rather gimmicky, the story maintains its exciting pace with many unexpected twists, and Anthony's humorous touches continue to delight the reader. Stile's love of horses, women, music, and sports is obviously shared by the author. A third volume will complete the trilogy. Recommended.
DRAGON ON A PEDESTAL (1983)
Susan L. Nickerson (review date 15 October 1983)
SOURCE: Nickerson, Susan L. Review of Dragon on a Pedestal, by Piers Anthony. Library Journal 108, no. 18 (15 October 1983): 1975-976.
Anthony stops straining for every pun and pratfall he can invent, and the result is the best Xanth novel in some time [Dragon on a Pedestal ]. Three-year-old Princess Ivy, lost in the forest, meets and makes friends with Hugo, son of Good Magician Humfrey, and the "youthened" Gap Dragon. Meanwhile, her distraught mother Queen Irene leads a motley (and familiar) crew of rescuers. Of course, the story still has its madcap moments, but Anthony's restraint allows more depth to both characters and plot. Xanth fans will love it.
NIGHT MARE (1983)
Lois A. Strell (review date April 1983)
SOURCE: Strell, Lois A. Review of Night Mare, by Piers Anthony. School Library Journal 29, no. 8 (April 1983): 128-29.
YA—Night Mare is the sixth book in a series which centers around the magic world of Xanth and the non-magic world of Mundania. Imbri, a mare of the night who delivers bad dreams, is sent on a mission to the day world to help Xanth ward off an invasion from Mundania. First King Trent, then each succeeding King, loses his soul to the mysterious and evil Horseman. Many characters from the other books reappear: Chameleon, a woman who can change from beautiful and dumb to hideous and smart; magical King Trent; power-hungry Queen Iris; solid Dor; and more. Without a doubt, the book will be grabbed up by science fiction fans. Anthony continues to deliver lighthearted adventure in a tongue-in-cheek satirical manner. Unfortunately, he also laces his book with overt sexism. In Night Mare, beauty in a woman is equated with stupidity, and ugliness with intelligence. Chameleon says, "On certain rare occasions, intelligence is more valuable to a woman than beauty." Queen Iris says, "Women don't really want all the things they long for. All they really want is to long and be longed for." These passages are not the exception, but the rule. Perhaps Anthony is being satirical, but if I found it difficult to determine, a student might miss it completely. The stories are fun, but Anthony ought to clean up his act.
BEARING AN HOURGLASS (1984)
Jackie Cassada (review date August 1984)
SOURCE: Cassada, Jackie. Review of Bearing an Hourglass, by Piers Anthony. Library Journal 109, no. 13 (August 1984): 1470.
His future happiness ruined by the machinations of a meddling ghost, Norton reluctantly accepts a new mode of existence—as Chronos, the Incarnation of Time—and locks forces with wily Satan himself in a complex, harrowing struggle to preserve the balance of harmony in the world [in Bearing an Hourglass ]. Amid weighty and often convoluted speculations about the nature of good and evil, time and space, and magic and science, Anthony's irrepressible humor asserts itself in unexpected ways. Far from being grim—or even allegorical—this sequel to On a Pale Horse will appeal to Anthony's large readership.
CREWEL LYE: A CAUSTIC YARN (1985)
Trevelyn E. Jones (review date April 1985)
SOURCE: Jones, Trevelyn E. Review of Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn, by Piers Anthony. School Library Journal 31, no. 8 (April 1985): 109.
YA—In this eighth novel about the magical kingdom of Xanth [Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn ], Anthony goes 400 years into the kingdom's past to tell the story of Jordan the Barbarian, his quest for adventure, his love for the half-demon Threnody and the cruel lie which caused his death. This and the three previous Xanth novels have been best sellers, partially because teens have taken the series, with its punnish humor (crewel lye is a formula for cleaning tapestries) to their hearts.
THROUGH THE ICE (1989)
Ann A. Flowers (review date January-February 1990)
SOURCE: Flowers, Ann A. Review of Through the Ice, by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise, illustrated by Daniel Horne. Horn Book Magazine 66, no. 1 (January-February 1990): 67.
After Seth feels himself drowning under the ice as the result of an unprovoked battle with punkers, he bewilderedly recovers consciousness in an alien world [in Through the Ice ]. There he very soon finds himself thrust into a fantasy adventure—a quest against Nefarious, an evil enchanter who plans to destroy the world. He is accompanied by three special companions, each from a different plane of Earth: a magical satyr; an immensely strong man; and Tirsa, an intelligent and beautiful woman. They journey through magical and physical perils, meeting incredible monsters and helpful elves. In the end, of course, right prevails, with Seth himself bringing about the downfall of Nefarious and winning the affection of Tirsa. Although the plot is not original and the illustrations are both inaccurate and undistinguished, the novel has the directness, vigor, and simplicity associated with youth, yet shows the hand of an experienced writer. In an afterword, Piers Anthony tells how sixteen-year-old Robert Kornwise was killed in an accident, leaving an unfinished manuscript that Anthony then completed. A collaboration as sad as it is successful.
Sybil Steinberg (review date 30 August 1991)
SOURCE: Steinberg, Sybil. Review of Mer-Cycle, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 238, no. 39 (30 August 1991): 72.
According to the author's note, Mer-Cycle was written in 1971 but remained unsold until now. It might better have stayed in oblivion. The plot postulates a series of parallel earths, each due to be struck by a meteor that will destroy it. A planet that has survived the meteor attack has assigned proxies to warn the many other human races and save them from being wiped out. One proxy decides against contacting world leaders—which invariably fails—and instead gathering four "ordinary" humans and circuitously showing them evidence of the danger, in the hopes that they would be more likely to convince the population than would unknown aliens. None of this is revealed until the 15th chapter; prior to that, five char-acters—who are in an aspect of reality that is 99.9% out of phase with their surroundings, so they can breathe underwater—are seen bicycling around the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and getting to know and trust one another. The situation is unoriginal, the romance between two of these stereotypical characters is telegraphed from the instant they meet, and the framing communiqués that open each chapter are repetitive. The pacing is good enough that the reader is mildly engrossed, but only mildly.
TATHAM MOUND (1991)
Kathy Fredrick (review date March-April 1992)
SOURCE: Fredrick, Kathy. Review of Tatham Mound, by Piers Anthony. Book Report 10, no. 5 (March-April 1992): 37.
Fantasy writer Piers Anthony turns his talents to a book about Native Americans in Florida at the time of the Spanish Conquest [in Tatham Mound ]. His voice for the chronicle is a young Toco warrior, Throat Shot, so named for the spectacular kill he made during his initiation to manhood. During this rite, his shoulder is crippled, but the young man gains a link to the spirits who command him to find the Ulunsuti, a crystal with powers to save his people from unknown destruction. He travels north to Illinois and west to the Mississippi, learning many languages and eventually becoming known as Tale Teller. He is distracted from his mission when his people are stricken by a plague (measles or small pox imported by the Spanish). The sole survivor of his family, Tale Teller renounces his quest for the Ul-unsuti, but the Spanish capture him and make him their interpreter. In this role, he witnesses the destruction wrought by the clash of cultures. As the book concludes, Tale Teller returns to his mission and attains his goal at his death. In a long author note, Anthony explains his interest in the excavation of the Tatham Mound near his home in Florida. Through his interpretation, the reader comes to understand Native American mythology and culture and is as bewildered as the characters by the brutality of the Spanish. This does not overshadow the power of Anthony's prose or the affinity for a lost culture that sophisticated readers will gain from this absorbing work.
FRACTAL MODE (1992)
Sybil Steinberg (review date 18 October 1991)
SOURCE: Steinberg, Sybil. Review of Fractal Mode, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 238, no. 46 (18 October 1991): 55-6.
In the world created by the veteran SF author for his Mode series, of which this is the second volume [Fractal Mode ], five people are needed as anchor points to define a stable skew path across parallel universes. When Colone, Darius, Sequiro and Provos are cast adrift by the loss of their fifth, Nona hears their calls and becomes their new anchor, bringing them into her universe. Now they must help Nona fulfill the prophecy that says she will overthrow her world's rulers—"despots"—by switching control of the magic (which is the basis of their power) from men-only to women-only. If they fail, the despots will block their exit point. Anthony displays his usual fondness for mathematical games (in this case the fractal Mandelbrot set) and utter abhorrence of anyone who hurts a child, weaving these concerns into the narrative without detracting from the plot's excitement, the continuing development of the original four characters, and the introduction of Nona and her intriguing universe. Only the villains fail to come to life in an otherwise well-written tale.
FAUN AND GAMES (1997)
Sybil Steinberg and Jeff Zaleski (review date 8 September 1997)
SOURCE: Steinberg, Sybil, and Jeff Zaleski. Review of Faun and Games, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 244, no. 37 (8 September 1997): 63.
As is customary in his Xanth series (of which [Faun and Games ] is the 21st installment, following Yon Ill Wind, 1996), Anthony once again pours on the puns as he works a multitude of readers' "notions," suggested to him by mail, into the plot. Forrest Faun is appalled to discover that his best friend and fellow faun, Branch, has tripped and fallen into the Void, never to return. Who will care for Branch's tree, giving it the magic it needs to keep it from becoming mundane? To find out, Forrest must undertake a lengthy quest to Ptero, a world in the shape of a miniature moon orbiting the head of Princess Ida of Castle Roogna. It is a magical land where everything in Xanth that is, ever was or might be exists simultaneously. Forrest and his cohort—a "day mare" named Imbri, and the precocious princesses Dawn and Eve—travel across Ptero, bouncing from one outrageous situation to another. With plenty of the spry characters and cheerful wordplay for which Anthony's works are known, this new Xanth tale should, like its predecessors, manage to wiggle its way onto the bestseller lists.
MUSE OF ART (1999)
Patricia Monaghan (review date 1 May 1999)
SOURCE: Monaghan, Patricia. Review of Muse of Art, by Piers Anthony. Booklist 95, no. 17 (1 May 1999): 1582.
Again, Anthony uses the device of reincarnation, so that the characters in this novel [Muse of Art ] remain consistent in temperaments, relationships, and even appearances, despite living in different periods and on different continents. This permits Anthony to tell the story he is really interested in, that of the development of humanity over time, without continually introducing new characters. This fourth volume of the Geodyssey series examines the role of art in society, with art defined broadly to include storytelling and ritual as well as the plastic arts. It features the bright, difficult, and so aptly named Melee, the inarticulate but still eloquent Dillon, the crippled Od, and the wise Bata struggling with the various motivations for making art: love, spirituality, even greed. While the book ranges from prehistory to Olmec Mexico and Augustan England to posthistory after an awesomely destructive Third World War, Anthony's message remains hopeful. Through imagination and art, it maintains, humans have become and will continue to become a better species.
THE DASTARD (2000)
Roland Green (review date 15 October 2000)
SOURCE: Green, Roland. Review of The Dastard, by Piers Anthony. Booklist 97, no. 4 (15 October 2000): 426.
Frustrated farm boy Anomy gives up his soul in return for the ability to unhappen events. Since he uses this power mostly for ill, he adopts the sobriquet the Dastard and becomes a problem [in The Dastard ]. The good guys send a half-dragon, half-human girl, a roc, and the princesses Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm on his trail. Complicating the action in this customarily busy Xanth yarn are the Sea Hag, an insatiably vengeful spirit who possesses the bodies of young women, wears them out, and throws them away; time travel; some intriguing limits to and complexities of magic; the usual word- and concept play; and some serious ethical thinking when the Dastard regains a soul (a borrowed one, not the original). Readers may become impatient with the Adult Conspiracy and the power of panties, devices used on all intergender encounters, at the cost of a good deal of their potential, at least for readers who are already conspiring adults.
THE GUTBUCKET QUEST (2000)
Publishers Weekly (review date 1 May 2000)
SOURCE: Review of The Gutbucket Quest, by Piers Anthony and Ron Leming. Publishers Weekly 247, no. 18 (1 May 2000): 55.
Anthony's collaborations with unknowns (Dream a Little Dream, etc.) have a mixed record, but this latest effort [The Gutbucket Quest ] is notably successful. The novel draws on Leming's background as a Texas blues musician, by flipping its hero, blues guitarist Slim Chance, into an alternate reality where racial and environmental harmony prevail and music (especially the blues) holds magical power. The key to the power of the blues is the Gutbucket, a magical guitar incorporating the ashes of a famous musician. The Gutbucket has been stolen by the corporate villain T-Bone Pickens, who threatens all magic and music. With a classic elder mentor, the African-American Progress Hornsby, and Progress's gorgeous daughter, Nadine, Slim sets out on the quest to turn his own music into a magical weapon against Pickens and to retrieve the Gutbucket. Along the way to the inevitable victory, he meets a colorful gaggle of largely New Age but largely well-drawn secondary characters, and eventually becomes Nadine's lover and husband. The long passages of dialogue sometimes overwhelm the pacing, but readers will appreciate the graceful use of dialect and the compelling passion for the blues that positively sings out of the pages. Best of all, Slim is slowly and believably changed by his situation into a person worthy of Na-dine's love, not handed her as a reward by auctorial fiat. This is a very readable variation on the theme of music as a source of magic.
DOOON MODE (2001)
Jackie Cassada (review date 15 April 2001)
SOURCE: Cassada, Jackie. Review of DoOon Mode, by Piers Anthony. Library Journal 126, no. 7 (15 April 2001): 137.
Fleeing a real world that has become too harsh for her to accept, Colleen enters a fantastic realm of varying "modes," where she finds a group of companions to accompany her on a journey toward healing and self-knowledge [in DoOon Mode ]. Ultimately, Colleen must face the monster responsible for her troubled past and find a way to save all the worlds that she has come to love. Concluding his Mode series (Virtual Mode, Fractal Mode, Chaos Mode ), Anthony delivers a parable that uses high-tech trappings to conceptualize the struggle between good and evil. The author's large following should guarantee a demand for this cleverly told sf adventure.
HOW PRECIOUS WAS THAT WHILE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2001)
Charlotte Abbott, Sarah F. Gold, Mark Rotella, and Jeff Zaleski (review date 23 July 2001)
SOURCE: Abbott, Charlotte, Sarah F. Gold, Mark Rotella, and Jeff Zaleski. Review of How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 248, no. 30 (23 July 2001): 59-60.
In [How Precious Was That While, ] this autobiographical sequel to 1988's Bio of an Ogre, Anthony tacitly and emphatically acknowledges that his readers mean more to him than critics, publishers or editors. Anthony, a renowned fantasy writer, creator of the Xanth series, dedicates a chapter called "The Early Part of Dying" to his fans and their sometimes highly personal correspondence, sharing their "inner agonies" (often he spends two full days a week answering letters). Some controversial segments focusing on the intricacies of the publishing industry might be applauded if they weren't so terribly black-and-white. Seemingly defensive, Anthony accuses the review industry of housing unqualified, subjective reviewers: "In a general way, many reviewers have a bias against success, so they try to bring down the most successful fiction while promoting the least successful." Discussing his novelizations of movies (e.g., Total Recall ), he opines, "Novelizations are sneered at by critics, but of course it seems that everything that's interesting is panned by critics." His vitriol isn't reserved for the publishing biz: he hates Dallas, for instance, because JFK was assassinated there; based on that long-ago event, he's decided that Dallas's entire police force is still incompetent. His thoughts on his craft, not his focus on sales figures, make for the most interesting passages. "A writer who waits for inspiration may wait forever" is far more illuminating than "Do you ever wonder why the latest Stephen King novel is in every store? … To [publishers], books are just a product, and King sells better than Brand X."
Roland Green (review date 1 September 2001)
SOURCE: Green, Roland. Review of How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography, by Piers Anthony. Booklist 98, no. 1 (1 September 2001): 42.
The creator of Xanth has many firmly held opinions. One is that all his other opinions are of some interest to readers in general, to students of modern fantasy and sf, and to those curious about the strange and sinister ways of the publishing industry. After briefly summarizing his earlier years (already covered in Bio of an Ogre, 1988) and his career through 1996, Anthony turns thematic [in How Precious Was That While ]. He covers sex (including the opposite one), fans and fan mail, collaborations great and small, his various causes (many of them worthy), and, as always, his conflicts with what sometimes seems half of creation. Some of those war stories are unfortunately too plausible; about others one would like to hear other opinions. One ends up suspecting that Anthony emerged from a troubled Quaker upbringing with a commitment to do good works and has done them well, even if often in bad temper. As ogres go, he is somewhat reminiscent of the protagonist of the movie Shrek: fearful to contemplate, less so when his deeds are measured.
SWELL FOOP (2001)
Don D'Ammassa (review date November 2001)
SOURCE: D'Ammassa, Don. Review of Swell Foop, by Piers Anthony. Science Fiction Chronicle 22, no. 11 (November 2001): 39.
This is the twenty-fifth Xanth book, and it's pretty much in the mold of most of the previous volumes. There's a supernatural creature, a demon, who controls the gravity of Xanth, and he's gone missing, which plunges the realm into chaos. The usual assemblage of characters follows, given the task of searching out a set of magical rings which can control the device that controls the demon. They have a series of adventures, a bit more straightforward than usual, although there's still plenty of humor—including the inevitable puns. I confess that I've found this setting and this story pretty well worn by now, although Swell Foop is one the best of the later Xanth novels. For those readers who crave the familiar, this is a good catch, but the author has produced so many superior works outside the series that I wouldn't mind if he ended the Xanth chronicles with this one.
Linda G. Sinclair (review date May 2002)
SOURCE: Sinclair, Linda G. Review of Swell Foop, by Piers Anthony. School Library Journal 48, no. 5 (May 2002): 180.
Adult/High School—In this 25th book in the series [Swell Foop ], Cynthia Centaur's quest is to ask a personal question of the Good Magician Humfrey about her upcoming marriage. Perhaps she would have reconsidered the pros and cons of the visit if she had realized that the very next visitor to ask for help would be given the task of saving Xanth. Cynthia must find the Swell Foop to save the planet or die trying. The task is to find the Six Rings of Xanth (Fire, Earth, Idea, Water, Air, and Void), all so powerful that they had been hidden for fear of misuse, and the only artifacts capable of locating the Swell Foop. The zombies, an unpopular group of people, are the only ones that can help Cynthia and the five other adventures in their quest. This is an entertaining, fast-paced adventure, full of puns suggested by the author's many fans. Those not familiar with the earlier books might want to read Spell for Chameleon (Turtleback, 1977) first. A great series for fantasy fans, along with Terry Pratchett's comedy/fantasy "Discworld" series (HarperPrism).
UP IN A HEAVAL (2002)
Peter Cannon (review date 4 November 2002)
SOURCE: Cannon, Peter. Review of Up in a Heaval, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 44 (4 November 2002): 67-8.
Profusely punning his path through his 26th Xanth fantasy [Up in a Heaval ], the prolific Anthony (The Dastard, etc.) focuses on a contest between Demon Jupiter and Demon Fornax, reviving to great effect the dueling demons theme from last year's Swell Foop. Believing a piece of Mundane Snail Mail has provoked Demon Jupiter to hurl his red spot at the Demon Earth (which could result in the obliteration of Xanth), Umlaut, the story's hero, sets out with Sesame Snake and Sammy Cat to consult the Good Magician. To avert tragedy, they must deliver the letters that remain from the Snail Mail left at the Zombie Castle. As they crisscross Xanth, they encounter many of the characters featured in Anthony's previous works. To add depth to the plot, the Demoness Metria appears regularly to tempt Umlaut from his path using raging hormones and the "Adult Conspiracy" theme that salts all the Xanth novels with schoolboy humor and sophomoric jokes. Anthony's latest offering is certain to please fans. New readers, however, may lack the patience to plow through so many puns and so much childish humor.
Michael Jung (review date April 2004)
SOURCE: Jung, Michael. Review of Up in a Heaval, by Piers Anthony. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 47, no. 7 (April 2004): 616-17.
Umlaut is a young man living in Xanth, a land whose natives are all born with a magic talent. In Umlaut's case, his talent lets him shape-shift into anything, fooling others into believing he is something other than himself. He uses this magic to escape an unwanted female admirer by emulating a zombie girl and hiding in Castle Zombie, the home of the undead. There, he discovers a bag of letters addressed to several humans and non-humans and helpfully forwards a letter to the god-like Demon Jupiter. Unfortunately, the letter angers the Demon so much that he threatens to destroy Xanth, unless Umlaut delivers the rest of the letters to their recipients.
Unknown to Umlaut, however, the Demon Jupiter's threat is a hoax concealing the real game played by the all-powerful Demoness Fornax and Demon Jupiter. In an effort to gain more power, the Demons created Umlaut and gave him the illusion of life. If Umlaut remains unaware that he is a pawn of the Demons by the end of his quest, the Demon Jupiter will take over the Demoness Fornax's planet. But if Umlaut discovers he is not a real person before he delivers all his letters, the Demoness Fornax will take over Xanth and vivisect its inhabitants for research.
As Umlaut journeys through Xanth, however, he develops genuine friendships with the gentle sea serpents, living boats, and intelligent cats he meets on his mail route. He even falls in love with and becomes engaged to Surprise, a human girl, unaware that his life is a sham. Eventually, Umlaut delivers all his letters, ensuring Xanth's safety. But then the Demons inform him that their game is over, and Umlaut will lose his pseudolife. Hearing this, Surprise offers her soul to the Demons in exchange for Umlaut's continued existence. Despite Umlaut's protests, the Demons accept—but discover that her soul fills them with unwanted feelings of compassion. Disgusted, they return it, and Surprise shares her soul with Umlaut, turning him into a real human being.
Up in a Heaval is the 26th book in Piers Anthony's best-selling Xanth series. Because the novels have so much history behind them, new readers may want to read some earlier stories to learn about Xanth's characters, landscape, and magical quirks before attempting this one. Anthony enjoys filling his Xanth novels with puns—for example, in Xanth, "snail mail" is delivered by giant snails carrying letters, while bad dreams are delivered by ghost horses or "night mares." Some fans may enjoy the abundance of puns, while other readers may consider the high degree of wordplay "pun-ishment."
Umlaut is a kind and likable new character with literally no past, so his story should be fairly clear to newcomers. His relationship with Surprise does contain mature elements (e.g., brief nudity) but never veers into actual sex or anything of bad taste. Thus, this book should be suitable for readers ages 11 and up.
CURRANT EVENTS (2004)
Publishers Weekly (review date 30 August 2004)
SOURCE: Review of Currant Events, by Piers Anthony. Publishers Weekly 251, no. 35 (30 August 2004): 37.
Panty puns and intermittently droll word-play drive veteran Anthony's 28th Xanth book (Cube Route, etc.), the first of a second magic trilogy within this popular fantasy series. Since the author always pays such close attention to what his readers want, newcomers shouldn't expect too much by way of a plot [in Currant Events ]. Clio, Xanth's slim Muse of History, hates her body's lack of curves. Despite the practicality of jeans for outdoor activities, Clio wears skirts ("they were required of her gender and age"), which leads to such quips as: "There's nothing like new panties to make a man pant." When Clio discovers an undecipherable history she's apparently written, she goes for help to Good Magician Humfrey, who sends her on a wild quest for a magical red berry. Along the way, Clio must meet a number of amusing challenges, like restocking dragon-poor Xanth with 6,000 beasts from Dragon World by using a special expandable net. Together with her love interest, Sherlock of the Black Wave, Clio endures an abundance of puns supplied by fans, hundreds of whom Anthony acknowledges in an extended author's note. This is great fun for punsters—a Tor-ment for others.
PET PEEVE (2005)
Kirkus Reviews (review date 15 July 2005)
SOURCE: Review of Pet Peeve, by Piers Anthony. Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 14 (15 July 2005): 769.
Anthony returns for the 29th time to the perennial pot of gold known as the Xanth series [in Pet Peeve ].
Xanth is the fantasy land shaped like Florida where its magical inhabitants—from monstrously stupid ogres to wee elves, rampaging barbarians and rude goblins—seem inordinately fond of light adventure and puns. In this installment, we follow what happens when the strangely nice Goody Goblin ("I am cursed to be polite. It is most inconvenient") hooks up with the curvaceous Hannah Barbarian on a quest. Their job is to find a "suitable home" for an antagonistic and foul-mouthed bird (the "Pet Peeve" of the title) that insults anyone or anything in its vicinity in the voice of the person carrying it; quite a problem in a place where one tends to run into ill-tempered dragons. Along the way, we are introduced to a veritable menagerie of magical characters and exposed to some very bad puns. This is the kind of book where, when a character's name is Rek King, you can be quite sure that someone will be attending the Rek King Ball later that evening.
A patently silly tale: all in all, fun, humorous light fantasy.
Frieda Murray (review date 1 October 2005)
SOURCE: Murray, Frieda. Review of Pet Peeve, by Piers Anthony. Booklist 102, no. 3 (1 October 2005): 43.
The most recent Xanth novel [Pet Peeve ] follows the formula: lots of low jokes, simple puns, and a miniscule plot. This time the most ungoblinlike (he's nice) Goody Goblin has to find a home for the Pet Peeve, a talking bird that speaks only insults. While on this quest, Goody unwittingly triggers an invasion of robots from another world and must enlist the aid of Xanth's peoples to fight them off. The result is a conducted tour of Xanth, which may be of great interest to seasoned Xanthophiles but may not be overly intelligible to relative newcomers, who may feel themselves in the presence of a stand-up comic addressing his veteran audience only. Or not. Xanthophiles will enjoy the novel. Judging from the amount of help Anthony seems to receive from his readers to meet a tight deadline, those enthusiasts remain quite numerous. Determine their prevalence among your patrons and acquire accordingly.
Additional coverage of Anthony's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vols. 11, 48; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 7; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 200; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 28, 56, 73, 102, 133; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 35; Contemporary Popular Writers; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8; DISCovering Authors Modules: Popular Fiction and Genre Writers; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Ed. 2; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults Supplement, Ed. 1; Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2; Major 21st-Century Writers, Ed. 2005; St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers; St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, Ed. 4; St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers; Something about the Author, Vols. 84, 129; Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Vol. 22; Something about the Author—Essays, Vol. 129; and Supernatural Fiction Writers, Vols. 1, 2.
Clark, Judith A. "The Xanth Novels." In Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, Volume Five, edited by Frank N. Magill, pp. 2185-191. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1983.
Offers an overview of the fantasy universe of Anthony's Xanth series.
MacRae, Cathi Dunn. "The Epic Proportions of Heroic Fantasy: Piers Anthony." In Presenting Young Adult Fantasy Fiction, pp. 145-47. New York, N.Y.: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
Critical examination of Anthony's works in the fantasy genre, focusing primarily on the Xanth series.
Searles, Baird, Beth Meacham, and Michael Franklin. "Piers Anthony." In A Reader's Guide to Fantasy, pp. 7-8. New York, N.Y.: Facts on File, Inc., 1982.
Explores Anthony's ability to transition between writing fantasy and science fiction.