Saturday, January 5, 2008

Piers Anthony

The "reprints" continue...

The Xanth Chronicles
by Piers Anthony
Recommended Age: 13+

This is actually not one book, but a series of nearly 30 books and counting. At this writing, the published titles include:

  1. A Spell for Chameleon
  2. The Source of Magic
  3. Castle Roogna
  4. Centaur Aisle
  5. Ogre, Ogre
  6. Night Mare
  7. Dragon on a Pedestal
  8. Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn
  9. Golem in the Gears
  10. Vale of the Vole
  11. Heaven Cent
  12. Man from Mundania
  13. Isle of View
  14. Question Quest
  15. The Color of Her Panties
  16. Demons Don't Dream
  17. Harpy Thyme
  18. Geis of the Gargoyle
  19. Roc and a Hard Place
  20. Yon Ill Wind
  21. Faun & Games
  22. Zombie Lover
  23. Xone of Contention
  24. The Dastard
  25. Swell Foop
  26. Up in a Heaval
  27. Cube Route
  28. Currant Events
  29. Pet Peeve
And these, dear reader, are only a few of the many fantasy novels by Piers Anthony, which include quite a few other series and a long list of stand-alone books. I have only personally read selections from most of these series, and I have talked with readers who enjoyed other selections or other series, so this will not be a “review” in the traditional sense, so much as a heads-up...with thanks to all you readers who have kept the fire burning under me to get Piers Anthony on The Book Trolley.

The Xanth novels are, of course, Anthony’s biggest and most successful series. Full of romance, comedy, and horrid, horrid puns, they take place in a magical kingdom that, when you see a map of it, strangely resembles the state of Florida. Everything outside this kingdom belongs to the non-magical realm of Mundania, but we don’t talk about that. For in Xanth, everyone is magical in some way or another. Besides the magical king, queen, princess, and so on, there are loads of heroes, fairies, pixies, harpies, unicorns, fauns, ogres, rocs, centaurs, witches, wizards, villains, and so on.

Personally, I went through my Piers Anthony phase quite early in life. My grandparents had a HUGE library – I believe my uncle still has it – in which Anthony’s novels of Xanth, and Cluster, and the Apprentice Adept, and Incarnations of Immortality, and Chthon, and so on, featured prominently. I read the lot – such as there was in the mid-to-late 1980s – and then bought a few of his newer books when they came out. The last book that I read in the Xanth series, I think, was Heaven Cent (1988). The last book by Piers Anthony that I read was The Willing Spirit, with co-author Alfred Tella. So I’m not up on all the details of the story. But from my recollections, combined with the opinions of people whose opinions I rely on, I can tell you this much:

  1. The Xanth series is light, comical, fantasy reading, full of wit and dreadful puns.
  2. Each story is more or less a “fractured fairy tale,” with perhaps a bit of philosophy woven into it, and now and then some adult themes and language.
  3. Some parents, therefore, may want to make their own evaluation before giving these books to their kids.
  4. The kids will probably love them, regardless.
  5. However, rumor has it that the series rather declined in quality after a certain point.
  6. Some may disagree. I have also read that fans were delighted when Anthony started using their ideas and even based characters on certain fans.
  7. Some of his books, such as the Geodyssey series, are marred by a shrill and obnoxious political agenda.
  8. Some of his books, such as the Incarnations of Immortality series, betray the author’s hostility to Judeo-Christian religion.
  9. Some of his books, such as The Willing Spirit and The Apprentice Adept series, are more than just a tiny bit erotic.
  10. Some of his books, such as Viscous Circle, show that Anthony is a gifted sci-fi/fantasy writer, who has deservedly won Hugo and Nebula awards for his work.
Put all these factors into your thinking cap while you decide whether to buy a book by Pier Xanthony – oops – I mean, Piers Anthony – for yourself or your kids. However, I would also have you know that my father (who is a pastor) never complained when his parents gave me Xanth novels to read. He read them himself, and I can still find a few of Anthony’s books on his shelf. I don’t think they did me any harm. I enjoyed them – those that I read. I believe you will enjoy at least SOME of the Xanth books, for their humor and magic, and just a touch of naughtiness.

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