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Piers Anthony

ozymandias of xanth

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Anthony is that most tragic of creatures, a good writer gone bad. I used to like him quite a bit: I had an entire shelf of his books, I recommended him to all my friends, and when I found some old, obscure title I was overjoyed. And then, quite suddenly, I lost all patience with him. For those who have read Anthony, it was the first book of his Bio of a Space Tyrant series that did it. I can only assume it was meant to be lighthearted and funny, but it was really a just a load of unfunny, uninspired dreck. Lest you think I'm being harsh, I've never run into anyone who actually liked that series.

It is sad but true that when an author's failings rise up and strike you in the face, the pain tends to percolate backwards, poisoning even those books you used to like. It took a few years, but I gradually liquidated most of my Anthony holdings. Most--but not all. If it were all, I wouldn't have bothered to write this page. So this page is dedicated to those few of his books that I still like, and which I might even recommend to others. By the nature of things, they tend to be earlier books, and quite possibly unknown even to readers familiar with Anthony's work.

Macroscope is, in my opinion, the best thing Anthony has written. It's a single large novel (unusual for him) about a kind of faster-than-light telescope called a "macroscope". The macroscope can, quite literally, see anything, anywhere, at any time. Using it, researchers have found any number of alien civilizations throughout the galaxy; they have also found the macroscopic equivalent of radio broadcasts, the apparent means for these civilizations to communicate. The broadcasts are on all topics, and one of them is deadly: a program that reduces all viewers of sufficient intelligence to drooling idiocy.

And that's just the beginning.

It's classic soft science fiction, and well worth finding.

Probably most long-time fantasy readers have encountered Anthony's series about the magical land of Xanth, where each resident must manifest a magical power by the time they reach adulthood, or be banished to Mundania. It's a long series, quite possibly still growing, but it degenerated into little more than an excuse for bad puns years and years ago. The first book, though, is a reasonably good fantasy novel. A Spell of Chameleon is about a young man who is sentenced to exile from Xanth because he has no spell of his own, and his efforts to prevent Evil Magican Trent from taking over his home. The next two books in the series, The Source of Magic and Castle Roogna, also have some good moments. Farther than that I wouldn't venture, not any more.

Battle Circle is actually a trilogy of books, originally titled Sos the Rope, Neq the Sword, and Var the Stick. It takes place in a post-Nuclear Holocaust future in which there are a very few hidden enclaves of high-technology. In what was once the United States, the dominant culture is one of nomadic warriors, each known by the weapon they favor, and all bound together by the warrior's code of challenge and conquest. I would not call this a good book; but it's interesting, and sufficiently out of the ordinary that I've held on to it.

A Few Books by Piers Anthony

A Spell for Chameleon
Xanth #1.
The Source of Magic
Xanth #2.
Castle Roogna
Xanth #3.
Battle Circle

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