|Submitted by Ken |
(Apr 30, 2002)
Well, perhaps unusually, I first discovered Piers Anthony through Split Infinity, book one of his Blue Adept trilogy (that now has somewhere over 3 novels).
The trilogy really must be considered together, and I think they are wonderful escapist fiction, though subject to some of the same problems as the Xanth novels: a carbon copy hero (bumbling, naive, utterly honorable young man), every woman is perfectly beautiful, if in different ways, etc. But I digress...
What I loved about this series is the combination of science fiction, fantasy, game and, well, wish fulfillment.
The science fiction world is Proton, a desolate planet that is also incredibly wealthy because it is the source of the most valuable power source, Protonite. That wealth is all held by about a thousand "citizens" any of whom are probably more wealthy than anyone else in the galaxy. These citizens have all of their needs met by the million or so "serfs" living on Proton. These are basically slaves, employed for various purposes (including concubines). However, the serfs generally LOVE being on Proton and don't want to leave. But they have to if they don't have a job.
Our hero, Stiles, is a serf who happens to be one of the best jockeys on Proton. Some one shoots his knees with a laser, making it painfully impossible for him to assume correct jockey position, thus causing him to lose his job (he doesn't get it fixed at first because he believes that during the operation, an attempt would be made on his life).
The only way for Stiles to stay on Proton (and unravel the deepening mystery of what is going on) is to enter the Game. The Game is the main recreation on Proton. Two players match up, select the type of game they would like to play, and based on their combined selection (they don't see what the other person chooses) they could be competing in chess, theatre, running, mountain climbing, anagrams or thousands of other games. Stiles is one of the best players at the Game. The Game is not just a recreation, but once a year serfs can enter a tournament in which the winner becomes a citizen, with fabulous wealth. The losers all have to leave Proton.
Anyway, at some point Stiles finds a rift to a parallel world where magic works instead of science, and Stiles has some skills in that regard. But some one is trying to kill him in both worlds. He has to solve the mystery travelling around both worlds, while still showing up to play in the tournament and win (or be deported).
I found it very original, and I particularly liked the Game. There is lots of sexual tension, particularly since serfs are not allowed to wear clothing (didn't I mention that?) and basically have to do whatever any citizen wants. As you can imagine, the book skirts the issue of sex less than the Xanth series, which I find to be more satisfying and less juvenile (people actually have sex).
Anyway, this is probably the most entertaining sci-fi/fantasy world I have come across. You can see a lot of similarlies in the characters from the Xanth novels, but stepped up to be a notch more adult, which is great. I still think the hero is a little too goody-goody honorable (and maybe the female heroines, too), but that is really my only criticism.
The bottom line: If you like the Xanth books and are over 13, you will REALLY like the Blue Adept trilogy.
After the third book, they go a little down hill (maybe a little more Xanthy), but I enjoyed them and I'd keep reading them if Anthony wrote more.