- Xanth (series) By Piers Anthony (Comedy/Action/Fantasy)
You know, coincidentally, I recently picked up one of Mr. Anthony's Xanth novels at the library (the 2001 release Swell Foop
-- 25th in the series), drawn in by the descriptions of how "hilarious" it was on the jacket flap. I got about three chapters in and couldn't go any farther. But before I explain why...
Okay. So, basically, when I started to read the book, the thing that struck me first off was that Piers' sense of humor and my sense of humor were obviously seperated by a wide and intractable mental river. You see, the magical land of Xanth runs on puns-- you know, little plays on words (like a popular beverage called "boot rear" instead of "root beer", or a giant magic-fueled computer named "Com Puter"-- a-ha-ha, a-ha-ha, a-ha) that Piers seems to find extraordinarily witty. The truth is, though, that for about the first two pages, I was decoding the puns and thinking, "Oh, ha, I get it", but after that I was decoding the puns and thinking, "Please, Lord, make it stop." Now, don't get me wrong: When circumstances provide, I will never miss the chance to unleash a real groaner of a pun into conversation. But puns, like saturated fats and pan flutes, should be used only very sparingly. If used en masse
like this, they're revealed for what they are: cheap, tawdry imitations of humor.
Also, Piers' characters, while described physically and manneristically in excruciating detail, were noticeably lacking in emotional depth. They all talk in this flat, formal, vaguely medieval-sounding dialect, so it's hard to gauge any personality in them (unless they acutally say how they're feeling, like "I'm sorrowful at hearing that remark." Reading tripe like that makes me so irritated
). At other points Piers will stop dead in the middle of a suspenseful scene to drone on and on about some ridiculously irrelevant topic-- he once took up a whole page explaining the age
of one character named Cynthia Centaur. (And many of the characters in the book are named the same way-- Cynthia's beau Che Centaur, Roxanne Roc, Zyzzyva Zombie, etcetera. And everyone in a certain species has the same last name... except the humans, of course, because that would be weird
. Piers, did it take you, like, three seconds
to come up with this?) It destroys the suspense, it irks the reader (or, at least, it irked me
), and it makes getting through the book that much more tedious. By the time I hit Chapter Two, I began to hope that all the main characters would die horribly before the book was over, crushed by a large rock or something.
Overall, I don't know about you, but I thought Piers' writing was weak and uninspired, and his jokes were totally off. This is the twenty-first century, dang it! I'm jaded and cynical, and I expect way
better stuff than this "classic fantasy" throwaway crap!
PS: A couple of good
books I got from the library:
, by David B. The true story of the author's childhood shared with his epileptic brother. Beautiful and moving.
, by Robert Rankin. A young teenager with no memory joins a self-proclaimed metaphysical detective to solve a series of mysteries based on constellations found in the road map of Brighton (a small town in England somewhere), in the eventual hopes of recovering a television built by a Benedictine monk that allowed people to see into the past. I can't make
this stuff up.
~Book One: 1986-2006
, by Chip Kidd. This massive coffee-table book offers insight into the career of one of the most popular book dust-jacket designers. Surprisingly more interesting than you may think; it's crazy to see how many books he's done the covers for over the years. Also, lots of pretty, pretty pictures.
~Samurai Cat Goes To Hell
, by Mark E. Rogers. It's about a cat (who is also a samurai-- note this) who goes to hell and beats the living shit out of everyone in his way. This is apparently the end of a six-book series, and it's the only one my library system has, but it is so awesome that I am considering buying the other five (most long out of print) off of Amazon. Bizarre jokes, heaps of pop culture references, total obliteration of the fourth wall, and blood, blood, blood.