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11 July 2007 @ 09:01 am
Yay! Audible just started adding the Incarnations of Immortality series to their collection! Which is pretty much the only Piers Anthony series i'd ever be interested in re-reading. Interestingly however they released four books of the 7 book series all at once. Books 1, 4, 5 and 6. That's certainly going to confuse and frustrate people new to the series :)
Steuardsteuard on July 11th, 2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
I went through a distinct Piers Anthony phase many years ago, and then somewhere around Xanth book #15 (I think) I suddenly realized that I'd just read the same book about eight times in a row. That triggered the grand collapse of what had until then been an ever-expanding range of fantasy and sci-fi reading for me; by the time it was done, I was back down to just Tolkien and a bare handful of others.

My eventual conclusion about Anthony was that he came up with some cool premises, but almost invariably he absolutely failed to develop them. The Incarnations of Immortality series was always a key example of both sides of that coin for me. It starts out with some fascinating ideas including a very specific way to add magic to the known four forces of nature (as I recall, it was weak, but unlike the others it could be stored up somehow). But after presenting that framework in some detail, Anthony proceeds to never mention it again. Ever. (An author like Asimov could have built an entire series of novels and dozens of short stories exploring the consequences of that premise alone.) Still, some of the "incarnations" ideas were interesting; I agree that this series could be worth looking at again.

Much the same thing happened with Xanth, as I recall: the first book explored the premise of the world in interesting ways, but the second book's attempt to do the same ended instead with a sidekick teaching elementary game theory to an immortal being whose entire life revolved around playing games, and after that the books devolved into an eternal quest by young boys to learn about the panties of young girls. "Apprentice Adept" did at least a bit of exploration and development of its world's premise for a while, but even there it quickly became just a backdrop for the bulk of the story. And "Bio of a Space Tyrant" didn't even have an interesting premise: it was just simplistic political allegory with a one-to-one correspondence between its planets and real life nations. And sex, of course. It focused a lot on sex. But that doesn't particularly distinguish it from his other series. (I'll admit that I did enjoy the sex bits in that series as a teenager, mind you, and Anthony's sexual philosophy as propounded in the series isn't all bad, though I certainly wouldn't endorse all of it. But at least the majority of the characters exploring their sexuality in this series are approaching adulthood.)

Well, enough of that. Time to get back to thoroughly developing the premise of this research project I'm working on. :)
DonAithnendonaithnen on July 11th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
I had a very similar experience with Xanth, even to stopping in almost the exact same spot. Perhaps the decline in quality of the books happened to hit our increase in maturity at the same point :)

I read the Adept series for awhile i think, that was the one with the alien planet with two planes of existance, right? Like Xanth it seemed to start out okay and then bog down in sequel-itis.

I think i picked up a couple of the Space Tyrant ones at a library book sale but never got around to reading them.
Steuardsteuard on July 11th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Perhaps the decline in quality of the books happened to hit our increase in maturity at the same point
Seems pretty likely. Though I might say rather that the momentum we gained from the quality of the first book or few happened to run down far enough to hit our increase in maturity at the same point. I'm not convinced that the books in the series actually got worse after the first handful. :)

I did enjoy the Space Tyrant books at the time (well, the first couple in particular; after that it really bogged down for me), and not even just for the sex bits. The overall space adventure was fun, and the political strategy stuff could be enjoyable if I ignored the fact that I disagreed with many of the characters' actual political aims and beliefs. But I looked back at the first couple of books a few years ago, and the whole thing looks pretty shallow. (And for space adventure, there's plenty of much better developed stuff out there, even if little of it will be winning mainstream literary awards anytime soon. I just recently read David Weber's "Honor Harrington" books, for example.)
DonAithnendonaithnen on July 12th, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
I actually just started reading the Honor Harrington series a couple months ago. Finished book three, need to go pick up some more at some point.

And yes, clearly the quality of the books was following a pretty steep asymptotic curve :)
Steuardsteuard on July 12th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Let's see... book four in the series was interesting, but different in some ways than most; it wasn't my favorite of the lot. I very much enjoyed book six, books seven and eight really need to be read back to back (eight was more satisfying overall to me), book eleven really dragged for me, and book twelve (the most recent) may be my favorite of the whole series (but some of that could be just the big step up from its predecessor). The anthologies have good bits and not so good bits (I really ought to have kept track of which stories were which; most of the ones by Weber himself were pretty good or better), and the two "side series" novels that have appeared so far were both enjoyable.

I feel a lingering guilt about my access to the books thus far, actually. A friend here lent me the first few, but I read the rest online after discovering that Weber's publisher has been releasing promotional CDs with each new book that contain all of the previous ones (and lots of other stuff). They're free to copy and share (for non-profit use), so downloading the "At All Costs" CD is legally okay and they seem to approve of the idea, but I've gotten enough enjoyment out of the stories that I'd like to give them some actual reward. :) I figure I'll just plan to buy the next title in the series or something (so I will have actually paid for a copy of the CD, if nothing else).