Piers Anthony: Books I've Read

I can't remember if it was A Spell for Chameleon, the first book in the Xanth series, or Sos the Rope, the first book in the Battle Circle series, that I first picked up from the Wasatch Junior High school library in 1986. I was looking for works like Tolkien's, and the work of Piers Anthony Dillingham Jacob stood out to me.

I have followed others authors closely (e.g. Isaac Asimov), yet many of the books I once owned were sold after the .com crash to pay rent. Anthony is one of the few, like Tolkien, that I kept. Another page may add reviews for books as I read them, but here are short notes of each of P. A. D. Jacob's (i.e. Piers Anthony's) books.

Notes

Book order is chronological, in order of the completion date of the final draft before publication of the first edition. This is gleaned from dates given in author's notes, autobiographies, and newsletters. Sometimes this is a bit of a guessing game, and there's a lot of data points to work from, but where some guessing is shown wrong, the order here will be readjusted. Bio of an Ogre orders by first (presumably American) publication date. Later Anthony began identifying dates for first draft completion, submission draft, often the galley reviews, author's note dates, as well as first publication date (especially in Britain). Republication has tended to go by his existing final draft copy, (if he still has it; I understand some of the Xlibris prints were scans from his author's copies). I thus note the edition of the book I read, as later editions have draft corrections or even revisions, though he does not appear to rewrite old works in any way once published.

These notes began when I first started rereading my Piers Anthony collection in 2016, going back to old favorites (e.g. Battle Circle), then ultimately starting chronologically from the beginning, which led to me tracking what was known of writing order (vs publication order). The first reviews were published on Amazon then Google+, where I'd take a screenshot of the book and give a (sometimes article length) review. This carried over into Twitter (and selectively longer reviews on Facebook on my first account, and now a second account I've created replacing the first deleted account). Thus starts this page. I want to keep my reviews out of social media and on my own site, instead of ending up on Goodreads, Amazon, or elsewhere. These do not duplicate the old reviews, are shorter (at least initially), but will be elaborated on as I go.

Review Contents:

Anthony's first book was Unstilled World, written as a Bachelor's thesis in 1956, and was never published.

Chthon hardback

Chthon

Written in 1965, sold 27 June 1966, and nominated for a Hugo and Nebula in 1967. I read the Xlibris hardcover, published in 2000. This edition has an author's note explaining some of the difficult parts of the novel.

Chthon is a prison story about a man condemned for falling in love with a woman that finds pleasure to be torture.

Pretender paperback

Pretender

I read the Borgo Press trade paperback edition, printed in 1979 by Griffin Printing & Lithograph Co., with cover and illustrations by Larry Ortiz (cover package design by Judy Cloyd). The publication is elegant, the illustrations well adapted to the story, aiding in visualization.

This book was Anthony's first book length collaboration, with Frances Hall, and the second book completed, sold in 1967. Pretender is historical fiction reframed as science fiction by Anthony to make it more saleable. This adds an engrossing story line and beginning. It is the portrayal of ancient Babylonian life that makes this story so interesting.

The Ring paperback

The Ring

Sold October 1967. Finished January 1968? I read the Xlibris 2002 softcover, which has a 2002 copyright, so may have had some small revisions to the text. There's no author's note.

Geoffrey Font Jr is convincted of a crime, and sentenced to a decade with the ring, a good behavior enforcer that is implanted. However, when Jeff must defend himself and others, his ultra conscience keeps him from doing the right thing because it is the wrong thing. This is a fun, suspenseful science fiction mystery. It's the first of the books I read (and that was written) with Margroff, and remains my favorite of them.

Hasan paperback

Hasan

I read the Borgo Press trade paperback edition, printed in October 1977, with illustrations by George Barr, Afterword by Richard Matthews, cover design by Judy Cloyd. This book is Anthony's fourth published novel, his fifth written novel, and the second stand alone work. The publication is elegant, the illustrations well adapted to the story, aiding in visualization.

This masquerades as historical fiction, bringing to life the Arabian Nights tale of Hasan. I did not expect to enjoy this tale as much as I did.

Omnivore hardcover

Omnivore

Published December 1968, I read the Ballantine hardcover, book club edition. The cover is eerie, but heavily influenced my imaging of the characters and landscape. It looks like an overexposed photo, but well done for the time.

This novel was surreal with its intelligent, fast moving fungi-based creatures, and engrossing with its character development and interaction. Though perhaps dated in the 21st century, it was excellent science fiction for the time and worth a read for science fiction fans.

The E. S. P. Worm softcover

ESP Worm

Sold 1969, published 1970. I read the Xlibris 2002 softcover, which has a 2002 copyright, so may have had some small revisions to the text. There's no author's note.

A difficult, alien, run away child needs to be returned to its home planet, and Harold has been selected to do the job.

Orn hardcover

Orn

Finished under its working title Paleo 27 June 1969. I read the 1970 Nelson Doubleday hardcover, book club edition, with cover illustration by Frank Franzetta.

This is the sequel to Omnivore. It has the same threesome of human characters, and the fungi aerial creatures called mantas they befriended. They are sent on a mission to Earth 70 million years in the past, or an alternate reality Earth. A postscript by Calvin Potter explores the science in the book. Modern reprints of the book have an afterward by Anthony looking at the viability of the idea from today's science.

Prostho Plus British hardcover

Prostho Plus

I read the Victor Gollancz Limited hardcover, published in 1971. This book was finished in October 1970. A couple of the stories are published in the Athonology short story collection.

This is a collection of short stories about becoming the first Earth intergallactic dentist. It reminds me of the humor from Asimov's Azazel, and is Anthony at his best.

Hard Sell hardback cover

Hard Sell

I read the Tafford 1990 first edition hardcover with jacket art by David Welling.

This is the complete collection of science fiction stories about Fisk Centers, first conned by a salesman then he becomes one, when he'd rather retire. Like the Prostho Plus stories, this is a funny romp through experience with sales propaganda, but in a interstellar framework of aliens and humans getting the best of each other.

Triple Detente British paperback cover

Triple Detente

I read the Sphere Books Ltd first paperback edition from 1975, originally published in 1974, but finished in 1972 (as an elaboration on a short story, The Alien Rulers, from from Analog, 1968).

This is a space invaders plot with a twist, as suggested by the title. Two worlds conquer each other, and in their manipulative intrigue work out a resolution against annihilation and for a wicked interspecies cooperation. Then another party intervenes and throws off the delicate, disliked balance.

Steppe hardback cover

Steppe

Steppe was finished in 1972, at least as a science fiction novel. (It appears to have originally been written as a historical novel.) I read the September 1985 Tor hardcover, with the sexy dust jacket painting by Boris Vallejo.

This approach, started with his first collaboration novel Pretender, doesn't always pay off. Anthony has done it to get the books into print, since he's recognized as a science fiction and fantasy genre writer, not a historical writer. What I've noticed is that the science fiction trapping often is nothing more than that: an encasement that doesn't always follow through on the science fiction ideas presented. Steppe had times where the science fiction element got in the way, and other times it felt unfulfilled (especially with such an engrossing beginning), but the story comes to terms with itself and the threads aren't abandoned. The story itself was fun and enjoyable, and the historical imagery realistic.

Race Against Time paperback cover

Race Against Time

I read the Tor paperback, printed September 1985, though first published in 1973. The first chapter of Hasan is found in the back.

John Smith. What a character name. He's a teen boy in the 1960s. At least so he thought, but things don't add up, and his cloistered, disciplined life doesn't seem right. This is a fun science fiction story, billed for teens, but as other Anthony children's stories, the writing is adult even if the content is more PG than is norm.

Rings Of Ice British hardback

Rings of Ice

First published in 1974. I read the 1975 Millington Ltd hardcover, with afterward by Donald L. Cyr.

This is one of Anthony's more obscure works, it seems, but the idea of a flood with a scientific, non-Biblical explanation, set in the modern day (for the time) US, was a fun read with interesting characters. Gripping, classic SciFi. The story takes place in an RV motor home, and the interest is in the characters they meet and save, at least initially. Having read this many years after its publication, I was mildy reminded of the Xanth novel Yon Ill Wind.

0X hardcover

0X

I read the 1976 Nelson Doubleday, Inc. book club edition hardcover.

This is the conclusion to the Manta trilogy, where two men and a woman have adventures in parallel universes, befriend by the aerial Manta fungi-based creatures. 0X (i.e. Zero-Ex) is about artificial intelligence based on Gardner's the game of Life.

Battle Circle

0X hardcover

I read the Avon, January 1978 paperback, with an unattributted cover art that in my mind is the best of all the editions of these books. Sos the Rope and Var the Stick were first printed in the UK, I believe in hardcover. This may be the first edition that prints the entire trilogy, in this case in the US.

Sos the Rope

This won the Pyramid Fantasy and Science Fiction Award in 1967. It was first published in October 1968, I believe in the UK. Of all Anthony's books, it is one of my favorites, based on a part of Anthony's Bachelor's thesis, Unstilled World, and one of the earliest that I've read of his works around 1987.

This is a classic dystopian, post-nuclear apocolyptic story of the future. It focuses around the idea of the battle circle as the arbiter of justice and dispute resolution in a world where there is no government. This story follows Sos as he gets wrapped up in the vision of a mentor, who defeats him, to unify the remnant tribes of humanity. It reminds me of the movie Bloodsport as if it were in the world of Stephen King's The Gunslinger.

Var the Stick

This story is so much about Var and his experience in the dystopia world of the battle circle. He is a lonely brute character that the author makes you love.

Neq the Sword

The conclusion to the series. Neq is the youngster who brings the world back to civilization, following the visions and works of Sol, Sos, and Var.

But What of Earth? paperback cover

But What of Earth?

Finished June 1975, I read the TOR July 1989 paperback edition with cover art by Don Maitz.

For Anthony, this rates as his least favorite novel, probably from the circumstance of its writing and publication. There are two naratives here.

The first is the short novel that would become the prequel of the Cluster series. From notes in But What of Earth?, Tarot, and the Open Road Integrated Media, Inc. edition of Cluster, it's not entirely clear if ideas for Cluster came before But What of Earth?. The Introduction is the only place that it is suggested the ideas for Cluster came first, and Earth? became a prequel to it. Certainly, I can see after the fact why it would be thought of that way, but it appears that the ideas didn't develop that way. Earth? can be ignored by Cluster series fans without taking away from it.

The second is the story of the butchering of the novel. In this, and other places, Anthony brings the case that editors should not change the work of an author without agreement. Editors have been known to change and improve an author's work (Hemingway is an example) as well have authors sign their copyright in various degrees over to the publisher. Strictly, from a copyright point of view, Anthony is absolutely correct: the copyright is to start with. From Anthony's writings it is clear that publishers tend to do what they want regardless of contract. Anthony's problem really is he expects publishers, that is corporations, to honor their agreements. It's made him a bit of a pariah. I can't help but agree with him. A contract is only as good as the word of those who sign it.

Earth? is not my favorite of Anthony's work, but it is definitely one I have fond memories of. The character of Brother Paul in this book shines, and I enjoyed the exploration of the idea that population increase and decrease, especially in aggressive change, affect the level of civilization. I also love that unlike much science fiction, space travel constraints are recognized, and a different, and interesting way forward is explored in matter transmission. Other than a bit of an abrupt, raw start to the novel, I found it enjoyable and worth a reread.

Tarot paperback cover

Tarot

Finished in September 1977, I read the Ace November 1987 trade paperback, with excellent cover art by Kinuko Craft. This was originally published in three volumes: God of Tarot, Vision of Tarot, and Faith of Tarot. This edition is noted as a revision to the original text, finished in March 1987. The changes are mostly in titles, and introductory texts to the chapters (instead of quotations) and book.

The development of Paul in this story has no where near the same feel as But What of Earth? where he is introduced. The book is long, drags on in parts while Paul has his visions, and parts of it are offensive and crude if you don't keep your eye on the purpose of the story. It's a good story. Tarot should be read while reading the first two books of the Cluster series (and after But What of Earth?, which should, but doesn't have to, be read first before all of them).

Split Infinity hardback cover

Split Infinity

I read the Del Rey (Ballantine) April 1980, first edition hardcover, with an iconic cover illustration by Rowena Morrill, and map by Chris Barbieri.

After Anthony's switch to fantasy with Xanth, Lester Del Rey asked for a second series. This was a mix of science fiction and fantasy, using a story similar to what Terry Brooks did later with Magic Kingdom, but with a world overlay similar to Xanth but with a science fiction theme, and on another planet. This is quintessiantial Anthony with a layered love story of a woman, a horse, a planet in peril, and the game (a plot device Anthony would come to use in other books and series).

Double Exposure

Double Exposure hardback cover

I read the Nelson Doubleday, Inc. book club edition hardcover, with cover art by Victoria Poyser, and map by Chris Barbieri. The map, I suspect, is the same as that in Juxtaposition. This is a trilogy collection of Apprentice Adept: Split Infinity, Blue Adept, and Juxtaposition. The About the Author page in the back has the same text that is in my edition of Split Infinity.

Blue Adept

Stile faces deportation in the science fiction realm of Proton, risking his life and status in the fantasy realm of Phase. His only hope is to take risks in the hope of becoming a citizen. The only thing I don't like about reading the Double Exposure edition of this book was the lack of the sexy cover of the Del Rey edition that had first got me interested in this series.

Juxtaposition

This is the conclusion to the Stile focused Apprentice Adept trilogy, exploring the relationship of Phase and Proton, which Stile must save risking the power of both citizens and adepts. I read this in the Double Exposure book club edition.

Anthonology hardback cover

Anthonology

I read the March 1985 Tor hardcover, with cover art by Joe Bergeron.

Along with BioOgre, this documents the beginning of the author's career, which began with the short story Evening in 1954. This includes stories published between 1963-1972, compiled for this collection in 1984, including some original to it, (though it is not always clear when they were written). These stories give a clear sense of the tone the author will use throughout his career.

Shade of the Tree hardback cover

Shade of the Tree

I read the May 1986 hardcover published by Tom Doherty Associates, cover art by Linda Garland.

This is Anthony's foray into thrillers, though he calls them horror. Shade of the Tree succeeds in its characterization, plot, and environmental focus that are typical of Anthony's work. This is up there in my Anthony favorites.

Uncollected Stars paperback cover

Uncollected Stars

I read the Avon Books, February 1986 paperback. This is a collaboration with two others genre authors.

A collection of previously unanthologized classic science fiction tales, each editor gives a small introduction to each story. If you love classic science fiction, this will expose you to stories likely otherwise unread, unless caught from its original publication in the respective genre journal, but worthy of further publication. A typical theme for Anthony: the worthy otherwise passed over, or ignored.

Out of Phaze hardback cover

Out of Phaze

The submission draft was completed end of August 1985. I read the Ace/Putnam hardcover, cover art by Darrell Sweet. The maps are signed by Storrings.

A new Adept trilogy that can stand alone from the first, from a new publisher, this follows Stile's child, Mach, who doesn't know about Phaze, at least at first.

Robot Adept hardback cover

Robot Adept

I read the Ace/Putnam hardcover, cover art by Darrell Sweet. The maps are the same as from Out of Phaze.

More adventures from Mach, in a way a forbidden love story, maybe a spin on Romeo and Juliet, but with two worlds, errr their world, to save on top of it..

Unicorn Point hardback cover

Unicorn Point

I read the Ace/Putnam 1988/1989 first edition hardcover, with jacket painting by Darrell Sweet.

A game for power over Proton and Phaze leads Mach and the other children into an adult battle for their future. The book follows each character in sets of 3 chapters, each chapter dedicated to following a particular character. This is the conclusion of the second trilogy following Mach.

Adventures of Kelvin of Rud: Three Complete Novels

I read the 1993 Three Complete Novels Wings Books hardcover edition of the Adventures of Kelvin of Rud trilogy, with cover art by Mel Grant.

Adventures of Kelvin of Rud trilogy hardback cover

Dragon's Gold

Once Anthony got the bug from a mixed science-fiction/fantasy realm with his Apprentice Adept series, it seems to have forever colored his approach to fantasy. Put a different way, I think Anthony is a science fiction writer, not a fantasy writer, though the fantastic elements of his most of his books (he has published some historical fiction that didn't need it being made into science fiction) begs the difference.

Dragon's Gold begins with a brother and sister sneaking away from home to steal gold scales from a dragon. Little do they know that this will fulfill a prophesy that will change their sense of who they are and where they came from.

Serpent's Silver

Alternate realities are introduced and Kelvin learns how to jump between them in his bid to save Rud and fulfill the prophecy.

Chimaera's Copper

More reality jumps. More intrigue and war. More Kelvin saving the day.

Total Recall

Total Recall hardback cover

I read the William Morrow and Company, Inc. first edition hardcover, published September 1989, with jacket illustration by John Berkey.

The hardcover initial release was based on the original script. There are some minor differences, e.g. Quail instead of Quaid (following Dick's original name), and a sexy scene with Quail walking through the 3D light projection of a beautiful woman. The paperback follow up was changed to more closely match the movie as produced. I think Anthony's first edition novel was more fun, though Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone were great to watch. I think that Anthony's rendition of the script, as originally printed, does justice to Dick's story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, updating this 1960s pulp (F&SF) science fiction classic for the current culture (though even that has aged since). Of course, the movie story is far more elaborte than Dick's: there's no Martian terraforming, political consipiracy, underground, mutants. Quaid's job is not a clerk, but more suited to Schwarzenegger's muscle. In some ways, I like Anthony's rendition the best.

Through The Ice hardback cover

Through The Ice

I read the 1989 first edition hardcover from Underwood-Miller, illustrations and cover art by R. Daniel Horne.

This is a basic, fun fantasy: an enjoyable way to escape for a few hours. A group of youngsters are chosen. Seth is one of them, pulled from his harsh reality in Michigan. They go on a trek to defeat the evil emperor bent on world domination.

Phaze Doubt hardback cover

Phaze Doubt

I read the Ace/Putnam 1990 hardcover, with jacket painting by Lisa Amoroso.

Is it a surprise that the grandchildren are going to save the world in this concluding adventure to the Apprentice Adept series? Now, the threat is external, an invasion fleet that wants the resources of Proton, and its magical capabilities. The grand children befriend one of the invader informants and choices must be made.

Firefly hardback cover

Firefly

I read the 1990 Morrow first edition hardcover with jacket design by Linda Kosarin and photo by Lisa Stein.

This is a horror novel, but like Anthony horror it is heavy on character and theme. This story has an environmental theme, and one of sexuality. It treats some subjects of sexuality sensitively, but it is graphic. A monstor begins romping the Florida country side, eating people from the inside out, but there is no sign of struggle. It's almost like people are allowing themselves to be eaten. Anthony excels at horror, equaling his hard science fiction, but he doesn't write it much.

Tatham Mound hardback cover

Tatham Mound

I read the Morrow first edition hardcover, with jacket illustration by Jerry Lofaro.

This is one of my favorite works of Anthony's, not a fantasy (maybe a little) but history. It is based on research the author funded of a tribe that lived in Florida and was effectively destroyed by the Spaniards (de Soto). It is a large book, but kept my interest page for page. It follows Hotfoot through his life beginning as a new warrior traveling up and down the American coast, following the guidance of his ancestors.

Orc's Opal hardback cover

Orc's Opal

I read the TOR, October 1990, first edition hardcover with jacket art by Darrell K. Sweet.

Piers Anthony potrays child characters well and seems to have fun with them. This story is a rather weird, but perhaps typical, switch-a-roo, wicked witch story.

Letters to Jenny hardback cover

Letters to Jenny

I read the TOR August 1993 hardcover, with jacket art by Jael.

On 9 December 1988, a drunk driver hit a teenage girl, put her in a coma, and left her paralyzed. Knowing she was an Anthony fan, her mother wrote asking for help: write Jenny and see if that will wake her up. It did. This book is the first year of letters that he has written to her since.

Caterpillar's Question hardback cover

Caterpillar's Question

I read the Ace October 1992 first edition hardcover, with jacket painting by Romas.

This is the adaption of a short story by Anthony, turned into a first chapter, then rotating between the two authors, at least initially. An alien seduces Jack, who needs him for protection until she can morph into a powerful creature capable of moderating the tyranny of a galactic empire. This is a romp around the galaxy in a science fiction story typical of both authors.

Mouvar's Magic

Mouvar's Magic hardback cover

I read the TOR, August 1992, first edition hardcover with jacket art by Darrell K. Sweet.

This concludes the series and gives the final revelations about Kelvin's father's origins.

Mercycle hardback cover

Mercycle

I read the 1991 Tafford first edition hardcover, with jacket art by Ron and Val Lindahn.

Originally written in late 1971, this a rewrite of the original finished around May 1990. It reminds me of the novel Ghost, though the plots are dissimilar. Most of this story takes places under the ocean off Key West, Mexico, and Cuba on a mission that is not explained but taken out of individual desperation.

Alien Plot

Alien Plot hardback cover

I read the TOR October 1992 first edition hardcover, with dust cover by Carol Russo.

This is a second collection of short stories after Anthonology. Apparently, Anthonology was originally a collection of unsold stories in 1969. Instead, what sold was a collection of published stories, with a couple of unsold additions. Alien Plot thus adds the unsold stories, plus more recent stories, some of which were sold. Like the first, each story has a small author's note introduction. This is about on par with the first volume, if you liked it, but with some newer stories. The final entry is not a story, but an article that I originally read in The Writer, called Think of the Reader, which I remember enjoying at the time. This version is the unedited one, naturally.


©2022 David Egan Evans.