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Chuck Wendig
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Battle Circle

Battle Circle - Piers Anthony Specifically, I didn't read the entire book, since I'd already finished Sos the Rope. I just picked this up with Var the Stick and trundled on through the rest of the series. Well ... I guess "trundled" is a bit of a loaded word, and one that really belies how much I sped through the last two books. I finished them in three days, and actually felt some eagerness to finish them. Var the Stick actually developed a bit more than I would have expected from Mr. Anthony, based on the sexism of the first book and the Apprentice Adept series, but then he had to descend into the depths of statutory rape and ruin it all. And dammit, up to that point, he had actually been making a case for women as individuals, even in the setting of the novel! So that was a little disappointing.

Neq the Sword is the book of the trilogy that I remember most, because it had a heart-wrenching scene near the start. I remember it devastating me when I first read it; this time around, I recognized it for its pathos, but it didn't have the same sort of effect on me. Maybe I'm more jaded now; maybe my sensibilities for that sort of thing are more mature than they were 27 years ago; or maybe it just wasn't as good as I thought it was. Regardless, it was a bit of a let-down, and a reminder of why you shouldn't revisit the stuff that you treasured when you were younger.

Story-wise, I liked the development of Var the Stick, as the character development felt more sincere, and the plot started to feel more substantial. There was a lot of travel in the book, enough for the characters to go halfway around the world, and it started to feel a little silly when they got to China. There was a rather gratuitous and overly-descriptive section where the characters encountered a group of Amazons (no buxom misses here; no, instead Anthony presents the assertive women as gross in body and sexuality, with a group of mutilated-but-not-castrated men to keep the female bloodline alive), and from there it just kept going downhill. Neq the Sword was too scattered of plot and motive, and I had a hard time finding much satisfaction from the story. By the end, the scattered remnants of the previous society was pulling back together to recreate itself, but by then Anthony was back in his form, where the eight women in that society would be passed among the forty men to keep the population alive. Yawn.

Despite all my complaining, I did find the storytelling gripping and compelling. As I mentioned above, I finished the book over three days, even as I found myself thinking it wasn't going to get much better. It's not the stupidest or worst book I've ever read, but having re-read the entire series, along with the Apprentice Adept series, I find myself having to come to terms with the fact that I've simply outgrown Piers Anthony. I think I had already known that, but now I don't have to wonder about it anymore.