There are several authors who I own many books by, and have read a fair few of them – Peter Ackroyd, Paul Auster, Beryl Bainbridge, Iain (M) Banks and Georges Simenon lead the pack, each having between 22 and 25 books on my shelves. But there is one prolific author who I no longer own any books by, but have read nearly 70 (69 actually) yes, that many books by one person. It was while writing my post on novels of 1979 last week that I realised I’d read so many books by one of the authors featured, and that it would be fun totting them up.
You see, from the time I went to uni, until the end of Star Trek: TNG in 1994, I read more science fiction and fantasy than anything else. (I was a real ‘Trekker’ but managed to stop myself from buying a uniform and going to conventions.) Contemporary literature started to force its way back into my reading from about 1985 onwards in a little way, and a big way after 1994. Since then, I’ve occasionally enjoyed SF&F, although it’s more likely to be SF than Fantasy these days. Now let me introduce you to the …
Books I have read by Piers Anthony
Piers Anthony is now 85, and still writing – with well over 100 books to his name. He was born in Oxford, but moved to the USA at 4, becoming naturalised later. His first published novel was Chthon in 1967, which was Hugo and Nebula nominated – a good start. Like many SF&F authors, he is primarily known for writing series of novels, of which he has had many over the years. I’m going to briefly take you through all the book covers in their series that I’ve read by him, with comments on themes along the way! Are you ready?
Chthon, set in prison mines, from 1967 would have a sequel in 1975. The three ‘Battle Circle’ books Sos, Var and Neq (1968-75) are set in a post-apocalyptic Earth in which conflicts are settled in the Battle Circle. The three books in the’ Of Man and Manta’ series (1968-75), Omnivore, Orn and Ox are SF about a science mission to explore other lifeforms.
Anthony’s most enduring series, still going strong at 41 books – is set in his fantasy world of ‘Xanth’. When I was at uni, there was a bookshop on Gloucester Road in South Kensington called Karnac Books – which although being a specialist bookshop for psychotherapy and psychiatry books, had a single well-stocked bookcase of mostly American SF&F paperbacks. The first Xanth book, A Spell for Chameleon was published in 1977 in the US, and I’m pretty sure I found it in Karnac Books a couple of years later. As you can see from the titles and covers, the Xanth books drew heavily on the monsters and creatures of classical mythology as supporting characters to the various humans who usually had some kind of quest. They also had a sense of humour, which as the series progressed got cheesier and cheesier, so much so, that I called it a day after 18 books, wincing through the over-punning last few I read. Heaven knows what the other 23 books in the series are like!
The five books of his ‘Cluster’ series, (1977-82) was SF. Set around 500 years into the future, when we have colonised our near neighbours in space, and discovered mattermission. Mattermission is prohibitive though, and the discovery that everyone has a ‘Kirlian aura’ which can be tranferred into a host cheaply drives the development of the outer worlds of the cluster which had regressed to Paleolithic tribes.
The ‘Tarot’ books from 1979 onwards were also set on one of the Cluster worlds – obviously a more primitive one looking at the covers – I can’t remember anything about them. The ‘Apprentice Adept’ series was set on a pair of worlds which are out of phaze with each other – again I can’t remember anything about them except for enjoying the first few. Both these series would have another book added to the series later.
The ‘Incarnations of Immortality’ series ran from 1983 to 1991 with a later addition. Each volume concentrated on one of the seven supernatural offices, and the humans who performed those offices in a world like ours but with both magic and technology. I seem to remember these were fun – I think!
‘Bio of a Space Tyrant’ from 1982 onwards (5 books with a later 6th) charts the rise of a lowly refugee to become the Tyrant of Jupiter. Can’t remember these at all. The three ‘Mode’ books from 1991-3 again had a later addition – and I can’t remember anything about these either!
And that brings me to my last grouping. These are all standalones published between 1969 and 1993, and I can’t remember much about many of them.
Macroscope from 1969 was serious SF. The discovery of a new particle, the ‘macron’ has allowed a space telescope to be built with infinite resolution – which as you may guess brings problems and adventure. It was Hugo nominated. I remember it as a chunkster – that’s all! Prostho Plus was a comedy about dentistry for aliens, Total Recall was Anthony’s novelisation of the film – odd when the film was based on a Philip K Dick story! Anthonology was a collection of short stories and Bio of an Ogre was Anthony’s memoir (up to the age of 50).
Having read so many books by this prolific author over a period of about 16 years, I can honestly say I have no desire to read any more. Many of them were fun, many were formulaic, many were cheesy, but there were some great ideas in there, that perhaps got diluted once trilogies expanded into longer series. I’m not sure about adding extra books onto series ten years later as he has been wont to do either.
The books of Piers Anthony fuelled my SF&F-led late teens and early twenties and led me to find many more great SF&F authors.
If you’ve stayed with me to the end of this post – thank you! It’s been a self-indulgent and nostalgic trip down memory lane for me, and I particularly enjoyed searching out all the exact covers I actually owned (a task which is so simple on Librarything).