A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read, and remember liking, this back when it came out. While Anthony is an anachronism today, he was one even when this was published in 1977. His sexism is pervasive – integral to the story? no; seems he just like being perverse. Some is couched: on page 53 of the paperback, he has a farmer laughing about the main character accidentally groping a female centaur and then he says that farmers had “an earthy sense of humor”. “Earthy”? “Lecherous” or “vulgar” is correct in the context he created. Constant references to females growing “shrewish”, or losing their looks…
And some is not couched. Only 3 pages after the “earthy” commentary, he describes a date rape surrogate trial (to protect innocent parties) with the outcome that would make a good ol’ boy, or a billionaire golf course owner, smirk. And two pages after that, a bit character, talking to the main character about an attractive female participant in the acted out trial: “Better have Wynne show you.” “Wynne?” “Your opposite. The one you almost raped.” [Note, the main character was conscripted to play a role, and the outcome, as noted, was in the favor of the male players…] “Not that I blame you.”
Yes, he went there. And that is a theme/attitude common throughout the first third of this book. Do we dismiss Anthony’s deplorable references for culturally relative reasons, or do we hold him accountable? I regret introducing Xanth to my third son, who read nearly all of the series (I stopped after four – and the fourth was pushing it too far.) As a teen, I seemed to have been largely oblivious to Anthony’s sexism, but it bothered me as an adult when I read some of his other series.
Now…there’s actually a decent story in here, despite Anthony. [Yes, I know…because of Anthony]. I will probably reread the other two of this trilogy to see if Anthony’s style – intriguing first novel of a trilogy, weak filler middle novel, sometimes okay conclusion – fits my memory. Now, I know that this particular series went beyond three…he’s still writing these things… It’s almost as if he’s in competition with himself to see how many inane stretches of wordplay he can work into every page. And they often get in the way of a potentially good story.
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I started the year with another ambitious goal of 100 books (using the Goodreads site to log and track), as last year I read 119.
As in my recap of the first half of 2013, I’m grouping the books as I did in last year’s recap by the month in which I finished them (and fiction/nonfiction subgroups.)
Some quick full year stats for the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): overwhelmingly heavy on the nonfiction this year, but then a lot of the fiction was quite long (Ms. Rowling…please stand up):
- 55 nonfiction
- 45 fiction
- 14 of the fiction were Arthur C. Clarke novels, who rounded out the last of the Big Three
- I’ve rated 19 on Goodreads as five-star. Not all are must-reads, but these are ones I thought were excellent…and maybe read-agains.
- I gave a two books a one-star not-only-no-but-really-no UNrecommendation
Anyway, now to the books (five-star ratings are marked with asterisks)…
Posted in Books
Tagged 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three, 3001: Odyssey Four, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, 50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know, Alan Sokal, Amy Runyen, Arthur C. Clarke, Barry L. Beyerstein, Bill O'Reilly, Charles Bukowski, Christopher Stasheff, Chuck Palahniuk, Colin Gilbert, David Mitchell, David Rock, David Schmidt, Drifting Democracy, Dylan Gilbert, Edge.org, Elizabeth T. Gilbert, Ender's Game, Esther Forbes, Fight Club, Gabriel Guzman, Ghost of the Well of Souls, Gina Smith, Graham Nash, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, Imperial Earth, Intellectual Impostures, iWoz, J.K. Rowling, Jack Chalker, Jacob Bronowski, Jean Bricmont, Jesse Walker, John Brockman, John Ruscio, Johnny Tremain, K.A. Yoshida, Killing Jesus, Martin Dugard, Martin Gardner, Neurodiversity, New Media for Designers + Builders, Omnivore, Orson Scott Card, Oscar Wilde, Paul J. Nahin, Piers Anthony, Post Office, Pravin Boddu, Quiet, Rama Revealed, Ray Kurzweil, Rebecca J Razo, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Sharon Robinson, Stephen A. Mouzon, Steve Wozniak, Steven Jay Lynn, Steven Pinker, Susan Cain, The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Ascent of man, The Daily Book of Art, The Incredible Dr. Matrix, The Language Instinct, The Logician and the Engineer, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Reason I Jump, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutiNaoki Higashida, The Sea is Full of Stars, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The United States of Paranoia, The Warlock in Spite of Himself, This Explains Everything, Thomas Armstrong, Tony Crilly, Wild Tales, Your Brain at Work
I started the year with another ambitious goal of 100 books (using the Goodreads site to log and track), as last year I read 119. Through June, I’ve managed 58.
I’m grouping the books as I did in last year’s recap by the month in which I finished them (and fiction/nonfiction subgroups.) As the list is already quite long, and I’ve decided to tag all of the authors and titles, I’m publishing the first half of the year as a standalone.
Some quick stats for the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): heavier on the nonfiction (again) for the six months so far this year:
- 34 nonfiction
- 24 fiction
- 9 of the fiction were Arthur C. Clarke novels. The last of the Big Three (Asimov and Heinlein being the other two, though Heinlein doesn’t warrant the distinction…IMO), I think he did well with science fiction and not so well with things that involve people.
- I’ve rated 10 as five-star on Goodreads
- I gave 2 books a one-star rating (not-only-no-but-really-no)
- I’ve linked all of my Goodreads reviews (even if only one line) to each title, in case anyone is interested in what I thought.
And, now to the books of the first half of 2013…
Posted in Books
Tagged 2001: A Space Odyssey, 21st Century Dodos, A Fall of Moondust, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future, Andrew Keen, Arguing with Idiots, Arthur C. Clarke, Bernie Glassman, Calculating God, Childhood's End, Christina Perozzi, Daniel Coyle, Design, Easts Shoots and Leaves, Echoes of the Well of Souls, Edgar Allan Poe, Frd Collopy, Hallie Beaune, Islands in the Sky, J. G. Ballard, Jack Chalker, James C. Bradford, Jeff Bridges, Jen Campbell, Jim Holt, Jonathan Haidt, Jules Verne, Lynne Truss, Managing as Designing, Maria Konnikova, Marilyn Monroe, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, Max Brooks, Michael Avallone, Michael J. Fox, Mitch Alborn, My Story, Nate Silver, On a Pale Horse, Pierre Boulle, Piers Anthony, Planet of the Apes, Quarterdeck and Bridge, Rendezvous with Rama, Richard Boland, Right: A New Design Perspective for Business Innovation, Robert J. Sawyer, Scott Trent, Simon Zingerman, Steampunk Poe, Steve Sack, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, The Atrocity Exhibition, The Cult of the Amateur, The Deep Range, The Dude and the Zen Master, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Happiness Hypothesis, The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue EXCELLENCE, The Naked Brewer, The Signal and the Noise, The Songs of Distant Earth, The Talent Code, The Thousand Coffins Affair (The Man from U.N.C.L.E. #1), The Throwing Madonna, Tom Peters, We All Need Heroes, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, Why Does the World Exist?, William H. Calvin, World War Z
Before I dive into the subject of the post title, an observation:
Tuesday, January 8th, is Stephen Hawking’s 71st birthday – amazing given that 50 years ago, he was told he’d have maybe two more years to live. I just finished rereading A Brief History of Time in December and hope to get to both The Universe in a Nutshell and The Grand Design this year. The picture/graphic below appeared on a Facebook page (as quoted in John Boslough’s Stephen Hawking’s Universe) and it made me rethink a position I’ve held for many years.
I generally think that “why” is not a question science need answer. If someone really wants to explore “why”, then take on religion or philosophy. The word I prefer is “how”. “Why” seems to lead to meaningless queries such as “Why am I here?” followed by time-wasting searches for answers beyond the obvious fertilization of an egg by a sperm. I have little use for philosophy as an adult. Just the facts. Opinions are like… (Including mine.)
“How”ever, I can understand the use of “why” in the context of “why the universe is as it is”. I am a little concerned over Hawking saying “…why it exists at all.” Oh, I see that as a consequence of examining time arrows and singularities, but I fear that such a simple phrase can be perverted by the ignorant, much the same as Einstein’s dicey objection to quantum physics and uncertainty. Still, it is an admirable goal, although one he knows is impossible. At least from a 2013 perspective.
Posted in Books, Interests, Personal thoughts, Tech
Tagged Apple, Hard drive crash, iPad, iPod, iTunes, Life of Pi, On a Pale Horse, Persistent Library ID, Piers Anthony, Stephen Hawking