Thursday, October 30, 2014

A mystery from the author of the Xanth series


By Piers Anthony

Publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy 

Pub date: October 21, 2014

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


Aside from writing the massive Xanth series, Piers Anthony has written in pretty much every sub-genre imaginable in science fiction and fantasy. So I was surprised when he stated in the afterword of his novella WereWoman that he never wrote a mystery until now. WereWoman is a mystery but it is still firmly entrenched in fantasy.

Phil is a young private investigator, 18 years old and on his first day in the job, when a witch asks him to find the murderer of her friend, another witch. Phil himself is a were, a supernatural being that can change into another creature. However Phil's other "creature" is a woman who he calls Mena, short for Philomena. One may argue whether the author is showing a sexist nature when he speculates that women are different creatures than men but I will not go there. Phil is reluctant to take the case until he finds how that his best friend Bear, another were and fiance to his were secretary Syb, has also been killed in a seemingly related murder. From there, he goes on a hunt for the murderer as more killings pop up, all of "Supes" and all of them being different types of supernatural entities.

It is an interesting tale that has various levels of seriousness, parody, and humor. Anthony cannot help throwing out a few puns even here. Yet while admitting that it is different than the never ending Xanth series, it still feels a bit derivative. The combination of detective and fantasy world setting are not exactly novel any more and I can't help feeling the author was rushing through it. No one can accuse Piers Anthony of ever writing mediocre prose. But I am just not feeling the enthusiasm here. One of the interesting themes in the book is that there seem to be a lot of mention of sex and nudity. For some reason the characters are required to get nude to perform certain magic acts and tests and more than once it results in erotic consequences. But it still feel kind of PG and gives me visions of a certain Monty Python character going "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.". The gimmick of making each murder a different magical creature also grated on me to the point, of thinking "OK, what is it now?" instead of staying in the plot and wondering who did it?. When the mystery is solved, it is actually a clever resolution yet I can't help wondering if very many people cared by that point.

I must admit it is nice to see something by Piers Anthony besides another Xanth novel. However I cannot say Were Woman was all that successful. Even though it was marginally enjoyable, By any standard it does not hold up to the level of simliar supernatural books and is a bit of a disappointment for an established and talented writer.

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