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Saturday, December 15, 2007

cover of Split Infinity

This book was not as good as I remembered-- and I always knew it was not great literature. Now it seems like a lot of male wish-fulfillment fantasy. Stile, a serf on the futuristic planet of Proton, has an attempt made on his life, discovers he can cross over into the parallel but magical world of Phaze, and finds out that there he is one of the most powerful magicians, an Adept. In Proton he has a beautiful android named Sheen that an unknown benefactor sent to protect him, and in Phaze he befriends a shape-changing unicorn named Neysa. He sleeps with both of them whenever he is in their respective worlds, all the while admitting to himself that he can never truly love either of them since they are not human.

One of the features of Proton that seems particularly male wish-fulfillment fantasy is that all the serfs are naked-- only the citizens wear clothes. This is taking Mark Twain's humorous statement about clothes a little too far ("clothes make the man-- naked people have little or no influence in society"). Anthony makes a big deal (repeatedly) of how clothing and partially covered nakedness is so much more appealing than complete nakedness-- but his male characters also seem always to look over and visually evaluate the nude females they come into contact with. A part of me is horrified that I read this when I was younger (although I'm sure I didn't pay attention much to the nudity or innuendo, and read it more for the adventure and the unicorns). Supposedly, life is so great on Proton that people would rather be a serf there than live like kings elsewhere in the universe. There's a lot to this that doesn't quite make sense, and a lot of things that seem impractical to do nude (riding horses, running marathons, etc.), but Anthony doesn't worry about that.

I picked this book up because it was convenient when I had nothing to read; I pulled it out because I thought G. would enjoy it-- particularly because of the Game of Proton. Here, Anthony has created something pretty interesting. The great Game is one where two players make selections from broad categories in a grid, together choosing a game to compete in-- and the strategy comes in at the very beginning, trying to maneuver your opponent into a category where they are not skilled but you are. This is an interesting idea, and the descriptions of the Games Stile plays are always pretty interesting. However, Stile's wide range of expertise and skill seems a little ridiculous-- he has practiced everything from sword play to music in order to make himself a competent Gamesman, and one wonders how he has any time for his job.

I vaguely remember there being some clever reference to the title, but I didn't find it in this book. Odd.

Title:Split Infinity
Author:Piers Anthony
Date published:1987
Genre:Fantasy / Science Fiction
Series:Apprentice Adept
Number of pages:368
Notes:repeat reading


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