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Split Infinity (The Apprentice Adept, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – October 12, 1987
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On the technological, decadent world of Proton, someone was trying to destroy Stile, serf and master Gamesman. His only escape lay in Phaze, a world totally ruled by magic. Soon he learned that his alternate self had already been murdered, and that he was next. On Proton, his fate depended on winning the great Games. On Phaze, he must master magic to survive. And if he used any magic at all, his friends were determined to kill him at once!
THE APPRENTICE ADEPT
Book OneSPLIT INFINITY
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I am willing to grant that the first few books of Xanth are genuinely entertaining. I also think that elements of his books are very well done. For instance, in Split Infinity, the concept of the game on Proton is really interesting. I wish that he had kept his attention there instead of his rather noxious obsession with nekked people.
Frankly, the female characters in Xanth are bad enough. Eeping nymphs and scolding harpies, pretty much. But this first book in the Phaze series is repellent. The main character, Stile, sleeps with all the non-human women around him, even though he is not in love with them. This is okay, since they are in love with him. So he is, you know, doing them a favor. Despite being loyal, wonderful and gifted with permanently perky breasts, he isn't in love with them because he can't be in love with a woman who isn't traditionally human. He is horribly insecure, yet possessed with a strange charisma that makes all women want to put out-- even if he is honest (which he always is) about the fact that there is no future. Oh yeah, also, he cannot date women taller than he is. You know, that just doesn't work out. *eye roll*
I really feel kind of bad savaging Anthony's books because they reveal the enlightened approach to gender of a caveman. Talk about shooting fish in a barrel. But-- really-- Split Infinity is actually toxic.
Proton/Phaze is an interesting enough idea that it made me wish that authors did rewrites like film directors do remakes. There is some decent stuff in here, but it only makes it more depressing when confronted with the morass of junk that makes up the rest of the book.
I would not give this to a developing adolescent, even if that is just about the right age level for the view of women. If I hadn't loved this as a child, I probably would have given it one star.
That said, the Xanth novels *did* make teenage me a voracious reader. Some books are great no matter when you read them; others are better when you're young (e.g. Catcher in the Rye) or older (Project Pope). To me, Xanth falls firmly in the former category.
Split Infinity, however...well, I'm not so sure. I tried to read it as a kid, titillated by all the nudity. (That's not a spoiler, by the way. It shows up in the first couple of pages.) But I never managed to finish it.
Years later, I recently forced myself to plow through it, and I can't say that I fully recommend it. Yes, there were parts that I found engaging, that made me want to spend my entire lunch hour reading. But there was also a lot that seemed mechanical. In the end, I didn't care about the main character, and if you don't care about the main character, that's pretty telling. It certainly didn't inspire me to read the rest of the books in the series.
I gave it three stars because I found it to be a C-average science fantasy novel. There are certainly worse out there, but then again, there are much better.
This reads in part like a wet dream of a man of Piers' generation. I have nothing against a little titillation now and then, but the gratuity and the chauvinism on display here are a little much. This must have been considered quite racy back in the day, but doesn't have enough actual sexual content to be considered anything of the kind today. It's a little like one of those Japanese anime cartoons where you get tons of "fan service" (e.g. short skirts with panties showing, cleavage, contrived events that put the male protagonist in a women's locker room, etc.) but no actual sexual content. There's plenty of sex, but it's left up to the reader's imagination.
There is also a lot of chauvinism in the titillation. For example, we have first a beautiful android woman whose proportions were apparently designed exactly to the taste of our hero whose primary directive is to "protect" the hero with the secondary directive to "love" the hero. Then we have a unicorn who shape shifts by night into a beautiful woman. Of course our hero has to "tame" her first so he can "ride" her. She "doesn't like to talk much", but plays beautiful music for him from her horn. You get the picture. Most of the women on display here are not real, fleshed out characters with their own personalities, but something more like a high school guy's fantasy.
Then there is the author's apparent small man syndrome. He has to remind us on nearly every page that the hero is short and all the *perceived* cons of being short (which of course end up being real pros for our hero). Of course the hero is good at pretty much EVERYTHING, including things that a short man might not be as good at. He uses his quick wits and natural physical talents to overcome his opponents and make up for his short size. I got really tired of hearing how short this guy is. He's practically a superman, but we've got to hear every other page about how he suffers for being small and how people look down on him and belittle him.
Some people say this book is well written, and I would disagree. It may just be a matter of more modern taste, but the author does a lot of things that are considered bad form, at least in modern writing. For example, there are the long, romanticist monologues/daydreams/etc. we have to put up with from the protagonist. These seem to serve the dual purpose of fulfilling the author's desire to spout off his romantic ideals and dumping information on the reader that the author couldn't work into the actual story. Similarly, there are also plenty of "as you know Bob"'s (contrived conversations that give the reader information but would never happen in real life).
The book does SEEM to have an interesting premise, at least from the description. However, the description on Amazon seems to contain spoilers since I'm about half way through the book and a lot of details of the dual world that are in the book's description haven't even been revealed yet. My guess is that you could condense this trilogy into one book's worth of material pretty easily while keeping all the interesting ideas and the actual plot intact.