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December 2002
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Up In  A Heaval by Piers Anthony
Tor, Hardcover: ISBN
0312869045 PubDate November 2002
Review by Rob Archer
352 pages List price $24.95 
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My introduction to the world of science fiction/fantasy came by way of a book called Ogre, Ogre written by Piers Anthony that my mother read me when I was in elementary school.  That became one of my favorite books and was one I read and reread for several years.  More than any other writer, Iíd have to thank Mr. Anthony for kicking off my love of reading.  But the last time I read a Piers Anthony novel about the land of Xanth George H.W. Bush was President, and perhaps more importantly I didnít have a drivers license yet.  With a new offering, Up in a Heaval, I figured Iíd see what has happened in this world of magic in the intervening dozen or so years. 

I must admit that it took a little while for me to get into this story.  I was never too intrigued by the Demons in the past works, and this book starts off with them.  Once the story began, I found myself wandering in and out of this world.  It could not fully capture my imagination in the way it once did, but there was enough there that I still found myself partially drawn into Xanth once again.  I was a bit surprised to see Anthony actually poking fun at his puns, as I donít remember this being part of his writing style.  As a whole, the world still contains the various plays on words and random puns wandering around, but there was a bit of character wincing in response to some of them. 

Noticeably different was the type of adventure that the characters take us along for.  Maybe it was the nature of the story or maybe Xanth has become a much safer place, but  there seemed to be very little danger in this world.  To be sure the mission was important and the collective safety was at stake, but the earlier tales were filled with many more direct threats to the main characters whenever they had to traverse the land.  Umlaut and his companions seem to crisscross Xanth without any of the sense of adventure that Anthony brought us when Bink, Dor, or even Ivy wandered out into the wild.  The current quest seemed more pedestrian as it occurred with the danger at the end.

Perhaps the biggest thrill for me was the first time I began coming across the names of the characters I grew up reading about.  However, this thrill didnít last long as I encountered them throughout the story.  Those who made up the soul of the earlier stories are mere backdrops in this tale.  While that makes sense as they are not really integral to the story at hand, it was a little disappointing to see them so one dimensional.  I would have preferred for them not to be included at all rather than to see them in such a vacuous light.  The Zombie Master, Millie, Gorgon, and Humphrey come out okay, as does Grundy the Golem, but thatís about it.  I actually cringed during the chapters where Dor, Irene, Smash, and Tandy are glossed over.  I guess itís a new generation of readers and the odds are that many of them wouldnít miss the vitality that was missing from these old characters.

As the story developed, I did indeed find myself picking up interest in how it would turn out and rooting for the primary characters.  It was nice to see that the writing style of Piers Anthony still appeals to me, and the ending was pretty good.  It took me back to some of the drama that I remembered following in the earlier stories.  In fact, it did seem to incorporate many of the themes and issues that made up some of those books.  Ultimately, I do have to say I enjoyed the book, as it was a pretty easy read and Piers Anthony does spin a good story.  You can indeed always go back home, but it doesnít ever really feel the same as it did when you were young.

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