Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review:: A Spell for Chameleon, by Piers Anthony

Title: A Spell for Chameleon
Author: Piers Anthony
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Usually I love ripping apart the books I hate. But no, I've been avoiding writing this review. Why? This is the most sexist fantasy book I've ever read. That's saying something. Merely thinking about this book makes my skin crawl. Below the cut, you'll hear more, there will be spoilers, there will be a lot of gross talk about rape culture, and a shitton of sexism will be unveiled.

So, there's a story behind why I read this book. One of my friends went with me to the library (as all good friends ought to do) and we were rifling through the SFF section and my friend comes back with this book. They tell me that it's funny, it has a ton of puns, and no really, it's a good book. And I was side-eyeing it like whoa, but figured I'd give it a shot.

I start reading the book, and I immediately have legitimate questions. We have the whole standard "we don't need to know what the men look like, but if we don't know the cup size of the female characters, she's not described well enough" situation. We have the "25-year-old" protagonist acting like a horny 12-year-old boy at best. We have a "boys will be boys" scene where his father laughs it off that Bink tried to "sew wild oats" which would have bound a nymph to him as the "fertilizer figure" (because he watered them with his own urine) so he could use her as a sex toy.

His mother is kind of upset about this, but see, it's not because the whole idea is disgusting. It's because she's jealous that his father did it at one point, but screwed up and the nymph "got away."

Oh, but then his father tells Bink that it's not what he wanted anyway, because he doesn't want a mindless sex toy. That's not enough of a challenge. But then goes on to dehumanize women in telling Bink how he'd be bored with a beautiful woman with no mind.

Blah, blah, blah, Bink is about to go see the wizard because his hot girlfriend really hopes he has magic so he won't get exiled but it's hard because epic quests have to be, and he meets a centaur. We hear a lot from Bink about how hot this centaur would be if she weren't a centaur. She then explains to him about how pretty much every human in Xanth descends from a series of awful rapes as one group took over the next.

There's a point where she jumps over a crevasse and he grabs her boobs. He apologizes, sure, but then laughs about it later when a guy asks him "where he held on." Oh, and he questions later whether he did it on purpose or not.

Oh, and the next scene.

Bink gets to a town and a guy agrees to help him as long as he'll get some help in return. See, he needs to take care of some unpleasant business.

A rape trial.

Oh, no, wait, this is a mock-trial where we have 3 women and 3 men get together. No one (except the victim and the rapist) know who is actually the victim and the rapist, so it saves everyone from the messy fallout of having raped someone. After all, she would be ruined if someone found out she had been raped. And it's just so hard if all your neighbors know you're a rapist.

At the end, everyone agrees that it's best to just not deal with this, to save everyone involved. Oh, and if they ever talk about it again, they'll be tried with contempt of court. Yay! Nothing like shutting up the survivor who was pressured into being silent with the treat of legal action if she ever speaks up again!

But the trial itself isn't even the skeeviest part.

Bink's opposite (the girl who is sitting across from him) is quite lovely. So lovely, that Bink describes her as thus:
"Grim-faced, looking betrayed, the three girls shook their heads, no. Bink felt sorry for his opposite. How could she avoid being seductive? She was a creature constructed for no other visible purpose than ra—than love."
 That was the point at which I messaged my friend, saying "Uh, when was the last time you read this book?"

They weren't sure, but were pretty sure they were a teenager. I then sent them that quote, and they basically had the same reaction I had. And then realized that oh, no, it wasn't the Xanth novels they were remembering. It was the Myth Adventures series by Robert Asprin. All of this pain for nothing. Nothing.

During this pause, I went to go look at other reviews. And I was shocked that the above quote didn't make it into most reviews, even reviews talking about rape culture. And then I discovered that they released an edited version in 2012 to "simplify" it. And by simplify, they meant "get rid of the worst of it." Although, "the worst of it" still means a hella gross book.

Later, the bailiff refers to the her as "the girl you almost raped... not that I'd blame you."

I think someone has serious issues with women. I just don't understand how anyone can say Piers Anthony himself isn't sexist. Say all you want that he just isn't good at writing women (although that on its own is a sign...); the problem here is that he doesn't think women are people. He clearly has a fixation with rape and possession that's not healthy.

And at this point, this review is making me physically ill. So I'll get to the end:

The love interest's magical power? She has magical PMS. On her "lunar cycle" which is referred to as "the feminine cycle" in the same breath, she goes from being incredibly dumb but well, so pretty you can't help but rape her according to all this, to ordinary and average, to incredibly ugly and incredibly smart.

So she's perfect for the protag because due to ... women burning him? ... he's come to the idea that he can't trust women who are both beautiful and smart. A lot of people have put it this way: in this book, women can be beautiful, smart, or good. Choose two.

There's also some weird stuff about a guy who says he'd fuck his dog if she were a beautiful woman, the protag being hot and bothered by the body of a fourteen-year-old, and just a whole bunch of shit.

Do not read this book.


  1. Thanks for the shot across the bow, I'll make sure to avoid this planet.

    1. Definitely. It is wrong and should feel bad.