Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Musings from Mundania

I've now finished reading Man from Mundania, the twelfth book in Piers Anthony's Xanth series. It's been a while since I've read anything in this series, but I had trouble finding this particular volume, and didn't want to skip it and read ahead. I did that all the time as a kid (I didn't originally read the Oz or Narnia books in any real order), but I'm less apt to do it now. The Xanth books have never quite grabbed me in the way some other fantasy series have, perhaps because I never got the sense of realism from them that I did from some others, but they're fun for light reading (and I wouldn't be at all surprised if one of them includes a pun on the term "light reading" {g}). I do think Anthony is a bit too keen to work in gratuitous sexuality, what with all of the naked women and mentions of summoning the stork and Adult Conspiracies. Also, he seems intent on coming up with the weirdest couples possible. There probably isn't a need for Xanth fanfic with absurd pairings of characters, because the actual author has already given us a centaur mating with a hippogriff, and a half-human, quarter-ogre, quarter-nymph hooking up with a woman made of brass. And characters tend to pair up very quickly, even when love springs aren't involved. All this aside, though, I like the books I've read so far (some more than others; I can barely remember anything that happened in Centaur Aisle, for instance). Man from Mundania is actually one of the better ones. Grey and Ivy's romance, while admittedly pretty quick and easy, was more believable than some others in the series. I also liked the incorporation of the Time of No Magic and the Magician Murphy (from the second and third books, respectively), and the advancement in the search for the Good Magician Humfrey (which started two books previously, and I think continues for at least the next two). For what it's worth, I believe Anthony has admitted to being a fan of the Oz books, and I appreciate how he managed to incorporate some similar elements (the magic tapestry at Castle Roogna that is quite similar to Ozma's Magic Picture, punny names, just about anything you could want growing on trees, etc.) while not coming across as a rip-off.

I think Man from Mundania was the first book in the series to state that the Xanth books actually exist within the universe of the stories themselves, as tomes written and kept by the Muse of History in Xanth itself, and as fiction in Mundania. That's actually pretty similar to how it works in the Oz books, in which several characters have read about Oz before going there, and L. Frank Baum even came up with an elaborate story of getting news from Oz by means of a radio telegraph. I believe I've heard that Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes also eventually became aware of books being written about their adventures, but I could be wrong. But I think it's usually the rule that people in a work of fiction can't actually read or watch that same work of fiction. In a way, I kind of prefer it when they can, because if they're supposed to be taking place in our own world (which the Mundania and Great Outside World segments presumably are), those works that we assume to be fiction presumably WOULD exist. On the other hand, it can make things too easy if strangers to a place already know a lot about it simply by reading, and the whole concept can come off as rather self-gratifying for the author. ("See? My books are so popular that even the characters in them read them! And if you haven't read all of them yet, here are some titles, worked right into the story!") It's an interesting issue, really.
Tags: books, oz, xanth

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