Piers Anthony (1934 – ) is one of the most prolific and popular science fiction and fantasy authors, best known for his New York Times Best Seller Xanth series. Anthony has written several other SF fantasy series as well as volumes in other genres, including historical fiction, martial arts, horror and an autobiography, entitled Bio of An Ogre; over 200 books published in total.
His writing method involves outlining the background, main characters, and storyline first, to facilitate continuity of each idea. He is also known for ending novels with a lengthy Author’s Note about himself, his life, and his experiences relating to the process of writing the novel and maintains a strong online presence to stay connected with readers.
Best Piers Anthony Books
One of Anthony’s quirky kudos is the fact that he has written a book with titles taking every letter of the alphabet starting at Anthonology and ending with Zombie Lover. Learn more about his book in our standalone articles. The novel, Piers Anthony wrote that launched his career, was called A Spell For Chameleon published in 1977. Interestingly enough Anthony saw this a singleton, so only researched and wrote with that in mind.
However, its success precipitated the inspiration to build an entire world that became the Xanth series or The Magic of Xanth, and there are over forty books to date. Other titles include The Source of Magic, Centaur Aisle, Man from Mundania, and Zombie Lover.
The world of Xanth is clearly shaped to reference Florida, taken into a fantastical realm. The chief protagonist, Bink is portrayed as a regular guy, but we learn he’s not at all average.
In this enchanted land magic rules and every citizen has a special spell only they can cast, except Bink, who must find his magic powers or be exiled. An essential reason this is considered one of the best Piers Anthony book series is for the ideas and the structure; these novels are overflowing with a multitude of ideas.
Other positive reviews acknowledge Anthony’s famous sense of humor and how he can weave it between all the drama. Ironically, a common criticism of his work is that there is too much comedy in it, along with some inherent sexism.
Reflection of the Time
Though readers have defended the work as being a reflection of the time, critics have identified long running plot points considered misogynistic throughout the stories. Regardless it is a very popular series earning Anthony film options and inspiring a video game, Companions of Xanth and a board game called Xanth by Mayfair Games.
The Incarnations of Immortality is series consists of eight books mostly published between 1983 and 1990, with the eighth book being published in 2007. The series transports readers into a historical parallel to contemporary fictional reality, but where modern technology help advanced society.
The first book, On A Pale Horse (1983) is considered by fans and SF critics alike as being one of the best books by Piers Anthony, doing what he does best, taking a wide view of the big issues of humanity and applying his imagination to turn it into a creative story. The main protagonist is a photographer called Zane.
This story has a very engaging philosophical quandary to ponder, especially because of confusion of the main protagonist, who wants to commit suicide but at the same time is scared of death.
Special and Supernatural
Titles in the series include Under a Velvet Cloak (2007), And Eternity (1990), For Love of Evil (1988), Being a Green Mother (1987), Wielding a Red Sword (1986), With a Tangled Skein (1985) and Bearing an Hourglass (1984). Each plot revolves around these places called supernatural offices and special humans who work in them, known as Incarnations.
The twist in their existence is that they can go from mortal life to their roles in these supernatural offices. The offices embody major aspects of human life like death, time and fate.
Dead Like Me
Like other fantasy series, each book is a self-contained story, but there are distinct story lines that carry between the novels through the exploration and development of several intergenerational characters. The book spawned a five-issue comic series and also inspired a television series, Dead Like Me.
Apprentice Adept Series is another collection of eight stories by Piers Anthony, seven of which revolve around primary stories. The plot tells of both a world of fantasy and science fiction.
The world of Proton and Phaze exist in the same space but in two different dimensional planes. Proton is desolate planet in a galaxy, predominantly inhabited by humans who love playing The Game, which is a series of physical and intellectual contests that take many forms.
It’s a place of great scientific achievement but the qualities of a medieval society and magic has no function here. Phaze, on the other hand, includes many creatures of the fantasy realm from unicorns to trolls, and magic is the main way the world works, while advanced technology has no place at all.
In the first book of the series, Split Infinity (1987) the main protagonist is a serf named Stile, who lives on Proton but finds he can slip from his modern existence to a fantastical alternative because his altered has died in that dimension. He winds up dealing with all the problems two people have all by himself as well as playing many games as a master Gamesman.
The following books in the series are Blue Adept (1981), Juxtaposition (1982), Out of Phaze (1987), Robot Adept (1988), Unicorn Point (1989) and Phaze Doubt (1990). Readers have given many positive reviews regarding Anthony’s storytelling style which contrasts fantasy and science fiction environments as well as rollicking adventures that appeal to a target demographic of teenage boys.
However, he is also criticized for his antediluvian portrayal of gender relations, being accused of treating topics such as sex slavery and rape with a salacious and cavalier attitude. Fans of the series overlook these faults in favor of the intrigue and world building that Piers Anthony is renowned for.
Bio of a Space Tyrant Bio is a six-book science-fiction series Piers Anthony wrote between 1983 and 2001. They’re listed as Refugee (1983), Mercenary (1984), Politician (1985), Executive (1985), and The Iron Maiden (2001).
Based within the Solar System, the first novel introduces us to our protagonist, Hope Hubris and his family. Hope is a strong character who came a long way, he used to be a refugee, but using his will and intelligence, he eventually became the Solar System’s ruler who managed to make peace among the warring powers.
After suffering exile, Hope takes his sister on an eventful journey through space towards Jupiter. Along the way they encounter pirates, who rape and pillage any traveler they come across.
This power abuse propels much of the plot lines and some critics argue that rape, in fact, becomes a key component in the series itself. It is an acknowledged fact amongst fans and critics alike that these books are darker in tone than much of Anthony’s other works due to the shocking violence.
Geopolitics and Space Opera
Anthony wrote, in his notes to readers, that he based the storyline off the plight of Vietnamese refugees, a human rights issue that was going on in the late 70s and early 80’s so it is understandable it became his reference point in the theme and stories of the early books of the series.
The Mode Series was a quartet of books by Anthony, three of which were written in the early 1990’s, with the fourth being published in 2001. Similar to the Incarnations of Immortality and the Apprentice Adept series, the Mode series is a blend of fantasy and science fiction, a reflection of the writer’s favored style.
Virtual Mode (1991), the first book in the series follows a man called Darius, who travels to earth to take his suicidal teenage girlfriend Colene back to his universe.
At first, she is suspicious about the idea of the existence of other worlds, so Darius tries to prove it using a special artifact that allows them to travel. However, to do so they are forced to use a risky method, which means he has to create a four-dimensional universe.
To navigate a path, Darius uses five points in different universes and a virtual path for the anchors to be tethered to. The five anchors are represented by five people including Darius and Colene.
We can read about other anchors persons in Anthony’s series, where they travel and bring new cosmos into a play. Anthony notes that Colene is a combination of several teen fans who corresponded with Anthony; making her character very popular with female readers.
Negative reviews of the series address the sexual exploitation and the inauthentic characterization of Colene as a depressed teenage girl. Conversely, Anthony received kudos for the originality of the plot and his legions of adolescent fans would consider the Mode series, one of the best books by Piers Anthony.
This three-part series from Piers Anthony has some of his best rated books, so you best believe you are going to want to add this one to your TBR list. The first book is called ‘God of Tarot’ and follows a monk named Paul. On the planet that Paul lives on, Tarot, being a monk is viewed as a higher position than being a warrior, because on Tarot, religions are wielded like a weapon.
Humans are being sent from Earth to Tarot, where visitors experience hallucinations based on their visual and emotional states. Tarot is quickly becoming the center of a religious movement, and Paul has been sent there to examine the planet for his Order, who have asked him to determine if the God of Tarot actually exists.
The second book is called ‘Vision of Tarot’ and sees Paul going into Animations to search for the God of Tarot. The Animations are physical spots on the planet that cause people to have hallucinations, and for Paul, it causes him to have a nightmare filled with demons. The last book in this series is ‘Faith of Tarot’, where Paul has to pierce the dreaded curtain of Animation.
What Paul doesn’t realize is that this journey may take him into the most horrifying place of all: Hell. Anthony wraps this series up with a satisfying conclusion, although one that has a twist. These three books really read as one novel, so make sure you read them altogether. One thing I particularly enjoyed was how Anthony structured the novel based on tarot cards, which I thought was pretty interesting.
Another book series from Piers Anthony that may be new to some and old to others, we have the Cluster series. There are five books in total, the first one being ‘Cluster’, which introduces us to Flint, a Stone Age native from the Outworld. Flint is given a complicated task: to save the galaxy and stop Andromeda from stealing the basic energy of the Milky Way.
The second book is called ‘Chaining the Lady’, and follows Flint’s powerful descendant, Melody, a Mintakan musical alien who keeps Tarot cards on her at all times. Melody faces a similar journey as her ancestor Flint, trying to save the universe while transferring between galaxies – you will understand this better after you have read the first book, because everything is explained there!
Their Own Battles
‘Kirlian Quest’, ‘Thousandstar’, and ‘Viscous Circle’ are books three to five in this series, and follows Herald the Healer, Heem of Highfalls, and Rondi respectively. Each character has their own journey and battle ahead of them, travelling throughout the galaxy and exploring the different alien races in order to win their fights.
These are the latest books that I’ve read and one thing that never ceases to amaze me about an author like Piers Anthony is his imagination! I truly don’t know how he comes up with these different worlds and species, but it is so fascinating to see how he binds them all together. It was definitely forward-thinking for its time in that respect. This series is a fun read that is filled with action and great characters, so make sure you don’t miss out!
Piers Anthony’s modus operandi in all his stories is to explore what happens to a person in an unusual situation. With his likable characters and engaging plots, it is no wonder he is one of the bestselling SF fantasy writers of North America.
Robert is a science fiction and fantasy geek. (He is also the best looking Ereads writer!) Besides reading and writing, he enjoys sports, cosplay, and good food (don't we all?). Currently works as an accountant (would you believe that?)