Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony, jimroberts' review

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Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony, jimroberts' review

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kesäkuu 23, 2011, 11:50 am

It's been very quiet here recently!

I've reviewed Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony, here. Comments are welcome, obviously. There's already been some discussion in Reviews reviewed.

Xanth is a magical land: there are creatures such as dragons and centaurs, and every human has a more or (mostly) less useful magical talent, as do some part-human and humanoid creatures. Puns abound: much of the magic is based on puns. Beyond the borders of Xanth lies drear Mundania, where magic does not work. Golem in the Gears is the ninth book in the Xanth series and the shortest story so far. It stands alone pretty well, especially with the help of the Lexicography of Xanth with which the book is padded out.

Grundy the Golem has been a minor character in several previous books. He was originally an inanimate Universal Translation Device, but after he developed some human-like sympathy for other creatures, he was magically transformed into a doll-sized man, retaining, of course, the ability to communicate with any living thing. In this book, he advances to major character. Most of the adventure is nothing very special, but Anthony often contrives to relate his Xanth books to social, political or philosophical questions, which makes them more interesting than simple magical adventures with puns. In this case, he considers the difficulty of overcoming childhood indoctrination ("Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.") and the social value of co-operation.

Grundy has become very dissatisfied with his life as a tiny person among normal humans. Sure, they sometimes take him along on adventures because of his usefulness as a translator, but he doesn't feel respected, so he wants to go on a quest to prove his worth. He determines on finding Princess Ivy's pet dragon, which disappeared at the end of Crewel Lye. So, like every protagonist in Xanth so far, he goes for advice to Magician Humphrey and, as usual, Humphrey's advice doesn't seem much use: Grundy should ride the Monster under the Bed to the Ivory Tower. It turns out that Ivy, like many girls, lives in nightly fear of the monster which will grab her ankles, given a chance. However, Ivy is growing up and Snortimer, her monster, fears that she will soon lose her belief and fear, whereupon he will fade away, so he consents to carry Grundy, provided that Grundy expands his quest to include finding romance for Snortimer. They pick up various helpers for parts of the journey, and after about a third of the story they find the Ivory Tower.

There, however, they find neither the missing dragon nor romance for Snortimer. Rather, the evil Sea Hag is bringing up the beautiful Rapunzel in almost complete isolation from the influence of the outside world. During his journey Grundy has been told about the Sea Hag and her talent of extending her life by taking over control of a new body every time her current one dies: she retains her basic personality, but is limited by the skills and knowledge of her new victim, and she needs some compliance for the takeover. She has therefore adopted the habit of investing some years of each lifetime in grooming a carrier for the next one, and she uses the tower to maintain tight control over her planned victim's education. So, although Ivory Tower usually refers to academia and its supposed lack of contact with reality, the analogy here is more to forms of education which stifle a child's curiosity and attempt to shield it from knowledge of which the educators disapprove. Rapunzel does not know the name Sea Hag: she calls her guardian Mother Sweetness and has been taught to regard her as the exemplar of virtue and kindness. So saving Rapunzel becomes another part of Grundy's quest.

More discussion.

Some parts of the book could have been cut, or, preferably, replaced by something better. For instance, I find the field of bulls and bears, which appears for the first time in this book, always merely irritating. The chapter where Grundy and some of his companions are exploring underground passages whose ceilings keep collapsing is just a bit of set-up for the next book, and not interesting. However, anybody who has liked some other Xanth novel will probably like this, and anybody who wants to give Xanth a try could do worse than start with this relatively short and reasonably self-contained one.