Off the Shelf

“Centaur Aisle”

By Marcus Pan

Centaur AisleGood ‘ol Piers, as I said in my last book review(1), returns us to Xanth. Actually I should say he not only returned me to Xanth, but dumped me properly back a bunch of years in the past. It’s not his fault really, since until I read Dragon on a Pedestal(2) I haven’t read much of it at all. This Xanth feature, Centaur Aisle, has drooped me a back a few years to when Dor wasn’t yet king, Irene still hadn’t fucked him and Ivy wasn’t yet a glimmer in her green plant-noodling eyes.

Ok, first off, I just went back and read my review of Dragon on a Pedestal and it seems I liked it. Now I’ve read Centaur Isle and the only thing I can assume is because Pedestal was written further along than the one I speak of now, it’s therefore better. Centaur Aisle still retains the witty repartee that Piers has become known for in his pun-filled fantasy world, but it just seemed so pedantic here. Virtually childish and would probably make Harry Potter books look like almost advanced reading.

First off, the story of Centaur Aisle isn’t as interesting. The current king of Xanth, King Trent, leaves Dor in charge as he and his Queen go traipsing along to our world, Mundania, in an effort to establish a trade route. Of course…as you can expect…he doesn’t return, and young Dor, along with another gaggle of strange friends, have to go about after him and rescue him. Irene’s magical talent, the control of foliage, is still a little neat though it wasn’t nearly as interesting as it was in Pedestal – probably because Dor’s here, and Dor is Our Hero for this time around. His talent is to make inanimate things talk and while occasionally the banter of the rocks, tables, grounds and belt buckles are kind of cutesy, they get really annoying really fast – almost like Jazzy Jay at my dayjob, but enough about him.

Dragon on a Pedestal was whimsical where Centaur Aisle was downright Barneyish. While I could certainly have enjoyed a nice romp through weirdness following the more serious storyline of Essence, I’m not so sure I enjoyed being dumped right into Goofland. A very large portion of this novel was dedicated to the vaguely veiled and teenager-ish teasing love affair between Dor and Irene and it read in many areas more like a Britney Spears romance novel than a fantasy featurette. The characters were poorly executed and the puns and clichés that Anthony stung us with in Pedestal weren’t nearly as unique. It also turns out that Dor is a completely idiotic tart with the worst spelling in history – resulting in what began as the cutest homonym usage I’ve read., but eventually dwindled into an annoying fiasco. And that is about all I can say about it.

If you’re a Xanth fan that hasn’t yet read Centaur Aisle, then by all means find yourself an old pulped copy of this one and have at it. And while Piers is well known for whimsy(3), here he takes us on a boorish journey that makes a hard left turn at Whimsy, waves as it drives on past Absurd and keeps going straight through Comical, barrels on past Goofy, misses the next turn near Zany, gasses up at Senseless and drives until it runs out of fuel in Ridiculous. Oh, and by the way for this trip you’re driving a run down school bus filled with 5th graders high on sugar stix. Want to take that ride? Up to you Mac…but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you come out of it with a sugary headache and a hankering for brownies.

(1) Essence by Glenn Woods.
(2) Reviewed in Legends #140.
(3) Prostho Plus comes to mind – reviewed in Legends #116.
“Centaur Aisle” by Piers Anthony
Copyright © 1981 by Piers Anthony
A Del Rey Book
Published by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0-345-29770-9
Library of Congress Catalog Card: 81-67841

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