"Ghost Writer in the sky" is number forty-one in the sequence of Piers Anthony's "Xanth" comic fantasy stories which began with "A Spell for Chameleon" in 1977, and features just about every challenge you could possibly fit into a fantasy novel including visitors from the real world, time travel, multiple alternate realities and lots of the most corny puns imaginable.
The series has been a huge hit with fans and publishers - Piers Anthony is supposed to have said that the reason he is still writing Xanth books is to keep his publishers happy as the series is the only thing they ever pestered him for. Xanth has still been going strong forty years of Earth time, a similar number of books, and millions of copies after the 1977 debut. However, in the rather moving author's afterword PIers Anthony, who is now more than eighty years old, indicates that although this is not necessarily the last book the series will not go on for ever.
"Ghost Writer in the Sky" and all the other books in the series are mostly set in a magical land called Xanth, a peninsular which usually looks a bit like Florida but can sometimes appear like other peninsulars such as Italy or Korea. All the human residents of Xanth have a magic talent, which may vary from trivial to immensely powerful and from extremely useful to being a downright liability. The fauna, flora and geography of the land are based on a combination of legends and puns.
Anthony confirms in the afterword that the title is a pun on the Johnny Cash song "Ghost Riders in the sky" and at some stage I may try to put together a video review sung to the theme of that song, but in the meantime here is a short written description.
The Dreamworld of Xanth is presided over by two Stallions, the Night Stallion (or Horse of a different colour) rules the night and sends his Night Mares to deliver horrible and scary visions to punish bad people while the Day Stallion sends Day Mares to deliver pleasant daydreams. The Night Stallion has never permitted any potential rivals so his latest male foal, the Night Colt, has been hiding and sought to develop his powers in secret. He approaches Goar, a struggling wannabee writer from our Mundane world, to write dreams the colt can deliver to unsuspecting denizens of Xanth. Neither the Colt or Goar are actually bad people but Goar seriously misunderstands how serious the consequences of his actions could be, and his first few dreams come close to causing at best serious embarrassment and at worst death or injury to a number of denizens of the magic land, including the princesses of Caprice Castle.
The princesses decide that this "Ghost writer in the sky" is a menace which needs to be dealt with and because he lives in Mundania (our world) they need someone from our world to deal with him. Soon two people from Mundane earth - Tartan and Tara - find themselves on a quest, accompanied by a Dragon Princess in human form, a human prince from a different Xanth reality, the Goddess Isis and various hosts to deal with the Ghost Writer. But there are a number of challenges, in various realities and time periods, to negotiate first ...
The series as published and planned in August 2017 is as follows:
1 "A Spell for Chameleon" (1977), link
A Spell for Chameleon
2 "The Source of Magic" (1979), link
Source of Magic: Xanth Series, Book 2
3 "Castle Roogna" (1979), link
4 "Centaur Aisle" (1982)
5 "Ogre, Ogre" (1982)
6 "Night Mare" (1983)
7 "Dragon on a Pedestal" (1983)
8 "Crewel Lye" (1984)
9 "Golem in the Gears"
10 "Vale of the Vole" (1987)
11 "Heaven Cent" (1988)
12 "Man from Mundania" (1989)
13 "Isle of View" (1990)
14 "Question Quest" (1991)
15 "The Color of Her Panties" (1992)
16 "Demons Don't Dream" (1992)
17 "Harpy Thyme" (1993)
18 "Geis of the Gargoyle" (1994)
19 "Roc and a Hard Place" (1995)
20 "Yon Ill Wind" (1996)
21 "Faun & Games" (1997)
22 "Zombie Lover" (1998)
23 "Xone of Contention" (1999)
24 "The Dastard" (2000)
25 "Swell Foop" (2001)
26 "Up In A Heaval" (2002)
27 "Cube Route" (2003)
28 "Currant Events" (2004)
29 "Pet Peeve" (2005)
30 "Stork Naked" (2006)
31 "Air Apparent" (2007)
32 "Two to the Fifth" (2008)
33 "Jumper Cable" (2009)
34 "Knot Gneiss" (2010)
35 "Well-Tempered Clavicle" (2011)
36 "Luck of the Draw" (2012)
37 "Esrever Doom" (2013)
38 "Board Stiff" (2014)
39 "Five Portals" (2014)
40 "Isis Orb" (2016)
41 This book, "Ghost Writer in the Sky" (2017)
There is also a companion volume, "
Piers Anthony's Visual Guide to Xanth
" and the co-author of that book, Jody Lynn Nye, has written the adventure book "
Ghost of a Chance (Crossroads Adventure : in the World of Pier Anthony's Xanth)
A major part of the plot of the sixteenth book, "Demons don't dream" relates to a computer game about Xanth, and Legend Entertainment were licenced to bring out a real computer game shortly afterwards which had the same plot as the game in the book and the same name, "Companions of Xanth." This game was designed to run under DOS and is no longer available at Amazon UK although it can still be ordered from Amazon.com or downloaded as abandonware if you have a working computer old enough or flexible enough to run games designed for the specs and operating systems in place twenty years ago.
If you have the right sort of sense of humour, particularly a love of dreadful puns, this book and most of its' successors can be quite amusing. These books are not meant to be taken seriously.
Be warned however, that if you did take some of the Xanth books too seriously, they can come over as rather sexist even by the standards of the nineties, let alone those of today.
Some of the accusations of sexism against Piers Anthony over the Xanth books are based on taking out of context, and assuming that the author is endorsing, views which in context are clearly presented for the specific purpose of disproving them. In several Xanth stories the bad guys make bad mistakes by underestimating the female characters and the heroines often find that they can achieve far more than their initial low expectations of themselves.
In context many of the antedeluvian attitudes to women attributed to characters in the Xanth books contribute to the failures suffered by those characters or are a sign that they are on the wrong side, and similar sexist perspectives initially attributed to heroes and heroines are sometimes there so that the characters concerned can grow by learning better.
In this particular case "Ghost Writer in the Sky" may be more likely to attract fire from those with traditional attitudes rather than the politically correct - I'm not going to say anything further to avoid a spoiler.
As you work through the Xanth series new characters and themes are gradually introduced and old ones fade away, so it it not essential to read this series in sequence, though I personally prefer to do so. Sometimes, as in this story, characters who have faded out come back as Mare Imbri does in this book or figures who have been in the background move centre stage.
Worth a try if you enjoy fantasy and puns, are reasonably broad-minded, and able to avoid taking things too seriously or literally.
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Ghost Writer in the Sky (The Xanth Novels Book 41) Kindle Edition
About the Author
Piers Anthony is one of the world's most popular fantasy writers, and a New York Times-bestselling author twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world, and he daily receives hundreds of letters from his devoted fans. In addition to the Xanth series, Anthony is the author of many other bestselling works. He lives in Inverness, Florida. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B01I4FQ63C
- Publisher : Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (18 April 2017)
- Language : English
- File size : 5719 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 337 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 293,722 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
4.5 out of 5
192 global ratings
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Top reviews from other countries
Xanth fantasy novel number forty-oneReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 August 2017
One person found this helpful
Anthony does it again!!Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 May 2017
I love the Xanth books and own them all. This one was as great as the others. I love the puns. Be prepared to groan and laugh out loud. Remember Xanth is and always was an ADULT series, so parts may not be too suitable for younger readers. Story line was excellent. The author moves with the times, keeping Xanth fresh, whilst keeping us in touch with characters we know and love. This book, as with the other 40 something can be read as standalone, but is best read in order. The trip from Mundania (the "real" world should be a juxtaposition but it isn't. In fact is more real than Narni, Middle Earth or Wonderland. Oh wait, That's cos it is! Check the map of Florida!
Can't wait for the next one!!
Can't wait for the next one!!
DisappointingReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 August 2017
Disappointed. I love the Xanthe books, but I feel this lost its way and had no map such a shame
One person found this helpful
Xanth storyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 April 2018
OK but not vintage Anthony