cover image Shame of Man

Shame of Man

Piers Anthony. Tor Books, $23.95 (380pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85811-7

That Anthony has attempted to write a multicultural work is laudable, if bemusing. Yet Anthony clearly cares about this book and, as in Isle of Women, the first volume in this series, imbues its serious, ambitious text with the frenetic action and joie de vivre for which he is known. Covering several thousand years, Anthony presents sets of similarly named characters in assorted situations and cultures. The always left-handed but never sinister Hugh and his wife Ann (and variant names thereon) are the good couple, while Bub and Sis do ill from Neanderthal times up through the near-future. Anthony can't quite manage to present any character who comes off as truly evil-Bub never rises above caricature, while Sis has several redemptive moments-but the effort here is honest, one whose spiritual antecedent appears to be Will Cuppy's The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. There are moments when the Anthony that many condemn comes through, mostly in the early sections (for example, when a woman whose baby is killed before her eyes immediately has sex with the killer), but, overall, this is an encouraging work. There's enough action to satisfy Anthony's Xanth readers, while those who stopped reading him around the time of Macroscope may be pleasantly surprised by what they will find here. (Oct.)