cover image Chaos Mode

Chaos Mode

Piers Anthony. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (300pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13893-5

Despite some fresh characters and situations, the uneven third installment of Anthony's new series (after Virtual Mode and Fractal Mode ) ultimately lapses into formula. Escaping an unhappy childhood, 14-year-old Colene has discovered travel on the Virtual Mode, a buffer zone that connects Earth with thousands of alternate realities. With three companions--Darius, Nona and the telepathic horse Seqiro--she meets Burgess, a tentacled being from a world whose evolutionary development differs dramatically from that of Earth. Anthony effectively conveys Burgess's radical otherness through the creature's community-oriented vocabulary, but he is less successful with the human characters, each of whom is defined by an overly simple trait: Darius is honest, Nona beautiful, Colene intelligent but depressed. Travel along the Virtual Mode allows for several imaginative settings and encounters, including a land of giants and a world where horses keep humans as slaves. The plot lacks a strong through-line, however, and the group's adventures soon become cliched; there seems to be no problem their combined abilities can't wrap up quickly and tidily, leaving them poised for the next adventure. (Jan.)