Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jumper Cable by Piers Anthony

Jumper is a Spider who is plucked from his normal Frame and brought to Xanth by a plot hook. He wants nothing more than to get home, but immediately upon his arrival in Xanth proper, he rescues a maiden from an amorous lout, and she helps him by feeding him tongues so that they can communicate.

The girl is Wenda Woodwife, and she is, as her name says she is, a Woodwife, looking girl-like and beautiful from the front, but from behind, she is a hollow construct of wood. She wishes to become a real woman, and is looking to head for the Magician Humphrey for information on how to do just that. She invites Jumper to come with her so he can solve his own dilemma: how to get home. But he discovers a note on his back, a prophecy that he was brought to Xanth to fulfill.

But what does it all mean? Banding together, they come upon another woman, Maeve Maenad, who was seduced by a scoundrel and is desperate to avoid the stork, who they inadvertantly signalled. She wishes to find Magician Humphrey to find out how to keep it away forever. They also encounter Haughty Harpy, who has a second personalty, Hottie Harpy, that only emerges after dark and spends her time seducing men. She finds this problematic and wants to be rid of her second personality, or at least be able to keep her under control.

They also find Olive Hue, who has the ability to summon imaginary friends with a wide variety of magic talents- but she wants to be able to keep them and Phanta, a maid who can turn into a ghost in the dark. She's running from Gheorge Ghost, who has designs on her body. All of them want answers- or at least to be able to control their talents. But they join together to go to the Good Magician's Castle to find their answers.

One they make it there and through the tests the Magician has laid out for them, he tells them that they can have what they wish, but to do so they must undertake a mission with Jumper. A cable that connects the Mundanian Internet with the Xanthian Outernet snapped when the Demon Pluto was demoted to being a Dwarf. He threw a tantrum that snapped the cable, which was in his interests because he wished to keep knowledge of his becoming a dwarf from both Realms.

Jumper is the only person who can reconnect the cables because half of his legs are negatively charged, and the other half are positively charged, making him able to touch both sides at once without being harmed. And to get him to where he needs to go, he and his companions must be joined by two more, the Princesses Dawn and Eve, who have been banished for fighting over the same man. But if any one of them refuses to help, the mission will not be able to succeed, and none of them will have the answers they have been searching for.

All the women agree to help Jumper, and the Magician gives them potions that will temporarily give them the solution to the problems that they seek. In addition, he gives Jumper potions that will allow him to assume the form of a man or return him to the form of a spider. The girls find Jumper's human form handsome and well-formed and each in her own way forms an attatchment to him. With human form, however, comes the weaknesses of a human man, like being freaked out by the sight of bras and panties.

So, one of Olive's imaginary friends, Angie Ina gives him lessons in love as a human and also enough knowledge to make him less than innocent, and keep him from freaking out. By the time they leave the Magician's Castle, he's fairly well inured to the sight of female panties. Their first stop is the home of Smash Ogre, who Jumper must emulate to fulfill the prophecy. But what part of Smash's personality must he emulate? And even here, Pluto has prepared a less than nice welcome for Jumper and the others.

Their next foray is inside the gourd, where they must follow the Lost Path to the Found Cabin and return the items they find there to their owners. Each woman finds something lost, and Jumper helps them return it to the man who lost it. But they find out that each of the men they made a romantic and intimate connection with is actually a demon. One demon. Pluto. And Sharon, who appeared as the sister or daughter of each man (or something similar) is also a demon, who has apparently fallen in love with Jumper. She, too, has shared intimate relations with him. She is working for Pluto, and hopes that they can seduce one of Jumpers companions, or Jumper himself, into abandoning the mission. But even if they stay true to the mission, can they stay true to each other? Can Jumper fulfill the mission, or will he be the one who abandons it?

So many people who have read Piers Anthony in the past are getting a little... uncomfortable with the direction of his Xanth novels in recent years. So many of them have revolved around panties, sex with women who are actually little girls magically made experienced and adult via magic and other such topics that they have come out and accused him of being a perverted dirty old man. Well, this volume isn't likely to change their minds much, if at all.

In his own defense, Piers Anthony points out that he never intended for his series to be read as a children's work. It's always been adult, and there have always been parents and others who squawked over the least mention of panties. I agree with that, but I also must say that I can see the point of those who criticize his latest works. Yes, Panties and love have always been in his works, but his latest do skirt the edge of what I think is acceptable. I mean the whole "Two to the Fifth" was fairly distasteful for me to read, and this has a lot of the same kind of stuff, but all the characters are nominally adults (Jumper is 2 in Spider age, which translates to his 20's in human terms). It's just that all the women are interested in sex and love, and they use Jumper to experiment with and on, which hardly seemed fair to him.

In the end, everyone finds the love they are searching for, but this seems to be one of the most adult Xanth stories I have yet read. Personally, I liked them a bit better when they were more innocent, and the innocence is going fast. Be aware that these new books may share the puns of the earlier books, but the sexual content will not be the same as the earlier books. It's ramped up and very much in your face, whereas I had to wonder if anyone in Xanth actually had sex in some of the earlier novels, where cuddling close was enough to summon the stork. For some, this will be a very unwelcome change. Don't think that low humor and comedy automatically means kid's book, because in this instance, it doesn't at all. YMMV.


Lainey said...

I was really disappointed with this last book (Jumper Cable). I've been reading the series since I was 13, and I'm now 31. It's always been a favorite. However, I think this last book has completely turned me off of the series, and it's because of all the "in-your-face" sex that you mentioned.

I, too, liked it better when it was more innocent. Books for adults don't have to contain tons of completely pointless, gratuitous sex. Did it serve the story? I didn't think so. It wasn't even well done, it was just there. Constantly. I never agreed with those who freaked out at the mere mention of panties, but I really think he's gone over the top. Then in the Author's Note he tells those of us who don't like it to basically take a flying leap.

I noticed that the last novel of the Incarnations of Immortality series, Under a Velvet Cloak, had much the same problem. It was never considered a kid's series like Xanth sometimes is, but I really enjoyed it until that last one. That totally turned me off, too. It was also just sex, sex, sex, all the time. I could only tell you the bare bones of the story, because that's pretty much all there was. A bare bones story to enable him to write about people having sex.

I am starting to wonder if he's going senile and this is how it is manifesting. I know a lot of people have always considered him a pervert (and some have said pedophile), though. But at least he was able to keep it to a minimum in his previous writings. Now it's like he's obsessed and just can't separate his writing from his feverish sex fantasies.

Sorry this is so long...I just finished Jumper Cable last night, and I'm so disappointed!

LadyRhian said...

I actually found Jumper Cable somewhat less objectionable than Two to the Fifth, which really squicked me out. Underage sex ahoy!

I mean, he's playing with the idea by making the males really young- 2 in both cases, as far as I remember. But both of the characters were adult in form, if not experience. And using that to condone sex with a girl who was 11 in her normal form (magically aged at the time)? Iffy, at best. Disgusting, at worst. And of course, the men apparently being men, once the little head is interested, the big head can't say no. How horrible to pin that on men!

What happened to morals? What happened to saying, "I don't care that you look to be in your 20's right now, you are 11 years old and no matter how hot I am for your bod, I am not going to touch you or have sex with you. I can wait. We both can wait."

Ugh, That's all I can say is "Ugh."