Chthon by Piers Anthony
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As an SF prison break adventure it's fine, but honestly, it's everything that's under the surface that makes this book pretty fantastic. It was nominated in '68 for the Hugo even though it was a first-time author who spent 7 years writing it. Interesting? Especially since he's a hugely recognized name now?
The fact is, beyond the prison break, it's a psychological horrorshow that spotlights its very own Oedipus tragedy, wold-spanning telepaths, commentary on the nature of love and hate, complete with a truly horrible inversion, and just a little more tragedy.
This is the novelized SF form of Freudian unconsciousness, travelling the labyrinth, and the eventual rise from the darkest spaces of our own souls to reach the light, as it seen in the title. Chthonic?
But don't worry about any of these themes being too deep to spot. Anthony keeps everything pretty much on the surface, putting his knowledge of myth and classic literature a direct service to *his* story, and not as a nod.
I'm honestly very impressed, but I can also see why people might not give this higher stars, too, because the deeper themes and even the general one of a SF prison break has been done many times. Still, this one is done extremely well, so I'm giving it full props. It's complex but very readable, disturbing in the sexual themes, the love themes, in all the ways that people hurt each other or are even programmed to hurt each other. It might be too rough for the casual reader. I'm honestly a bit shaken, myself, and I pride myself on knowing my dark side.
Very impressive. :)
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