first encountered Robert Asprin's Myth novels in a library book
when I spotted a copy of MYTH CONCEPTIONS in the stacks. I was a
young kid at the time and for some reason I thought that Robert
Asprin was an author my mother had read and enjoyed, so I picked
the book up as a present for her. In reality, she had never
heard of him before, so I sat down to read it instead.
story of Skeeve, a young apprentice who ends up, through a
confidence job gone horribly awry, leading a misfit gang of
interdimensional adventurers against a massive army of
ridiculous size was practically ready-made for a twelve-year old
steeped in Tolkien and D&D. The characters were witty and
endearing. The plot was clever. The humor warm and entertaining.
I immediately started hunting down the other books in the
series, and its strong continuity and character growth quickly
made for a solid addiction. In the years since I've re-read most
of the Myth books two or three times.
week or so ago, while suffering from a rather nasty head cold, I
noticed the Myth books lying out on my recently rearranged and
expanded bookshelves. Since I was looking for some quick comfort
reading, I grabbed MYTH CONCEPTIONS once again and curled up in
my blankets. This, of course, freshly renewed my addiction and I
spent the better part of the week plowing through most of the
rest of the series.
few random thoughts on the series and its parts:
FINE MYTH is the first book in the series, but I've never been
particularly enamored with it. This may be because I only
managed to find a copy after I had already finished the next six
books in the series, but I genuinely feel that this is one of
the weaker books Asprin has to offer. The humor relies more on
the mediocre puns rather than the clever character interactions
of the later books. The plot also comes across as formulaic and
forced. Basically, there's a reason why I started re-reading the
series with MYTH CONCEPTIONS (the second volume) instead of
ANOTHER FINE MYTH.
my opinion, the series really hits its stride with MYTH
CONCEPTIONS: The characters come to life. The plots start to
hum. The humor finds its pace. In short, Asprin finds his groove
and the result is pure entertainment. From MYTH CONCEPTIONS
through MYTH DIRECTIONS, HIT OR MYTH, MYTH-ING PERSONS, and
LITTLE MYTH MARKER the series shows consistent growth and
that's when the series does a pratfall.
next volume, MYTH I.N.C. LINK, marks a departure in the format
of the series: Rather than being told from the POV of Skeeve,
Asprin's intention was for the Myth Inc. volumes to be told from
the POVs of the other characters in the series. MYTH I.N.C. LINK
inaugurates the tradition through a series of interlocking short
stories, each told from a different POV. In theory, this
could've been really clever. In practice, it was disastrous.
first and most immediate problem is that Asprin isn't as
comfortable inside the heads of his supporting cast as he is
inside the head of Skeeve. Characters who seem full of life when
viewed from Skeeve's POV suddenly become lifeless and cliched
when seen through their own.
second big problem is that Asprin, apparently spurred on by the
desire for new POVs, decides to create a treepony. (For those
unfamiliar with the term, itís a pejorative reference to the
treecats of Weberís Honor Harrington novels by way of Mercedes
Lackey. Basically, Iím extending the term to include any SFnal
pet which suddenly begins to accrue massive intellect and
amazing powers as a series progresses.) The result is as stupid
as you would expect.
series recovers, at least to a large extent, with MYTH-NOMERS
AND IM-PERVECTIONS. The treepony is shuffled off-stage, weíre
back in the believable environs of Skeeveís head, and almost
all of the problems which plagued MYTH I.N.C. LINK have been
the recovery is not quite complete. MYTH I.N.C. LINK has
apparently weakened Asprinís creative immune system and he is
now being devoured by the brain eater. Itís not obvious at
first, but the first nagging suggestions can be found lurking
here that Asprin is suffering from one of the Three Symptoms of
the Brain Eater.
are the Three Symptoms of the Brain Eater?
1. Injecting long philosophical rants into the middle of
2. Bizarre attempts to link a variety of disparate works
into a single chronology.
3. A belief that a synopsis constitutes a final draft,
usually coupled with rapid scene shifts between characters
describing all the interesting things they just finished doing
Asprin begins to rant. Not badly at first, but by SWEET MYTH-TERY
OF LIFE the jig is up: At least half of that novel involves
Skeeve going from one character to another and listening to each
of them lecture him on love and marriage. The other half
involves accounting. (I kid you not.) Surprisingly, the result
is still mildly entertaining. But it doesnít hold a candle to
the really good stuff that Asprin was producing just a few books
notice I skipped MYTH I.N.C. IN ACTION. I suggest you do the
same. I read it once, and that was once too many. Fortunately,
unlike MYTH I.N.C. LINK, you can skip it without being
completely lost by later continuity.)
SWEET MYTH-TERY OF LIFE, Asprin thankfully took a break from the
Myth series. I say thankfully, because during that time he was
fully consumed by the brain eater and produced a painful barrage
of utter tripe. I tried some of that tripe. It hurt. It hurt
real bad. So when Asprin returned to the Myth series a couple
years back with MYTH-ION IMPROBABLE I was skeptical, but I was
willing to give it a shot.
IMPROBABLE is something of a prequel. Itís a previously untold
adventure squeezed in between the third and fourth volumes of
the series. Asprin specifically wrote it as a light-hearted
attempt to get back in touch with his characters before tackling
the much more difficult stories waiting to be told after SWEET
MYTH-TERY OF LIFE. The result was fairly mediocre compared to
the rest of the series, but it's also the first readable piece
of fiction Asprin managed to produce in nearly a decade.
biggest problem with MYTH-ION IMPROBABLE is Asprin's
mind-numbing devotion to detail. Imagine an entire novel in
which nobody ever simply waits in town a couple of hours for
their friends to show up. Instead, they stop by the saloon for a
couple of drinks; walk up and down main street a couple of
times; say hello to a few random strangers they happen to pass;
go back to the saloon to see if their friends have shown up;
head to the edge of town and sit around for awhile; get back up
and head back into town... And so forth. It doesn't help that
one of the plot points is that everyone and everything in the
novel's primary dimension looks pretty much the same no matter
where you go. The result is the plodding pace of a novella
padded out to novel length.
the best thing about MYTH-ION IMPROBABLE, despite its flaws, is
that it really *does* have the feel of Asprin at his best. It
promises a recovery.
has now written several more Myth novels in collaboration with
Jody Lynn Nye. Asprin's previous collaborations have, in my
experience, been truly dreadful. Plus, the first of these
collaborations was another Myth, Inc. novel, so I haven't gone
out of my way to track these latest volumes down. But if I were
to spot them on the shelf of my local bookstore, I'd probably
give them a shot.
few additional thoughts and caveats:
hear a lot of people compare the Myth series to Xanth. Usually
this is along the lines of, ďItís just a bunch of stupid
puns. Like Xanth at its worst.Ē I think a lot of this comes
from ANOTHER FINE MYTH, which (as I noted above) is a lot more
punny than the rest of the series. And, frankly, Iíll agree
that Asprin is thoroughly mediocre when it comes to punning. But
I donít think the puns ever come close to defining the series
(as they do with Xanth).
also hear a lot of people compare Myth to Discworld, usually
unfavorably. And thatís generally true: In works like SMALL
GODS and REAPER MAN, Pratchett delivers on a level and with a
depth that is far beyond the best that Asprin has to offer.
sum up: This series gets a rough start in ANOTHER FINE MYTH, but
is a lot of fun from MYTH CONCEPTIONS all the way through LITTLE
MYTH MARKER. Beyond that, it gets pretty sketchy, but I think
all of the Myth volumes (as opposed to the Myth Inc. volumes)
are worth your time.
ANOTHER FINE MYTH: B
MYTH CONCEPTIONS: A-
MYTH DIRECTIONS: A-
HIT OR MYTH: A
MYTH-ING PERSONS: A-
LITTLE MYTH MARKER: A
MYTH I.N.C. LINK: C
MYTH-NOMERS AND IM-PERVECTIONS: B
MYTH I.N.C. IN ACTION: D+
SWEET MYTH-TERY OF LIFE: B-
MYTH-ION IMPROBABLE: C+