Review – Var the Stick by Piers Anthony

Posted: November 17, 2015 in Fantasy, Post apocalypse
Tags: , , ,

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Var The Stick: Var was the chosen one – half-man, half-animal, a mutant victim of the blast – called upon to rescue the Empire in a battle he was secretly afraid of winning.

The covers continue to be far out and the blurb gives little away but Piers Anthony’s second instalment in the Battle Circle series sustains it’s entertainment factor. Taking place four years after Sos The Rope, Var The Stick sees The Nameless One (Sos) ruling his Empire with seemingly little enthusiasm. When an intruder keeps on stealing crops and none of his warriors can capture the thief, he sets off to solve the problem.

The problem turns out to be a wild, mutated boy with remarkable survival skills who lives in the badlands. The Nameless One traps the boy and sets about taking him back to the Empire. Yet after a mistake and a huge dose of radiation, the boy ends up saving the warrior’s life. Fast forward and the boy earns his name in the circle years later to become Var the stick, the hero of this story.

It turns out that, all this time, Sos has been planning to attack the Mountain – the underworld where he was turned into the terminator-esque brute he became. This society ( a secretive group descended from pre-Blast scientists) makes all the weapons and equipment the Crazies use but they also desire that the Empire be destroyed and that the nomad warriors remain ignorant. When battle commences, Sos and Bob (leader of the underworld) decide to pit champion against champion in combat to determine which society should rule the other.

Bob, ever the liar, sends Sos’s daughter against Var and though the two battle, neither can best the other. Without knowing the truth of the matter, the two fighters concoct a story to the effect that Var won. But, Bob expected this and tells Sos that his champion was Soli, his natural child that he forsake in the first book because of Bob’s underhand machinations. Consequently, the Master of the Empire vows to kill Var. The boy is then forced to go on the run with Soli in a turn of the absurd for if even one of them knew who was who it would all be solved with a mere conversation.

As it is the two youngsters go on an epic journey across the post-apocalyptic world. Encountering bizarre female tribes, strange Greek societies obsessed with human sacrifice and, in the end, China. The focus of the story centres on Soli and Var’s blossoming love, and whilst there is plenty of interesting and slightly wacky stuff to keep entertained, it’s all concluded rather quickly and neatly.

Piers Anthony does a good job of showing how weird the world has become in contrast to the honour and code of the circle. Yet it’s that same honour that has caused the absurdity which forces Var and Soli to run. That, coupled with Var’s lack of social understanding completes the tension at the heart of the book. Whilst the writing remains pacey, the conclusion is a little too brisk. But, it clearly sets up the final episode of the trilogy which may hopefully answer some of the lingering questions about the Crazies, the Underworld and their respective reasons behind supporting or opposing the nomad culture and the Empire.

My copy
Published by Corgi Books

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