Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Chaining the Lady by Piers Anthony

Revisiting Chaining the Lady means, to me, going back to a book that gave me lots of fond memories back when I read it as a teenager that just made it into the two digit age realm. I didn’t remember much, but I did remember a fascinating tale of science fiction and sex. Mostly, I remembered sex.
Which goes to show how times have changed, because - reading the same book today - I could not avoid noting how little in the way of explicitly depicted sex there is in the book and how most of the sexual connotations come through the author’s extensive use of the word “mammaries” throughout the book.
Anyway. Personal background aside, 1978’s Chaining the Lady is a sequel of Cluster, although it can be read independently with little harm. What probably sets it apart from numerous other aspirants is the very well detailed universe its story takes place in: a universe in which the Andromeda galaxy is trying to take over the Milky Way’s resources, but in which interstellar travel is way too expensive for conventional occupation to take place. Instead, Andromeda tries to achieve its nasty goal by transferring the ‘spirits’ of its people to key positions in our galaxy, a feat that is possible for entities with very strong ‘spirits’. Their plan’s weak spot, however, lies in the fact the strongest ‘spirited’ entity in either galaxy is a Milky Way barren, non human, old female named Melody. She has the potential to use her might to thwart the Andromedean threat, the question is whether she is up to it.
The bulk of the story takes place inside a fleet of Milky Way spaceships fighting amongst itself as Andromeda takes control of the ships. Author Piers Anthony depicts a very complicated set of different ships, each depicting the attributes of the species that created them, as they fight one another. The level of imaginative detail is quite impressive.
Science fiction themes aside, the main themes of Chaining the Lady revolve more closely to what the title might suggest. Our female hero finds herself repeatedly chained by males, both figuratively and explicitly; similarly, Andromeda’s Greek mythology character is also chained. Thus the book deconstructs, if you will, the war between the sexes as seen through the eyes of our female protagonist.
Slightly dampening everything else that’s going for it is a mystic affection to Tarot cards, but us intelligent readers can easily dismiss it as mere fantasy in an otherwise fantastic tale.
Sure, Chaining the Lady feels a tad outdated when it comes to its depiction of the feminine in our age of #MeToo. But it still tells a nice and very detailed tale, and I am a sucker for it due to pure nostalgia.
3.5 out of 5 crab nebulas.

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