On a whim I picked up a copy of A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony about a month ago. I read it. I … liked it? Well, sure, if you set aside the adolescent misogyny and the utterly pretentious prose and the too convenient magic.
So I guess the answer is no. I hesitate an affirmative because there were certain elements I liked. The natural selectivity of a world suffused with magic was a wonderful pseudo-intellectual conceit, the kind of head game that makes good escapist fiction enjoyable (and, no, just because I call it “escapist” doesn’t mean I’m snobbing it out; I draw a cartoon about a pig, for fuck’s sake.) It had the promise of interesting rules and thaumaturgic properties.
More interesting was the character of Chameleon herself — certainly more so than the milquetoast protagonist, Bink. Chameleon has personality, wit, resourcefulness, and a serious existential problem (well, for a magical creature.) Without spoiling anything for the random person who hasn’t read the book yet reads my blog (most of my friends are better SF/Fantasy readers than I am), I’ll say that her condition would have been really interesting to explore from her point-of-view as she undergoes her month-long changes.
Does Anthony explore this in any depth? No. He makes Chameleon a trophy for Bink, a woman who won’t challenge him for too long, keep him entertained and laid without complicating his life too much with a will of her own. In the second novel in the series, Chameleon’s condition, which had already had strong associations with the menstrual cycle, becomes an all-out bitch-on-the-rag impetus to drive Bink out on the road in search of more adventure. I put down the second novel (whose title I didn’t bother to remember) after 20 pages. I was done.
My better read SF/Fantasy friends tell me Anthony’s misogyny only gets worse as the series progresses. I don’t get it. Certainly womanhood, femininity and other aspects of the sex are worthy of exploring in fictional allegories of the human condition; indeed, worthy of satire, too, as part of the general human folly. But that’s not what Anthony does. He’s just a sexist dick. Some woman somewhere in his past pissed him off (wittingly or not) and so every woman character and reader afterwards must suffer the collective punishment meted our by his sniveling, sniggering stereotypes.