by Robert Asprin
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Myth-ion Improbable is the first Aahz and Skeeve novel in more than seven years, and it is not the long-promise Something M.Y.T.H. Inc. Asprin explains his reasons for this in his introduction, and the fact that he has written a novel which takes place between the events of Myth Directions (1982) and Hit or Myth (1983) actually works to his benefit in a number of ways. By the time Asprin took his hiatus from writing the Myth series, the cast of characters had grown so large and unwieldy that Asprin divided them into two groups, the "M.Y.T.H., Inc." series which would follow his support characters, and the "Myth" series which would remain focused on Aahz and Skeeve.
Asprin only includes three of his standard characters in Myth-ion Improbable, which is set while Skeeve still works as the royal magician of Possiltum. In an attempt to raise Aahz's spirits, Skeeve presents him with a magical treasure map. The duo is joined on their journey through the dimensions by the Trollop assassin Tananda. There journeys eventually take them to a strange dimension populated by lackadaisical humans and vampiric cows.
Although the series is frequently considered an example of humorous fantasy, there are few, if any, laugh-out-loud moments. The majority of the humor is based on Skeeve's relative incompetence and naiveté as he bumbles around, not fully understanding his situation, the motivations of those around him and, particularly, his teacher, Aahz. In Myth-ion Improbable, the humor is so low key as to be non-existent in such a manner that it neither adds to, nor detracts from, the novel.
Myth-ion Improbable provides a good introduction (or re-introduction) to the series by focusing on only a few of the primary characters and their relationship. They are removed from their "natural" habitat of Possiltum, but Asprin has placed them into a faux Western setting which allows him plenty of latitude to explore their personalities while giving the readers an interesting twist on a reasonably familiar place.
By the time Asprin presents the reasonably Byzantine denouement, he has brought the reader up to speed on the characters and the rules of the worlds they inhabit. His secondary characters, for all their powers and strangeness are as firmly grounded in the mundane world as Skeeve, partly demonstrated by their exotic names Harold and Glenda.
Although Asprin has changed publishers (the original books were published by the now-defunct Donning-Starblaze), Meisha Merlin has elected to continue to include interior illustrations in the book. Their use of two different artists (Houang and Charles Keegan) has resulted in differences of appearances for the characters, depending on which artist made the illustration, and, of course, neither representation looks like the original depictions by Phil Foglio. Nevertheless, the illustrations are well done and accurately portray scenes from the novel.
Meisha Merlin is republishing the entire original series in omnibus editions. Myth-ion Improbable demonstrates that Asprin has more to write in the world and, with luck, he'll be able to publish new stories on a timetable similar to the one he kept in the early eighties when he was actively published both the initial Myth novels and editing the Thieves' World series. Myth-ion Improbable is a fantastic introduction to the series for old and new fans alike.
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