by Robert Asprin & Jody Lynn Nye
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Many years ago, Robert Asprin invented the duo Skeeve and Aahz in the novel Another Fine Myth. In the decades since that book was published, the pair have appeared in more than a dozen books and have grown and acquired a variety of strange companions. Their latest outing, Myth-Taken Identity allows Asprin and his co-author, Jody Lynn Nye, to turn their satirical pens on malls, credit cards and identity theft.
Although Skeeve does not make any direct appearances in Myth-Taken Identity, his character drives the plot and Aahz, Chumley the Troll and Massha go to the dimension of Flibber to erase an enormous debt someone has racked up in Skeeve's name. Although at first it seems that The Mall on Flibber is redundant for the Bazaar on Deva which has featured in so many books, it quickly becomes apparent that the new setting is necessary for the story Asprin and Nye want to tell.
Given the age of malls and their commonplace in the United States, satirizing the functions of a mall may seem a little trite. Fortunately, it isn't the main thrust of the novel. Neither, fortunately, is the use and abuse of credit cards, although that also comes into play. Instead, the authors focus their attention on identity theft, which is a growing concern, especially as it is tied to credit cards and credit ratings.
Of course, character always drives the Myth novels and Myth-Taken Identity is no different. Not only do the characters of Aahz, Chumley and Massha return, but other support characters are added, most of whom are fully realized with their own quirks and hooks, from Sibone the Barista to the villainous Rattila. However, there are times when the returning characters don't seem quite right. Aahz seems a little more human than in the past and a little less concerned with the bottom line. Chumley neither sinks to the depths of trollic thuggery, nor climb to the erudition he has been shown to be capable of.
The series has also changed over time. With fifteen books, there is much more history to keep track of, and more characters to be familiar with. Many of the series' older readers may think fondly of the early days when Aahz and Skeeve were first striking up their relationship, but this is clearly a thing of the past and the authors have moved the story arc to a new place, allowing them to write stories and use only the characters who will best fit into their desired plots and situations. While on the whole this is good, it does take some adjustment.
Moreso than any of the earlier books in the series, Myth-Taken Identity appears to herald a new direction for the series. While it doesn't seem to have the devil-may-care attitude of the earlier books, it seems to point to a future of Myth novels which are more cohesive, if less laugh-out-loud funny. Myth-Taken Identity seems to be a major link between the old and the new and may, in the end, turn out to be neither fish nor fowl.
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