Class Dis-Mythed

Reviewer: Jake Beal

Author: Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

Published: 2005

Reviewed: 2007-08-26

Publisher: Meisha Merlin Publishing

Another Robert Asprin book, another bad "myth" pun in the title, and
another well crafted and semi-predictable cheap thrill. I think I'm
not supposed to be the audience for Asprin's stories---I think it's
really young adult fiction, and that's certainly where I discovered
them in the library, once upon a time in high school. So? I like his
style, I like his sense of humor, and I like the quick, easy read.

It's interesting to write about this book shortly on the heels of
writing about Pratchett's new "Guards" novel, "Thud!", given the
number of parallels between them. Both are wildly prolific authors
who write light fantasy novels, though Asprin has more breadth.
Personally, I'd stopped reading both the "Guards" and "Myth" series
for a while after real clunkers ("Sweet Myth-tery of Life" on
Asprin's part) and came back after seeing a good-looking one pop up
on the MITSFS new books shelf.

Asprin, like Pratchett, doesn't seem to like to write tragedies.
Unlike Pratchett, however, he seems to have found a way to sustain an
upward climb for his characters without either turning epic or
abandoning them. Throughout the Myth novels, the protagonist Skeeve
grows, matures, and continually gathers new allies and resources.
But, unlike the Guards, he's allowed to move from a reactive role into
an active role, and the thread running through the series is his
decisions about what to do with his life as his freedom increases.
Unlike a standard epic trajectory, Skeeve's progress is not so much
about control of progressively larger parts of the universe, but
instead about taking responsibility for progressively more aspects of
his life.

Well, at least mostly non-reactive. The novel does begin with the
same maguffined series of strange events coming too fast to cope that
tends to distinguish Myth novels. I'm happy to accept that, however,
as the necessary setup for a novel, as long as it's not the heart of
the story. Indeed, it is not: the story resolves, interestingly, into
two halves: one in which Skeeve learns about teaching by doing (and
doing fairly well, at that) and another in which we watch the progress
of his students afterwards through Skeeve's eyes.

This latter half is what I found most interesting about the book, from
a technical point of view. On the one hand, the focus really shifted
from Skeeve to the students, but on the other hand Skeeve's
involvement continues to be important as well. It's a tricky balance,
but one that Mr. Asprin does well.

On a different and petty note, this was the first time one of his puns
actually grated on me---the David Weber reference that shows up really
slapped me in the face---but I can't really complain. I mean, it's
only my blindness to sports that spared me the impact of the Big Game
played between the city-states of Ta-Hoe and Veygus in the Dimension
of Jahk in an earlier novel in the series.

Still, in sum, "Class Dis-Mythed" is an excellent addition to the
series. It's not as painful or morose as some of the earlier ones,
Skeeve has grown up a lot, but hasn't lost the things that made him an
endearing character early in the series, and the fact that it's
somewhat predictable doesn't stop it from being a good story.