Top positive review
A Darkly Glorious Book That Pulls Few Punches
on May 13, 2001
I sympathize with the reviewer who said that the first few pages of _Virtual Mode_ turned them off of the book. I was given this novel as a gift when I was about eleven or so; I, too, read the opening passage and was disturbed into putting the book away, not touching it again for another year. Yet once I really began to read it, I found myself drawn into a grim reality where even the wonders of magic cannot compensate for the horrors of the human psyche.
I adore the protagonists: Colene, the mentally and emotionally twisted young woman whose attitudes and perceptions have been skewed almost beyond recognition; Darius, a man whose rigid sense of honor threatens to strangle his chances of happiness; Seqiro, Prima, and all the rest. Their conflicts and challenges may not be the stuff of epic fantasy, but they're interesting and can give one food for thought. Most moving of all, at least for me, was the exploration of Colene's emotions, history, and motivations. Anthony doesn't whitewash her situation: she's a deeply disturbed individual, and one who has cause to be that way.
I must admit, though, that as much as I love this book, I couldn't recommend that children--or possibly adolescents--read it without reservations. The folk who've said that it's full of sex are right; further, there's blood, vulgarity, remembered rape, and a host of other such things. While they add to the power of the story, they might (or might not) be considered inappropriate for younger readers. I doubt my mother would have gotten it for me when she did had she known what it was really about... but then, I didn't have any problems understanding it and certainly wasn't traumatized by it.
It's also true that the heroine is awfully young for all of the sexual situations she gets into, and that one could see the portrayal of women as sexist if one really wanted to do so. I personally read and enjoyed the story without worrying about such things, but I think that anyone who says _Virtual Mode_ shows sexism just may have a point. (Anthony *has* begun to disturb me in recent years with his fixation on the sexiness of very, very young women, but that's a subject better reserved for a Xanth review.) If such things offend you, you may wish to give this a skip.
Otherwise, I can say with enthusiasm that I feel _Virtual Mode_ to be a wonderful novel, one whose story and characters have stayed with me for years. Readers who enjoyed Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series may find this one especially appealing, as its resemblance to that saga seems much more pronounced than any to the perpetually punny Xanth.