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Chthon (Aton #1)

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  1,133 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Chthon was Piers Anthony's first published novel in 1967, written over the course of seven years. He started it when he was in the US Army, so it has a long prison sequence that is reminiscent of that experience, being dark and grim.

The author regards this as perhaps the most intricately structured novel the science fantasy genre has seen.

Aton's crime was simple. He loved
Mass Market Paperback, 238 pages
Published October 15th 1984 by Berkley (first published 1967)
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While it was a memorable book, it has also traumatized me for life.
Scott Rhee
Science fiction author Piers Anthony wrote "Chthon" as a young man back in 1967. Indeed, the novel was his first published work, which earned him a nomination for the Hugo Award for that year. To say that it's an odd little novel (almost more of a novelette: it runs to a mere 232 pages) is somewhat understating its weirdness. It is, however, strangely beautiful and seductively charming in a way that you don't find too often in science fiction. Perhaps it's because it was written in a time when s ...more
Superior SF escape-from-nightmarish-prison novel. Chthon, the subterranean prison-world, is quite well realized.
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I found it hard to rate this book - it was certainly interesting and I actually liked the way the book was structured. I was sufficiently engaged to read it in a day, which is also a positive sign. Having finished however, I am left with a feeling of unpleasantness, and there is much here that people would find distasteful, especially in the actions of the protagonist. I think it is certainly a book that will leave a lasting impression, and for this reason it stands apart in what is a crowded ge ...more
So, after Anne McCaffrey, I continued to feel nostalgia for my teen reading, and picked up this first book by another childhood favorite Piers Anthony. You can totally see themes in this book that come out in all his later series - from the puns, to the space tyrant, etc.
To me, a good book is a book that i think about when i am not actually reading it. I found myself eager to dive back in to this one after every break. I don't know why i like Anthony's writing style so much.. i just do. He makes me think.
Anthony's first published book so not entirely unsurprised that it isn't a good as what I'm used to of his.

This story follows our hero's life in the bowels of the prison planet Chthon, with flashbacks & "flashforwards" to bring the other plot elements (murder, incest, unrequited love) into play.

I found the book slow & tedious; I'm not going to read the 4 or 5 sequels (normally I love Anthony's series); it's only saving grace was that, in the end, I mostly understand all of what happened.
Ran Prieur
This was obviously written by a young man. The style is trashy and dramatic, the hero is impulsive and unsympathetic, and the female characters are mostly described in terms of how attractive or how crazy they are. There are two chapters near the end that don't make any sense and have language like this:

"Committed now, by obscure circumstance, he took the step, refusing to examine whatever hideous price was being exacted. He would skirt the verge of insanity itself, for the sake of the fainting
Bekah Chance-Revels
I've been reading since I was a small child and have read some strange stuff. But this was the weirdest book I have ever read
Chthon is Piers Anthony's first novel, published in 1967. It is a wide-ranging science fiction novel with a plot that takes place on an galactic scale. It is set in the far future, and it features such advanced technologies as faster-than-light space travel and human genetic modification.

Chthon tells the story of a man named Aton Five who is imprisoned in the garnet mine of the planet Chthon. The novel intricately weaves together 3 different story arcs: flashbacks to tell why Aton is sent to Ch
Jim Hoff
Have read and re-read this many times. To this day one of my four or five top books.

Chthon is an elaborate blend of myth, prose, and poetry. It is told as a series of flashbacks paralleled with current events, it frequently shifts locations. There is the titular planet of Chthon itself. Beneath its surface is a vast series of tunnels and caverns forming a natural garnet mine. The planet--and mine in particular--also double as the galaxy's harshest prison. There is no return from a sentence to t
Tom Brennan
Reading Anthony's first novel was a bit of a surprise for me. The genial humor and bright moods and palettes of Xanth are nowhere in evidence, the despair and darkness of Chthon reigns supreme. The story unfolds non-linearly at three time periods in Aton's life, with one thread comprised of flashbacks and the other of flashforwards. There are also literary references sprinkled throughout the text as well. An ambitious attempt which I very much enjoyed, even if I had to read synopsis or two once ...more
Geddy Israel
Chthon was one of the strangest books I've ever read. I found I liked the writing style and was curious as to how things would turn out, but there were a few instances where I found myself kind of lost, mainly when the narrative switched time and place. The other thing that was odd for me was that I found myself not particularly fond of the main character, Aton Five. It becomes clear why he is the way he is, but I realized after a while that because I didn't really like him, I didn't really care ...more
As much as any Lovecraft story that I have read, this is a tale of madness. It is the story of the man who falls in love with a siren. He spends his life alternately searching for and escaping from that love. He is a man obsessed and driven mad by his obsession. His madness eventually takes him to Chthon, a planetary prison where the inmates must mine for garnet in order to earn the necessities of life. This prison is harsh: heat, dehydration, unexplored caverns, unknown creatures dwelling in th ...more
Initially read this 30+ years ago while in college. I remember enjoying back then so I thought I'd give it a re-read. Somehow I didn't enjoy it as much.

Aton Five gets sentenced to the subterranean prison planet Chthon for forbidden love. The book goes back and forth in time, but it's not hard to figure out and the structure actually works. Unfortunately once the secrets and motivations start being revealed, the book turns into a confused mess. Someone else here on Goodreads stated that this was
Laura Lewis
It's been years since I last read this book and it's sequal, Phthor, and I've been spending many years since trying to recall the name of them. Both books are tragically sweet, and I recommend reading them one right after the other. Far darker and far more painful than one might expect from this author, it shows just how far his talents reach.
Sep 10, 2008 Devon rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults that like fantasy
Recommended to Devon by: My dad
This book.....hmmm. My dad knows i like fantasy books, so one day he just thrust this book into my hand and told me to read it. He said something about reading it as a kid....blah blah. So i started it. Definitely THE weirdest book i've ever read. It starts off from Aton's POV, from another planet (Chthon). He's been forced to work there for comitting the most unspeakable crime on Earth. Then the book goes back in time to Aton's childhood, and tells the story of how he got to Chthon. There's a l ...more
Oct 08, 2011 Rob rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: Fogus Fogus
Anthony's first novel is a prurient and Freudian tale. A science fictional Oedipus Rex , and a visceral psychodrama full of pathos and catharsis. I can imagine it being in some niche of Frank Herbert's Dune universe, but it shares more (thematically) with books like Dhalgren . It's short, but it's dense. ...more
feels like a long short story,
it's quite good actually.
Interesting concept. The writing is so-so.
Daniel Gilland
Different and interesting
I first read this book back in 1978 or 79 back when everyone else was reading Lovecraft. I was never one for reading fright books - I have too vivid an imagination - but this book is well-crafted. He never gives a detailed description, but leads you to believe that the monster is the most frightening thing you have ever seen. I'm going to read it again and see if it has the same effect. It's just that this time, I won't have Nicki Anderson (an old flame) to cuddle with while reading it.
Very interesting, exciting and readable book. The author has an excellent imagination for the truly frightening-the caterpillar monster scene particularly comes to mind. As a whole Chthon is a deadly marvel of imagination and the redemption (or damnation) provided a solid ending. I did discover numerous typist errors in this particular edition that threw me off from time to time. I'm sure Mr. Anthony will make sure that's fixed the next time the book is published.
James Broussard
I think Anthony bit off more than he could chew with the plot structure for this book, as it becomes confusing at times. And the flashback structure of the novel works against it for parts. It's obvious to the reader that Anthony wrote the book over several years, in which his own life was undergoing large changes, they shine through in the writing. A good first novel for a future writer, but Anthony tries to shove too much into it.
One of the fascinating aspects of the novel is the non-linear time sequence. Anthony jumps between different phases of the protagonists life, a concept common in time travel SF, but uncommon in general story telling which this is. No time travel or segues into reflection in the past, it's non-linear story line was a new concept for the time and worked especially well for this book.
Ron Johnson
Hugo Nominee 1968
Kirjassa on pitämääni mielikuvituksen lentoa. Juonen koin paikoin vähän sekavaksi, sillä tapahtumat sivuutettiin liian nopeasti, joten ei aina pysynyt kartalla. Tarinaa kerrottiin nykyhetkessä, menneisyydessä sekä tulevaisuudessa. Vankila jakso ja alku olivat mielenkiintoisimmat osiot.
I did not find the jumping around on the timeline hard to follow, but didn't get more from this book than scary monsters, beautiful women who needed men, and lots of people being eaten.

Enjoyable as a brainless read, but no substance.
Keith Davis
An odd book about a jailbreak from an underground alien prison facility, not told in chronological order. Anthony seems to be trying to break as many taboos as possible in the story. Very atypical Anthony.
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Though he spent the first four years of his life in England, Piers never returned to live in his country of birth after moving to Spain and immigrated to America at age six. After graduating with a B.A. from Goddard College, he married one of his fellow students and and spent fifteen years in an assortment of professions before he began writing fiction full-time.

Piers is a self-proclaimed environm
More about Piers Anthony...

Other Books in the Series

Aton (2 books)
  • Phthor
On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, #1) A Spell for Chameleon (Xanth, #1) Castle Roogna (Xanth, #3) Bearing An Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality, #2) The Source of Magic (Xanth, #2)

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