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Chthon (Aton #1)

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  1,364 Ratings  ·  57 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
Published December 1st 1967 by Xlibris Corporation (first published 1967)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 10, 2013 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf
As an SF prison break adventure it's fine, but honestly, it's everything that's under the surface that makes this book pretty fantastic. It was nominated in '68 for the Hugo even though it was a first-time author who spent 7 years writing it. Interesting? Especially since he's a hugely recognized name now?

The fact is, beyond the prison break, it's a psychological horrorshow that spotlights its very own Oedipus tragedy, wold-spanning telepaths, commentary on the nature of love and hate, complete
Jan 03, 2011 Kusanar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
A. Dawes
Piers Anthony’s debut novel is nothing like the lighter Xanth series that he became so well renown for. The novel has the depth of another of his richer works, Macroscope (although I much preferred Macrosope). Chthon was published back in 1967 and was shortlisted for the Hugo Award at the time. I respected the work rather than truly enjoyed it. The complicated flashback and flashforward structure had me putting it away several times over the course of the read. I suppose the challenge of it kept ...more
Oct 21, 2015 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anthony’s first novel, and the result of many years efforts, Chthon is a fantasy classic and nominated for many awards back in the 60s. It has aged well, that is its science hasn’t gone jarringly out of date as so many science fiction tales do.

That said, the complex structure which attracted him and other readers left me cold. Talk about in medias res. The story starts in the middle and goes backward, then forward, then back. Whiplash. He called it a double helix, obviously referring to DNA, but
Jan 21, 2017 Dee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
As a longtime fan of Mr. Anthony, this early novel was one I had never found in hardcover or paperback. Seeing it as a Kindle release, I purchased it and am glad I did. It was refreshing to return to a writer that had previously delighted me with his novels. “Chthon” is now in that group.

The main character of Aton reminded me of Mr. Anthony’s Var the Stick in “Battle Circle,” a man trapped into doing what he believed was right even though it wasn’t the option he wanted or that he felt would make
Dec 28, 2011 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 23, 2009 Manny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Superior SF escape-from-nightmarish-prison novel. Chthon, the subterranean prison-world, is quite well realized.
Nov 29, 2011 Becca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 4/5
World: 3/5

This was an experience of polar opposites:

talented writing, great description | a clumsy integration of scenes and chapters;

multiple, fascinating worlds and worldbuilding | a complete disconnect between the worlds and no vision of the bigger picture;

a complicated tale with nested plots | no resolution of how the plots were connected or how it fits together;

careful, meticulous characterization | ham-handed handling of relationships and i
Dec 26, 2013 Brent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 10, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rob Chris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2009 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jeremiah Johnson
This was a fairly entertaining book. The idea of love hurting somebody was unique and made for some interesting characters.
The constant flashbacks and flashforwards made for a compelling read but also made the plot hard to follow at times.
I almost gave this four stars but the confusion in the early going made it difficult to do.
Apr 26, 2010 Animus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Alex Black
Jan 02, 2016 Alex Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Leemon
I'm not sure why this won the Hugo award. The plot is hopelessly muddled, and by the time I got through the first 60 pages, I wasn't sure I cared what happened to the main character any more.
Julia Hendon
I read this a long time ago but remembered very little of it. So when a free Kindle copy came my way, I decided to reread it. The author has created a complex structure that only made sense to me when I read his afterword. As to the plot, sentient universe sees humans as parasites, individual human man falls in love with the wrong alien and both suffer, mainly because the alien's emotional reactions are opposite of the man's (pain = pleasure). Misogynist in the typical way of sci-fi of this era.
This is pretty deep for a first novel. POV goes back and forth through time. At first I though the writing was bad because some events seemed unclear and I did not know what happened at very important times, then near the end I saw that was on purpose. When the twists are revealed it will make sense and shock you. The MC seems to be suffering from delusions from his encounter with his first love. There is no world changing quest, no big bad to defeat, just Anton trying to find his first love at ...more
Dec 13, 2012 Layne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Samantha Baugus
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Hoff
Jul 15, 2012 Jim Hoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Geddy Israel
Oct 16, 2011 Geddy Israel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 25, 2013 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lovecraft
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
Aug 15, 2008 Devon rated it did not like it  ·  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
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.
Aug 23, 2007 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
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
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
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Around the Year i...: Chthon, by Piers Anthony 1 9 Feb 14, 2017 08:46PM  
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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

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