Piers Anthony is the man who just can't let a good finished series lie. Initially a trilogy, the Apprentice Adept series ends with Phaze and Proton separated forever, with no possibility of renewed contact. Five years after finishing the first three books, Anthony returns to the series with another trilogy and a final stand-alone novel. I read the initial trilogy back in the early 90s, and re-read them in 2011 in preparation for finishing off the series with these later books. Although nearly two years since I finished Juxtaposition it has been 20 years within the story. Stile and Lady Blue have raised Bane; Citizen Blue and Sheen have produced and raised their robot child, Mach.
The first chapter of the novel is almost entirely exposition, and not particularly well done exposition at that. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the ending of the previous trilogy and where everybody was, but reading the exposition in Out of Phaze made me doubt what I remembered and managed to confuse me no end. Robots now have serf status on Proton and aliens are also an accepted class of serf. The catch-up is presented to us as the young robot Mach explaining his world and his family to a new alien, Agape, he finds himself having to entertain at the game. Obviously, with the worlds split apart forever, Anthony has to find a way around his ending. This time, instead of any ability to physically move from one frame to another, we find that Mach and Bane – if they both want it and happen to be in the exact same place at the same time – are able to swap places psychically. Yeah, that's a lot of ifs, buts, conditions and coincidences.
Initially, Mach is surprised to find himself in the Phaze frame, and the fact that he is almost unprepared to accept what has happened means that he comes close to dying a number of times almost immediately. Bane, however, we find out when we switch to his PoV was really the instigator for the switch. He had been using his magic and tracking a sort of psychic 'feeling' of Mach to home in on his location. Almost immediately, both Bane and Mach fall in love with their counterpart's female friends (strong flashbacks to the first trilogy here) – Bane with the alien Agape and Mach with the unicorn Fleta. As with seemingly all Piers Anthony, there's a strong undercurrent of sex in the story. Bane appears to have indulged in a reasonable amount of casual bestiality with both unicorns and vampires. Mach has to indulge in a fairly heavy bout of bestiality with Fleta while she is in heat, in order to stop her having to leave to find another herd to 'service' her. It's never quite clear whether all this sex is while she is in her unicorn or human shape, but I'm hoping it was the latter. Meanwhile Agape almost immediately expects Bane to 'teach her the ways of human love' and he doesn't waste a bunch of time.
While the novel felt strongly that it was an attempt to extend the series beyond his original plan and consequently repeated a lot of those ideas, tweaked slightly. Somehow in spite of all its flaws, I enjoyed it.