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I remember reading it in the late 80s or early 90s. It was about a man who was a slave on a planet where the absurdly wealthy slave owners would have a planet-wide series of games; everything from chess to football.

A slave would compete in a random event then move forward in the bracket. The citizens would bet on the slaves. The slave who won the last bracket would earn their freedom and enough money to fit in with the masters on the planet.

Only the masters were allowed to wear clothing so that slaves could be easily identified.

  • Welcome to SFF! Could you take a look at this guide to see if there is anything else you can edit in? – TheLethalCarrot Jun 11 '18 at 9:06
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    Previously: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/7541/231 – dmckee Jun 11 '18 at 16:42
  • Plenty of works that fit this meme, if not the exact details. I'm reminded of Running Man, at a superficial level. – Simba Jun 12 '18 at 12:56
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This would be Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series. The first three books are Split Infinity (1980), Blue Adept (1981), and Juxtaposition (1982). I've read those as a trilogy in one go, so I'm a bit hazy on what happens in which book, but I think that while most of the plot points you remember are present in the first book, they feature more prominently in the second.


  1. I remember reading it in the late 80s or early 90s.

    The first book, Split Inifinity, is from 1980, so that's entirely possible.

  2. It was about a man who was a slave on a planet where the absurdly wealthy slave owners would have a planet-wide series of games; everything from chess to football.

    The planet is called Proton. The protagonist is the serf Stile, competing in these games. Games are chosen from a grid, with one contestant naming one aspect and their opponent the other.

    Their turn came, and they went to the grid. Stile got the letters, and was afraid the boy would go for CHANCE—and was correct. It came up 3C, Machine-Assisted CHANCE. Any CHANCE was bad; Stile had tried to mitigate it, but ultimately it remained potential disaster.

    If he could steer it into one of the more complex mechanical variants, a pinball machine—for a person like him, with experience and a fine touch, one of those became a game of skill.

    Blue Adept

  3. A slave would compete in a random event then move forward in the bracket. The citizens would bet on the slaves. The slave who won the last bracket would earn their freedom and enough money to fit in with the masters on the planet.

    Not just serfs compete. Citizens and aliens can compete too. A winning serf is indeed granted citizenship.

    Stile was spared the awkwardness of answering by the Game Computer's introductory announcement. "Attention all entrants. The Tourney roster is now complete: four hundred Citizens, six hundred serfs, and twenty-four aliens.

    Pairing for individual matches is random each Round.

    The Tourney is double-elimination; only entrants with two losses are barred from further competition. Serfs among the final sixty-four survivors will receive one year extension of tenure. Those proceeding beyond that level will receive commensurately greater rewards. The Tourney winner will be granted Proton Citizenship."

    Blue Adept

    Every citizen has a share of the mining of protonite, a valuable mineral which is used as rocket fuel.

    "Your minimum share of the Protonite harvest can not be impinged upon—but only your luck and competence and determination can establish your place in the Citizen hierarchy. This is a new game."

    Juxtaposition

  4. Only the masters were allowed to wear clothing so that slaves could be easily identified.

    Serfs go naked while citizens usually do not, although they're allowed to.

    Stile knew they were Citizens, though they were naked, because of their demeanor and the deference the clustered serfs were paying. Clothing distinguished the Citizen, but was not the basis of Citizenship; a Citizen could go naked [...]

    Split Inifinity


A large part of the plot was a parallel world called Phaze, where magic worked by singing. One could only pass from one world to the other if their counterpart in the other world was dead. There was some unbalance between the worlds, which was resolved in the end. Stile opted to remain in the magic world, where magic only was half as powerful now, which he noticed when he sang a lamp on and it only shone half as bright as he had expected.

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    Magic worked for Stile/Blue Adept by singing or chanting in rhyme; other magic-users in Phaze (the magic world; the tech world from which Stile came was Proton) had different techniques - if I recall correctly, the Red Adept used amulets, the White Adept used inscribed glyphs, the Brown Adept used golems, and there were others. The halving of the magical strength at the end was due to the way the imbalance between Proton and Phaze was fixed - the transfer of a large amount of Phazite (the power source for magic) to Proton (where it became Protonite, the source of Proton's wealth). – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 11 '18 at 11:53
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    For what it's worth, the Games weren't about freedom, per se; a slave on Proton was only a slave for a term of 20 years, after which they had to leave - but would leave quite wealthy by the standards of the rest of the galaxy. The victor of the Games was rewarded with citizenship on Proton, which permitted the now-former slave to stay, and receive an amount of revenue from the production/sale of Protonite. – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 11 '18 at 11:58
  • @JeffZeitlin - Didn't the slaves also get some protonite as part of the games/wagers? It's been a long time since I read the series, but this is almost certainly the correct answer. – JohnP Jun 11 '18 at 14:10
  • @JohnP - New citizens (via victory in the games) got what amounted to shares; slaves that left without becoming citizens didn't get Protonite or shares, but got big bank accounts. A lesser prize was the right to stay another term as a slave; entering the Games was basically a resignation from slave status - you lose, you leave - unless you made it through enough rounds to get the additional 20 year term. – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 11 '18 at 14:15
  • There was a second tetralogy that was a follow-on to The Apprentice Adept; the four titles were Out of Phaze, Robot Adept, Unicorn Point, and Phaze Doubt, but these weren't as good as the original three. Wikipedia lumps them all together as The Apprentice Adept. – Jeff Zeitlin Jun 11 '18 at 14:21

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