Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians
Lev Grossman
Viking, 2009 (August 11)

The Magicians is an extraordinarily difficult book to review; especially as a fan of speculative fiction. The difficulty arises I think, while this is perhaps obvious and pertinent to all fiction, because The Magicians is a book that operates on quite a few different levels. It is a book that examines the ennui and existentialism of the young and the privileged, it is a book that examines the confluence of the mundane and the magical, it is a book about growing up, and it is a book about vanquishing the rote and the boring elements of life and recapturing the exuberance and wonder of our childhood fantasies. I’m sure there’s more but I will suffice to say that The Magicians is a multi-layered nuanced piece of fiction whose interpretation and reception is intimately tied to what the reader brings with them. I know that last sentence is a bit of a cop out (what fiction isn’t like that?) but for me at least The Magicians is a book that struck a deep personal chord, evoking a reaction that I find difficult to articulate. I’ll do my best, but I don’t make any promises, so read on at your own peril.

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Review: The Blood Red Sphere by Lawrence Barker

The Blood Red Sphere by Lawrence Barker
The Blood Red Sphere by Lawrence Barker

The Blood Red Sphere
Lawrence Barker
Swimming Kangaroo Books, 2009

I’m not quite sure where or when I came across The Blood Red Sphere in Publisher’s Weekly of all places (I’ve noticed that PW loves to toss in some small press reviews amongst the typical dross, particularly in the genre sections).  Regardless, I’m glad I did since this small press pulp sci-fi adventure was a treat to read.  The plot is fairly simple: Helios, a recovering addict of a hallucinogenic drug and a man with a haunted past, makes his way by recovering and selling Martian artifacts.  The seedy, down-on-his-luck vibe lends a sort of Indiana Jones come Phillip Marlowe vibe to the character; though Helios comes off a bit more straight faced than either of those characters.  Anyway, as any good pulp story should, The Blood Red Sphere kicks off with a beautiful and mysterious woman who is more than she appears at first glance.  She hires Helios and his “equalshare” (i.e. partner) to recover some artifacts supposedly stolen from her late husband.  This seemingly innocuous request spirals outward into a rather complex and expertly woven web of mystery, betrayal, and adventure.  Barker, whose only other work I could find is a horror novel called Renfield, has created an exciting tale that hearkens back to classic pulp sci-fi while also managing to create a fascinating world rife with vibrant characters and a surprisingly deep history. Continue reading “Review: The Blood Red Sphere by Lawrence Barker”

Back! (Updated)


Apparently The Magicians has a significant amount of ancillary and promotional material available online so if you’re interested in the book you might want to check out the following websites:

You can explore Fillory here:

· Read excerpts from author Christopher Plover’s Fillory series here:

· Explore Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy’s secret website here:

· And make sure to visit!

Well I’m back from vacation and while gaming provided a significant distraction from reading (I’m contemplating a playtest report regarding the Psion for 4e D&D) I did manage to get through the indepentantly published Blood Red Sphere and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians so expect reviews this week.  I was also extraordinarily excited to find this on my desk when I got in this morning:

Boneshaker by Cherie PriestWhile I won’t be reviewing it until late September I am damned excited to dig into this book.  August will, hopefully, be a better book for my reading than July was.  The fact that there is an Erikson novel this month should help.   Anyway, I’m rested, refreshed

Vacation Week!

For the next week I’ll be vacationing with friends in Maine so, obviously, there will be no new posts.  I plan on getting through several books from my backlog including Zafon’s The Angel’s Game and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians; that is of course assuming the distractions of booze, outdoor fun, and gaming of polyhedral variety don’t distract me from my intense reading schedule.  In the mean time you might check out some of the blogs over in my blogroll to assuage your sense of loss over my abscense.  See y’all when I get back.


Review: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis by Bernard Becket
Genesis by Bernard Becket

Bernard Beckett
Harcourt, 2009

Genesis is a book that I’d actually prefer to have Mr. I’m-working-on-my-genetics-PhD-and-Don’t-post-anymore Rick read and review as, besides being a piece of rather entertaining fiction, takes the form of a Socratic dialogue on the nature of life, artificial or otherwise, that is more directly pertinent to his chosen profession.  Instead you get me and why I’ll can’t comment in any authoritative matter on the scientific and ethical underpinnings of the arguments the main character Anaxamander (Anax for short) makes I can tell you that the entire process feels smooth, natural, and makes for an impressively compelling read.

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My Feeble Attempt at Gaming Made Me

UK based gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun has been doing an absolutely fantastic and fascinating series of articles called: Gaming Made Me.  The basic premise being the exploration of those games of which most influenced who we are today as gamers and as individuals.  The examination illuminates the emotional and educational experiences that gaming has provided and how that has shaped their growth as individuals.  In some cases this looks at how those games defined the concept of a “video game” and in others, most, the short little examinations (or not-so-short) look at how these influence our interaction with the real world.  It is a wonderful bit of games journalism that I’m surprised has gotten as little attention as it has and, it has certainly got me thinking about those games which have had a significant influence on me and shaped me as both a gamer and a person.

You can find the entire series by clicking here, and you can hit the jump to examine my pitiful attempts at emulation.

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High Speed GTO

High Speed GTO by White Wizzard
High Speed GTO by White Wizzard

“Traditional” metal band White Wizzard released their 7 song EP yesterday and while enjoyable none of the other 6 songs manage to match the energy and charm as the opening title track “High Speed GTO.”  That doesn’t mean they’re bad, far from it in fact, and if old-school, high energy, leather and denim clad metal is something you’re missing your life than this is EP is likely exactly what you’re looking for.  In fact I would argue that the title track alone is worth purchase of the entire album; it is that much fun.  Don’t believe me?  Hit the jump for the songs completely awesome music video.  Seriously, if this video doesn’t make you smile then there is something broken inside you.

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Review: The Lees of Laughter’s End by Steven Erikson

The Lees of Laughters End by Steven Erikson The Lees of Laughter’s End
Steven Erikson
Night Shade Books, 2009

The Lees of Laughter’s End is the third novella to star the necromantic duo of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, as well as there hapless (and luckless) manservant Emancipor Reese.  This novella takes place immediately after our “heroes” have escaped Lamentable Moll aboard the ship Suncurl and now make their way towards the city of Laughter’s End.  While its strict chronology might make it a bit of a difficult read for those who missed out on the earlier novellas I felt that this entry was the strongest of the three with the characterization of the three main characters spot on and with the secondary characters sketched with a deft hand.

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Fantastic Acacia Review @ Torque Control

The editors of Vector, Niall Harrison in particular, has posted an excellent review (in terms of quality of content though the review is positive) of David Anthony Durham’s fantasy novel Acacia over on their blog: Torque Control.  It does an a wonderful job of examining many of the aspects that set this novel apart from other fantasy novels and made me genuinely depressed about the sorry state of my own reviews.  There are some spoilers in there so beware but it really is a splendid examination of novel and certainly got me a bit jazzed for the forthcoming sequel, The Other Lands, due in September.  If you’ve thought about reading this series and don’t mind a few spoilers I’d check the review out HERE.

Review: Star Wars: Omen by Christie Golden (audio)

Star Wars (Fate of the Jedi Book 2): Omen by Christien Gold, Narrated by Marc Thompson
Star Wars (Fate of the Jedi Book 2): Omen by Christien Gold, Narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Omen

by Christie Goldman

Read by Marc Thompson

2009, Random House Audio

The first volume in the Fate of the Jedi series, Outcast, marked my first foray to the Star Wars Expanded Universe since the death of Chewbacca in R. A. Salvatores’ Vector PrimeOutcast, and now Omen, are taking a slower more subtle approach to storytelling that one would expect from a Star Wars novel.  Like Outcast before it, Omen has no large scale space battles, no real swashbuckling adventures but focuses instead on creating an air of tension, mystery, and suspense.  Though perhaps one might say that the real focus of this story, and perhaps the entire Fate of the Jedi series is that of the Solo and Skywalker families.

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