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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)The Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For the most part, I liked the novel, but I have some very serious bones to pick with it. First of all, it was only a very slightly veiled story about super-rich-kids pissing and moaning in an extremely exclusive ivy-league college, reminiscing tones of Bret Easton Ellis as Harry Potter. The whole Narnia riff-nee-theme is too obvious to mention, because it's so huge, but unlike C. S. Lewis, the underlying concept is reversed, and not in a good way.

(My idea of a reverse Lewis is basically your evil realm of darkness that you can step through as if you were Stephen King.)

No. Instead we have here a world of magic that appears to be one of deep happiness and wonder, but at its heart is the idea that it exists only for unhappy people. If you're content, you can never have magic. To that, I want to say, "Shit" in all the complex and various ways we get right out of The Wire. It's like we're dealing with a critic/novelist who saw Harry Potter as unbelievably happy and decided to take a nice, long, 400 page dump over it.

I wouldn't be bothering to bring up the riffs if Lev Grossman hadn't done it, himself.

So the kids matriculate out of college, discover that they're spoiled rich kids that never have to work or do anything serious again, waste their lives around the warm heart of the void, screw everything up, and then discover that they can go to the other world and drag all their unhappiness around with them.

How delightful. I might have been carried around my the concept if one of the characters had proved to be the happy foil to all this misery, but no, everyone is pretty much set on being humorless pricks.

So after saying all this, you ask, "Why do you even think it was a pretty good story, then?"

The hidden plot with the beast was actually rather satisfying, the learning at school was pretty neat, and at one point I was actually rooting for Quentin and Alice.

The fact that I liked Quentin for a while made me hurt more when he turned into such an ass.

The book is somewhat redeemed for the wrap-up, while not redeeming any single character, did leave a lot open for later improvement. The fact that the two next novels get much better reviews helps a lot, here, or I might have stopped with this one. Yes, I am a lemming, but I am a discerning lemming. :)

I want to see where it all goes from here.

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  1. I didn't even rate this one on Goodreads, but read it when working at Borders because it was a "make book" and I was one of the few employees in my store who read most of those, then reviewed them. I didn't like it at all. Would probably give it 1 star, but that's it. Glad you did like it somewhat and evidently liked the other two books in the series. I always hope authors are successful...

  2. In my opinion, the success of these books rely on the eventual payoff as a reader, but unfortunately it takes a lot of time and effort as the reader to get there.

    There's only so much you can do when the characters are relatively unlikable.