September 6, 2009
Lev Grossman's "The Magicians"
Last week, I finished Lev Grossman's "The Magicians". I have a few things to confess. Well, more than a few, but we will limit things to only relevant confessions for this post. First, I've never read any Harry Potter books (wait, what kind of page is that Amazon? I appreciate the link to Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter but that is a strange page you got there. I should dig up the link to the series page I guess. Maybe later.) I haven't read any Harry Potter books because they sound like bad Young Adult fiction to me. I like good Young Adult fiction (see, for example, Garth Nix's Shade's Children, or for that matter, anything by Garth Nix. I am also interested in Zoe's Tale but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.)
Anyway, the point is that Harry Potter looks like bad young adult fiction to me. I have watched one or two of the movies, but never with my undivided attention (I'll divide my attention on just about any crappy thing, wait two of those are actually pretty good…) and definitely not with any sort of anticipation. Well, Cho Chang was cute.
So, I have a bias against Harry Potter. I also have a love-hate (hate-hate?) relationship with alternate-world fiction but lately I have been finding examples where I actually enjoy it. (Also, see Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber for an exemplar of the genre.)
A few weeks ago, I noticed the book "The Magicians", and picked it up. I never got around to reading it until it showed up on one of my blog feeds. I can't remember now which one it was, but the tagline was "What if Hogwart's Academy was real, and real people went there?"
Now this is interesting. What if you put real people into unreal situations? I am somewhat fascinated with this topic; I kind of feel like I have made my life into a study of this topic. I wake up every morning thinking "I can't believe I live in Japan" - which is when you get down to it, an unreal situation for a regular joe from New Jersey. Not even a regular joe, but a somewhat under-achieving nerd. So I am interested in this topic. Even more, this is one of those good examples of science fiction / fantasy where the setting, while unreal, is itself not the main point. The main point of the novel is about the characters: how will these people react, and what will they do?
The central question of "What is the point of it all?" comes into full focus when you have characters that are, in their universe, masters of great power, and who can conceivably do whatever they wish. What then is left but a philosophical discussion about the point of life, the universe, and everything?
Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. I would love to see a follow-up, because the characters were interesting, and the universe was developed enough that now I think it would be interesting to see further adventures in it.
Other points of interest: Lev Grossman is a literary critic at the New York times. Shouldn't he be qualified to write a good book? I think he did. Also, the Amazon book page has an interview with him. Cool! I didn't know they did that. I didn't know that Amazon.com's books editors had a blog on books either, but now I do and I will follow it. (What's that? An interview with China Mieville? You had me at word one.)
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