August 6, 2011

A Book So Good, I Actually Read It.

Matthew Essner, in his infinite wisdom, told me that I should listen to The Magicians by Lev Grossman as I drove up to meet Brer.
I, in my infinite wisdom, did not. Because I am stupid.
He got on to me when I got back, so I gave in, and started listening to the audiobook I had prepped for the trip.

Then I couldn’t put it down.

If J.K. Rowling could write (by which I mean create realistic characters and fully realized worlds) she might hope to write something as fantastic as The Magicians. On the surface, it’s a story that “steals” from Harry Potter, but that’s not really the case. The world of The Magicians is real. It’s something that could exist, instead of something that only exists when you ignore massive plot holes. It’s filled with real people with real flaws who make real mistakes. Yes, these mistakes sometimes involve fucking, or drinking too much, because that is what people of the age of the students in the book would do. I also agree with Essner that the fact that you get to see what happens when you graduate from crazy magic school is just fantastic. Once again, it’s so realistic that they’d be lost, having trouble finding something worthwhile to do, even though they can do the impossible. It’s how actual people act. I barely read anymore, but it surprised me how nice it felt to see people, acting like people, in a fantasy world.

I’m not going to spoil much of it. I don’t know. I so truly enjoyed the novel that I didn’t do my English major thing to it, that I normally do to entertain myself even when things are going well. It was just lovely. I do have two things I want to talk about, though, so I will!

The book is willing to make references to Harry Potter. I like this. If I were to go to a magic school in this day and age, I WOULD be making Harry Potter jokes. It’s in the public consciousness, and I’m glad it was willing to go there. However, a lot of the book revolves around a series of books called Fillory and Further. This book series is a completely direct analog to the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s Narnia, with some things slightly changed so that it is its own thing. That’s fine, but why does nobody in the book compare it to Narnia, then? It just seems odd to me that that’s the one thing that’s not the same in this world’s general consciousness. Why not recognize that comparison, too? When you’re willing to compare your magical schools to other magical schools, and it works, I don’t know why you’d be so afraid of making that comparison as well.

The other thing is the ending. Essner was kind of eh on it. I can see why. There’s a climax, and then the book continues, and then there’s another smaller climax, and it’s all depressing and downhill from there until the end. The bit of “good news” at the end of the book almost seems tacked on, something too good to be true, since this is a realistic world where stuff just doesn’t always work out well. At the same time, though, I don’t feel like it’s unearned. Quentin had atoned for his sins with his quest, really. Well, I felt he did. He deserved to have his life back, and an event like that was about the only way it was going to happen. Sure, putting Julia in there seemed… odd. But otherwise, I was down with it. It certainly didn’t ruin the book in any way for me.

Anyway, go read the fucking book if you haven’t. It’s awesome. Apparently there’s a sequel coming out? I have no idea how you’d make a sequel from the book, but I loved it so much I will give Mr. Grossman the benefit of the doubt, to be sure. I’ll probably even read it. Me, who never reads.

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