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Bad Magic Hardcover – November 11, 2004
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
From Publishers Weekly
As in the movie Men in Black, most people are mercifully unaware of the horrors that surround them in first-time author Zielinski's wacky occult fantasy. It's up to Al Rider and his cohorts, who operate out of San Francisco and are aware of and willing to use their third eye, to confront vampires, ghosts, zombies, zombie dogs (not to be confused with thin dogs) and a host of other undead creatures anxious to take over the world. While the humor is often scattershot and undisciplined, the author shows some genuine wit. One redundant, rapid-fire dialogue exchange could have been taken from Joseph Heller's Catch 22. When the heroes run on water, they do the "Sea of Galilee boogie." A recipe for preparing thin dog dinner makes a deliciously gruesome aside. But Zielinski doesn't play it strictly for laughs. At the start, Rider steals "invisibility" from a homeless woman for use as a cloak. "It will crumble at sunrise; the street person is, in part, defined by her invisibility, and so it must return to her." An appendix features a windy treatise, full of scholarly references, by a Miskatonic University professor. The final item, "the author's top ten rejected bio blurbs," will provoke more than a few smiles.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--Mythpoeic Fantasy Award-winning author James D. Macdonald
"Like Tim Powers crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You've never read anything like this." (James D. Macdonald, author of The Price of the Stars)
Top customer reviews
Suddenly San Francisco is the target of the vulture cult, a group that survives on human misery and anger and who will bring down the world if they can feed their god. This is an unequal struggle. Our team of eight consists of quirky individuals who argue and criticize as much as they coordinate. And the forces they are taking on are numerous, and armed with hell creatures like thin dogs and zombies. The odds definitely favor the end of life, as we know it.
For all their special abilities, the team works more like the A-Team than it does a magic circle, although their efforts at military precision often are more comic than effective. They are as likely to shoot an enemy as bespell it, but more often than not what saves them is a strong ability to beat a hasty retreat and a knack for having the right spell for the wrong reason. There is something vaudevillian about witches whose totem is a clam or houses that fly away when you press the panic button.
Zielinski keeps things going at the speed of a Chinese fire drill - there is no such thing as a time when someone isn't in dire need of help. Attitude is the rule of the day, as are wisecracks in the face of doom. What suffers in the flurry of action is character development, although all the star players are given enough initial depth to keep the reader in touch with them. Zielinski has laid the groundwork for a series with an interesting premise and sequels may accomplish what one volume cannot.
On the whole an enjoyable book, one I'm glad I took the small risk of reading. Perfect for the thrill seeker who thinks too many long incantations spoil the broth.
The characters are wonderfully weird, tacky & in some cases a little mean. Just enough to be utterly human, even in the midst of their most magical behavior.
This is also a very visual story. I could see the action & I loved it. It was like reading a comic book with out the illustrations.
Buy this book. Love this book. And pray there's a sequel.
BAD MAGIC is Stephan Zielinski's first book and it's one of the weirdest, wackiest, and hippest fantasy/horror reads I've ever come across. This book just explodes with fresh ideas as it chronicles the exploits of a cell comprised of eight people striving to foil the inimical, magical beasties of the night. The author's employment of a staccato narrative style and judicious use of fragmented, present-tense sentences lend a sense of immediacy and urgency to the storyline. The tone and creativity are reminiscent of a Roger Zelazny product; dazzling, descriptive passages fly off the pages. Some of my favorite sentences: "The serum is screeching through their systems like a thousand randy Siamese cats; which makes sense, because that's one of the ingredients"; and "They hear a ram smashing into the door. Fortunately, it's reinforced with congealed hard gamma and sealed with the stubborness of a septuagenarian Republican." And, one of the characters, on handing a hundred-dollar tip to an outraged waitress, advises her to "...spend it posthaste, indulging in whatever pleasures you hold dearest, before somebody nails a loop of your intestines to a tree and chases you in an ever-diminishing circle." Very cool reading.
Here are just several of the loopy concepts in BAD MAGIC: zombie thin dogs, the Lockjaw of Doom, the religion of the Geoduck, San Diego as the hotbed of evil, werejaguars, a flying house, moths who worship us as gods, dolphins who have humans as their totem animals, the use of H.R. Giger artwork to help combat the forces of the night...My favorite concept may have been that of being able to steal away a homeless person's sense of invisibility (because no one ever notices the homeless, right?) and spinning it into an invisibility cloak. With eight prickly characters who don't like each other yet depend on each other for survival as they fight the good fight, there isn't a lack of juicy verbal sparring or of sincerely felt animosity. These are NOT nice people - and they're the good guys. My favorite of the protagonists may well be Al Rider, a synesthetic mage of no mean talents but of dubious character and who has a tendency to panic. I'm also fond of the enigmatic Creedon Thiebaud, who reminds me somewhat of the Shadow (but scarier), while the taciturn and socially awkward elemental, Maggie-Sue Percy, elicits the most sympathy.
On the negative side, I would've liked to have seen more of Rider's masterpiece, the Egg, or rather what it birthed. More focus on the bad guys, the Vulture cult, would've been also nice, and the ending may well have been a bit abrupt, although, come to think of it, it did seem to fit the author's quirky sensibilities. But, believe me, these are all minor quibbles.
With this debut novel, Zielinski has put the reader on notice. He is definitely one to watch out for. I really can't wait for his next book to see what new sorts of bedazzlement he'll offer us. But, in the meantime, if you haven't yet checked out this wild, rollicking, and darkly funny tale, I urge you to do so. But before you open the pages, make sure you've got some Tibetan rock salt on hand. Just in case your third peeper accidentally opens.