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Magic Street Paperback – June 27, 2006
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Starred Review. The residents of Baldwin Hills, a middle-class African-American L.A. neighborhood, get caught up in a battle between the king and the queen of the fairies in this wonderful urban fantasy from Card (Seventh Son). Mack Street, who was abandoned as an infant, grows up to be a sweet but strange but sweet boy. No one could imagine how he is connected to "Bag Man," who lives in an invisible house at the opening to Fairyland and can temporarily force anyone to happily do his bidding, or to a darkly mysterious "motorcycle riding hoochie mama," who seduces men with a touch and has big plans for Baldwin Hills. Not even Cecil "Ceese" Tucker, who found Mack in a shopping bag, can believe that the neighbors' most secret desires are flowing into Mack's dreams, occasionally dripping out and becoming true in a horrifically twisted fashion. When a young swimmer who wishes she were a fish is found drowning in her father's waterbed, magic is never suspected. But once everyone knows the truth, what will they do about it? The ways that the mundane and fantastic intersect are completely believable, and the characters crackle with personality and attitude. Crisp, clean writing creates a vivid sense of place and plugs readers into a story they won't want to see end.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
One day, ultra-fastidious Byron Williams gives a grimy, bag-bedizened bum a lift in his immaculate Mercedes. Weird? Not half, compared to what awaits Byron: his wife, Nadine, in labor--and only the bum seems to have known she was pregnant. When an abnormally small boy is born, the bum reappears, bags the newborn, and splits. Afterward, Nadine remembers nothing of the experience. Ceese Tucker, 12, discovers the baby in the bag, resists very strange urges to destroy it, and gets single neighbor Ura Lee Smitcher to adopt. Ceese becomes informal big brother to the baby, dubbed Mack Street, who grows into a loner who walks the neighborhood day and night, cherished by all. Early on, Mack realizes that he can dream others' fondest wishes until they come true; but if he does, they turn on their wishers, so that, for example, a young swimmer who wishes she were a fish is found inside a water bed, permanently brain damaged from oxygen starvation. At 13, Mack breaches Fairyland via a house that only he can see; four years on, he becomes the focal figure in a battle of good and evil that impinges on fairy and human realms alike. Responding to a black friend's challenge to create a black hero, and inspired by Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Card has constructed a suspenseful fantasy thriller that, during the race to the last page, has one mulling over myth, morals, salvation, and will. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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I bought this book because I buy ALL of Card's books, but for the first time I was a bit disappointed. The story left me feeling like "what the crap is going on?!" several times, but it never really got me involved in the characters.
The main character, Mack Street, doesn't evoke empathy or sympathy because he is somewhat of a supernatural/otherworldly figure, so it's hard to get in his head. The other main story characters, Puck and Mab, are so impish and full of mischief that you can never believe what they are saying. Are they really who they say they are? Are they trying to help Mack, or trick him? I wasn't sure of their motives, so I felt 'uneasy' throughout the book, but not in a good way.
Anyway, I finished Magic Street and it was interesting and worth reading, but I suggest reading Ender's Game or Pastwatch or Enchantment if you want an introduction to Card's work. They are much more 'normal' books.
Sadly, that did not turn out to be the case, for a number of reasons.
First, the dialogue seems unauthentic: he is writing about the denizens of an upscale African American community in Los Angeles. This was probably a poor choice, since, presumably, these would be educated individuals who would have, for the most part, dropped most stereotypical afro-isms. This probably made sense to Card since it would probably be easier to fake dialect... neither heavily afro-slang infused, nor exactly mainstream suburbanite. He kind of pulled that off, but it seemed strained, with the afro-isms seeming too light.
Next, the story was implausible. When the writing is really good, and the characters pop, this isn't really an issue, but here, Card just doesn't have the framework to support the fantastical story. Also, it rips off A Midsummer Night's Dream in silly ways (some reviewers seem to think this was interesting; I found it unimaginative).
Next, Card, a master of characterization and POV, doesn't create a single character who I found myself rooting for or caring about. The main protagonist, Mack Street, is at best vanilla (despite his being a black man), and at worse a prudish bore.
Card never misses a chance to slip a moral tidbit from his Mormon faith into the mix, and this book is no exception...
<<< SPIOLER ALERT >>>
When Mack Street refuses to sleep with Yo-Yo, alias Mab, alias Tatania, because he's not married to her, it is so far from unbelievable as to be laughable. First, he's allegedly trying to represent African American youth culture, where promiscuity is the norm, not the exception. If Mack had been raised LDS, or had demonstrated intentions of "waiting" elsewhere in the book, this might not have been such an unbelievable device. However, that wasn't the case: up to the point that Yo-Yo offered herself up to him, there had been pretty much zero attention paid to Mack's sexual desires, other than a very light treatment of his crush on a neighbor. So, I have to figure that this whole episode was nothing more than Card's interjection of one aspect of his personal moral code. That's all fine; authors do this all the time, but here it played absolutely no plot-driving purpose and just seemed completely out of place.
<<< END SPOILER ALERT >>>
Anyway, even the great authors (and make no mistake, I consider Orson Scott Card to be a GREAT author) write mediocre books from time to time, and, sadly, that seems to be the case with "Magic Street."
Still, this is Card, and he keeps the story interesting enough to carry you through to the end--but I found myself hoping it would end sooner than it did. The character development was good as it usually is with Card, but the story was a bit slow getting started and overall it wasn't the usual "I can't put it down" kind of read I've come to expect from this author.
After turning the final page and closing the book, it all seemed just a bit offputting--like something was missing but I couldn't figure out what it was. Since I bought the book I'll leave it in my library, but I'm certainly in no rush to read it again soon.