Lev Grossman's 2009 novel The Magicians was a remarkable fantasy novel, a subversive young-wizard novel that showed us bright magical prodigies who had all the quirks and flaws of real-world prodigies. It combined sarcastic, arch attitudinizing with the wish-fulfillment, fairylands, and well, magic of fantasy novels into a kind of anti-Harry-Potter story that gutted the comfortable worlds of high fantasy without mercy.
The Magician King is Grossman's sequel to The Magicians, and while it is every bit as delightful and smart as the first one, it's a very different kind of book. It opens with Quentin and three of his magician friends from Magicians ruling over Fillory, a magical kingdom that they quest for in the first novel. Ruling over an idyllic, magic land is pretty dull, as it turns out -- mostly pomp and ceremony, with no chance for importing Enlightenment reforms despite Quentin's best hopes. Quentin yearns for a quest -- having achieved his lifelong goal, he finds it wanting, and he can't decide if the quest that won Fillory was even his, or whether he was just a minor character in someone else's story.
Quentin gets his chance -- a contrived quest to the furthest island on the maps, which owes back taxes. Not that Fillory actually uses gold, but they do try to stockpile it for appearance's sake. From this quest follows a series of adventures and misadventures that are somewhere between Juster's Phantom Tollbooth and Narnia, as told by Philip Roth. And this isn't just Quentin's tale -- he is accompanied by his co-queen Julia, his childhood crush, who wasn't accepted into magic school and went mad as a consequence. Now, broken and bitter, Julia's story puts the magic of The Magicians into a larger context, showing us that the orderly, neat magic of Brakebills College and its gentlemanly wizards are just one edge of a much larger, weirder tapestry that spirals off to the origin of the universe and the great powers that lurk there.
Flipping back and forth between Quentin and Julia's story, The Magician King is at once an existential exercise that angrily shakes escapism by its shoulders and demands that life have a purpose, and a story about extraordinary deeds, heroism, magic and love -- all the stuff that makes escapism go. Grossman isn't condemning escapism, but he's certainly holding it to account and asking it for more. It's a fantastic trick that makes this into a book that entertains and disturbs at the same time.
The Magician King
On September 14, 1987, Garry B Trudeau ran the first Doonesbury strip that mentioned Donald Trump, in which his characters marvel that New York’s “loudest and most visible asshole” had floated a political trial balloon, hinting that he would run for president; thus began 30 years of marveling at, mocking, and skewering Der Drumpf, so rattling the Short-Fingered Vulgarian that he felt the need to issue a series of wounded denunciations. Now, just in time for the election, Trudeau has released a collection of his Trump-themed strips, Yuge: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, just the thing to put the Republican nominee on tilt.
Since 2015, our family has been in love with Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn books, a kind of modern take on Calvin and Hobbes, only Calvin is an awesome little girl, Hobbes is a unicorn, and the parental figures can see and interact with the unicorn, but are not freaked out because she generates a SHIELD OF BORINGNESS. Now, the insanely prolific Simpson has released the fourth collection in the series: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure.
It’s been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa’s stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.
Amazon’s Audible is hands-down the most popular place to find audiobooks. With its library of over 180,000 books, Audible has the biggest audiobook selection in the world, and a membership gets you a free book each month. You can sync Audible across multiple devices, so you’ll never lose your spot whether you’re on your computer or your phone.This […]
#1. A-Audio Legacy Noise Cancelling Headphones with 3-Stage Technology The A-Audio Legacy Headphones are the Boing Boing Store’s best seller this month, and it’s easy to see why. With 40mm drivers, powerful circuitry, and memory foam padded circumaural ear cups, these are clearly super high-quality headphones. Plus, the patented 3-Stage Technology lets you toggle between passive […]
Vaping is getting more mainstream by the day, which means there’s been an influx of quality yet affordable vaporizers on the market. We’re particularly excited about the APX Wax Vaporizer Kit, which is an easy-to-use, high-quality vape that works with both dry herbs and waxy concentrates.If you’re a beginner trying to get into vaping, the APX […]