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
Lindy West is one of those web-writers who’s done consistently great work over the years, whether it’s talking about boobs or talking about trolls, and so I expected to like her memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, but I didn’t expect to find myself laughing aloud over and over, nor did I expect to end up crying — and having done both in great measure, now I can’t get that most excellent book out of my head.
Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths’ Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions is pitched as a combination of personal advice and business book grounded in the lessons of computer science, but it’s better than that: while much of the computer science they explain is useful in personal and management contexts, the book is also a beautifully accessible primer on algorithms and computer science themselves, and a kind of philosophical treatise on what the authors call “computational kindness” and “computational stoicism.”
AJ Hartley’s new YA series opens with Steeplejack, a
whodunnit whose unlikely and welcome hard-boiled detective is a young
woman who has to beat class and race discrimination as well as the bad
If you’ve got a coding career on your mind, few programming disciplines will take you farther than a commanding knowledge of the Python language, which is not to be mistaken for parseltongue. Its versatility and ease of use make it a go-to for any coding project…so master Python now with this all-inclusive all-level python programming course […]
The realm of web development is constantly evolving. New platforms, languages, and processes materialize all the time, so staying on top of all that innovation is a tall order.Whether you’re brushing up on new tricks, starting from scratch, or just looking to make your own website a little jazzier, Rob Percival’s new Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 (now […]
Folks used to rely on alarms to protect their home – and before that, the family dog. Now, anyone looking to guard their homes can choose from some high-tech options, including the Amaryllo iCamPRO FHD Home Security Camera (now just $219 in the Boing Boing Store).In fact, this 2015 CES “Best of Innovation” award-winner boasts so many features, it’s […]