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WebMage, by Kelly McCullough

My brother-in-law drew my name for the gift swap this Christmas, and turned to my Amazon wish list for inspiration. As a result, I ended up with Dr. Horrible, another season of The Tick, and WebMage [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], by Kelly McCullough.

After I read it, I was glancing at the GoodReads entry for the sequel, Cybermancy. Most of the reviews were good, but what fascinated me were several of the negative reviews (we all get them), which said things like, "it doesn't delve into deeper issues", "it doesn't introduce any great new ideas to literature", and "it could be a decent read if you read it for what it is: fantasy pulp."

Right. What's with these crazy fantasy authors writing fun, lighthearted reads rather than worrying about the development of western literature? Besides, we already know Americans can't write literature anyway.

Naturally, I loved this book.

And not just because the main character, Ravirn, has a magical webgoblin named Melchior who changes into a laptop. (Though goblins do make everything better.) The book blends Greek mythology and modern-day computer hacking. The gods have learned to manipulate the magic of the universe through computers and programming code. Ravirn, a descendent of the Fates, is a skilled hacker and spellcoder. So skilled that he's brought in to assist with one of Atropos' pet projects, a spell to eliminate free will. Ravirn takes exception to this, a decision which puts him in direct opposition to the aspect of fate responsible for cutting the threads of life. Not good. He spends the rest of the book trying to stay alive, and learning that this conflict goes far deeper than he ever imagined.

The tech-heavy nature of magic and spellcasting was hard to get into at first, but only for the first few pages. I'm still not completely clear on the whole magic system, but it's a heck of a lot more sensible than spouting random pseudo-Latin and waving your wands around. I'll also say that the cover art for the series threw me off. There's an urban fantasy feel to the cover that made me think I was opening up a more serious book. Maybe it's just me. But the closest we get to "urban" is Ravirn's time on his college campus.

Is it a work that applies the shock paddles to the heart of American literature? Maybe not. (But hey, neither are mine.) So what? Some of us also read for pure enjoyment. What this book is, is a fun read. There's a love story that has just the right amount of tension. The secondary characters are entertaining, and some are far more complex than they first appear. And watching the relationship between Ravirn and Melchior evolve over the book was great. Melchior steals a few scenes, actually.

The ending came kind of quickly. Almost too quickly. I had to re-read a little bit to figure out what just happened. Overall though, I found it a light, irreverent, and entertaining book.

As always, I'd love to hear what others thought of this one.

Comments

( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
controuble
Jan. 18th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Um... WebMage's sequel is also called WebMage?
kellymccullough
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Cybermancy. Then CodeSpell and soon MythOS.
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
shanrina
Jan. 18th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
I read WebMage awhile back and really enjoyed it, but I haven't had time to read the sequel yet and I read it long enough ago that I don't remember much of my feelings beyond "I liked it." I'm not really a huge fan of Greek mythology (I seriously OD'd on it when I was younger, to the point where I just don't get the appeal anymore) but I liked this take on it.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
It was a fun read. And as a former IT geek, I could appreciate the computer side of things as well.

It's hard sometimes, though. There are so many books, and I've got a bunch where I picked up the first, liked it, but haven't gotten around to reading the sequel...
michaeldthomas
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
It's a good thing that you liked Kelly's work since scholars will be linking you two together forever. ;)
kellymccullough
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
And that it's mutual. I enjoyed Jim's goblin books enormously.
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - michaeldthomas - Jan. 18th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kellymccullough - Jan. 18th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
herefox
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it. The second one was better, though, and had an interesting look at the Persephone myth that I'd never thought of before.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
I think (though I'm not sure) that this was Kelly's first novel, so it makes sense that he'd get better as he goes. I need to go ahead and get Cybermancy added to my wish list :-)
(no subject) - kellymccullough - Jan. 18th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 18th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
kellymccullough
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Glad you had fun with it.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Me too! I just wish I had more reading time so I could have gotten to it sooner.
(Deleted comment)
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
I liked Eris a lot, in part because of the way she turned out to be other than she appeared ... but still remaining true to what she was. It'll be fun to see more of her and the rest in the next books.
(no subject) - cissa - Jan. 20th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC) - Expand
lkrobinson
Jan. 18th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC)
I read for fun... I love "fantasy pulp"! I hate it when writing takes itself sooooooo seriously. I love you for writing stuff that is enjoyable to read. Thank you for not trying to make it work instead of fun just for the sake of snobbery.

I just don't get the the point of art always having to have a deeper meaning than fun... maybe that's why I mostly do comics. Fun is important. Life needs more fun.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
I think there's plenty of room for both. I love LeGuin, and some of her work gets pretty dense and literary, but I also enjoy plain old-fashioned fun. Life definitely needs more of that :-)
amy34
Jan. 18th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't read that one, but I'm all for fun reads. I think it's unfortunate that reviewers will criticize a book for the type of book it is, rather than for whether it accomplishes what it's trying to accomplish (which in this case, I imagine, is to entertain).
ex_rolanni
Jan. 18th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
What's with these crazy fantasy authors writing fun, lighthearted reads rather than worrying about the development of western literature?

I saw a comment somewhere on LJ over the last few days, to the point that the author of the post had given up on being a writer when she/he/it/they realized that nothing they could write would ever begin to address the injustices of society.

At TorCon, someone (for all I know, the same person) said something very similar to me in a discussion of why I would Waste My Time writing Space Opera, which just makes me want to bang my head against the nearest hard object.

I don't know where people get the idea that all fiction needs to serve a Higher Purpose, but ghod, it's out there, and apparently it's contagious...

Thanks, by the way, for the book tip; this one sounds like it's right up my alley.

*Exits toward Amazon, whistling*
jimhines
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
"I saw a comment somewhere on LJ over the last few days, to the point that the author of the post had given up on being a writer when she/he/it/they realized that nothing they could write would ever begin to address the injustices of society."

Grumble. I'm sorry, but does this mean the only way to begin to address any sort of social issue is to write heavy, pondrous, densely layered literature? 'Cause I kind of thought you could touch on various issues and have fun at the same time. Maybe a book about a little goblin runt that's mostly a fun read, but does remind the reader what it's like to be bullied. Or a book about three kick-butt princesses that doesn't dwell on any issues, but presents three fully capable female protagonists. Not that I take any of this stuff personally or anything like that :-)

"At TorCon, someone (for all I know, the same person) said something very similar to me in a discussion of why I would Waste My Time writing Space Opera, which just makes me want to bang my head against the nearest hard object."

Don't do that. Bang theirs instead.
(no subject) - kellymccullough - Jan. 19th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC) - Expand
brainstormfront
Jan. 18th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
It's enough that you've added yet another book to my to-read pile. Sigh (both in frustration and anticipation).
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
I'm an enabler. It's what I do...
faustin_black
Jan. 18th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
I read the first two pages and stopped. But maybe now I might push on and see if it gets better.
jimhines
Jan. 18th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Like anything else, not everyone's going to like it. But I did the same thing, setting it down after the first few pages because I wasn't getting into it, then trying again the next night. It was the second night that sucked me right in.
(no subject) - faustin_black - Jan. 19th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 20th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
rarelylynne
Jan. 19th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
This is why I collect so widely. That which seems simple is not always so. And that which seems layered and dense is not always so.

Go goblins!
sylvia_rachel
Jan. 19th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC)
I liked it. Also liked Cybermancy. Haven't gotten to #3 yet, but plan to -- and these days I don't seek out sequels unless I liked the first one enough to be at least 95% sure I'll like the rest. So there you are.

I don't honestly remember anything specific about the ending, so I won't try to comment on that :P
music_lover3
Jan. 19th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
I loved WebMage! I also loved Cybermancy and CodeSpell, too. I thought they were very entertaining and refreshing. They were so different than everything else I've read, and I enjoyed them immensely.
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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