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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.


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.
Jan. 19th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Right there with you on this one. I figure the chance that I can do some good is greatly increased if people actually want to read the books. Which is not to say that there aren't some beautiful and wonderous high-density multi-layered works of literary genius out there, just that you need different methods for different audiences and bringing joy to people is an important goal in and of itself.


Jim C. Hines


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