- Berger, John — Ways of Seeing (149 pages)
- Vonnegut, Kurt — God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (72 pages)
- Roth, Joseph — The Legend of the Holy Drinker (100 pages)
- Hrabal, Bohumil — Closely Observed Trains (87 pages)
- Bloomfield, Barbara & Chris Radley — Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex (171 pages)
- Feist, Raymond E. — Magician (689 pages)
- Page count
I didn't used to know who Raymond E. Feist is, even when participating in online discussions with him. You see, to me he was just REF, a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan and regular contributor to the discussion board I helped run. Eventually someone asked REF if he was Feist, and he was gracious when several posters expressed admiration for his books, but I suspect he didn't enjoy posting as much after having been outed. I was curious about this poster-turned-published-author, so I looked him up, and his books sounded fascinating. I've had a copy of Magician sitting on the shelf for years, just waiting for the right moment.
Fast-forward to this year: the Chargers, in what most acknowledged as a rebuilding year, improbably qualified for the playoffs. It took a bit of magic for them to get there, and it would take a great deal more for them to go far. Looking to build mojo, I eyed my copy of Magician. Hmm… a book about magic by a Chargers fan…
The Chargers did win a playoff game but then fell just short of a comeback in the next game. Magician entertained me but fell just short of all the hype.
Magician is well constructed and well told. Some of the elements in the story, especially concerning the space-time Rift, are very imaginative, but so much of it felt derived from something else. At times Pug was reminiscent of a certain pig-keeper from Prydain, at other times Ged from Earthsea. Then suddenly I found myself reading The Lord of the Rings, complete with a romp through the mines of Moria with an elf and interludes in Rivendell. And then… I think you get the idea.
For the most part I enjoyed the plot, but halfway through, when Magician became more Song of Roland, Henry V, and every other castle siege and battlefield story, I found myself losing interest. The focus was removed from the two principal characters, Pug and Tomas, and invested in other characters (several of whom I didn't realise at the time would be pivotal in the sequels), which I found disorienting.
And Magician was just too long. Feist would have benefited from a good editor. Only, he did. The original edition was much shorter than this revised "author's preferred edition." I suspect it was also pacier and a more enjoyable read.
I must sound as if I hated Magician, but I did enjoy it. I just don't feel it is anything special. It's standard popular sword-and-sorcery fantasy: a good read, just not a great read.