No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, March 02, 1995

MagicNet -- John DeChancie

Like many an American fantasy before it, MagicNet begins in the enchanted groves of academe. Schuyler King, professor of English at a New England college, has just settled down for the evening with a volume of Keats when he receives a disturbing phone call from an old friend. Grant turns out to have been torn apart by a demon - but not before he’s mailed King a set of computer disks. The disks contain a program which is, effectively, Grant’s ghost. Apparently he’s been messing about on the Net and upset a few people too many - but this isn’t your normal everyday infobahn. This is MagicNet, based on rationalised magic, where demons roam dataspace and the response time is instantaneous. "It’s not like any other computer network you’ve experienced".

Now a hacker called Merlin is going for world domination through the Net, and he must (of course) be stopped. King, armed only with a new laptop and accompanied by a lesbian witch, sets off for San Francisco where the bad guys hang out. King swiftly realises that a virtual San Francisco is even weirder than the real thing. Fortunately Jill has a non-Net friend with whom they’ll be safe - one Harlan Ellison ...

MagicNet is an extremely entertaining book, although there are enough loose ends to weave a very tangled web. Elements of assorted Eastern mythology creep in, and together with DeChancie’s witty, fast-paced prose style, create an ambience not a million miles from Zelazny’s later works. Fantasy’s answer to Neuromancer? The lighter side of Snow Crash? Decide for yourself.

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