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.
Thursday, March 02, 1995
Wednesday, March 01, 1995
Robert Rankin’s previous novels didn’t make that much of an impression on me; competently written, ingeniously plotted and occasionally very funny, but something didn’t quite click. Despite this I tried to keep an open mind about Raiders of the Lost Car Park, and was pleasantly surprised. My knowledge has been broadened no end. I now know what really turns Prince Charles on (and the current royal revelations do little to disprove Mr. Rankin’s allegations); I’ve also discovered where travellers really come from, and the names of the people who are responsible for corn circles. And that’s not the half of it ...Rankin has a gift for describing people and places: from the opening scene in Minn’s Music Mine, where the ashtrays are overflowing with ancient stubs, to the grand finale in the King of the World’s throne room (located, unsurprisingly, somewhere under West London) there is an attention to detail which demonstrates a keen eye and a keener imagination. Cornelius Murphy (the Stuff of Epics) and his minuscule friend Tuppe make endearing heroes, matched with an equally appealing set of blacker-than-black villains and assorted helpers and hinderers. Throw in a suitable mixture of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, and a few traditions and old charters, and you have a hugely enjoyable book - much shorter than ‘Illuminatus!’, and even funnier. The humour isn’t as heavy-handed as Pratchett’s can be, and the self-referential mockery of Rankin’s style makes the text itself part of the joke, which should keep the post-modernists among us happy as well.