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The Last Wizard
Simon Hawke
Warner Aspect Books, $5.99 US
Original paperback
Publication date: October 1997

The Last Wizard
Simon Hawke
Born in 1951, Simon Hawke's real name is Nicholas Yermakov. He attended Hofstra University, earning a B.A. in Communications. He went on to receive his M.A. in English from Western New Mexico University.

ISFDB Bibliography
Time Wars RPG

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alex Anderson

For those unfamiliar with him, Simon Hawke has been writing science fiction for the better part of 25 years, producing more than 30 novels -- including three series, several trilogies and about half a dozen stand-alone stories. To be sure, the majority have been of the pulpy, series-oriented persuasion... the kind that doesn't garner much of a mention in the critical press outside the author's home town. In addition to his original work, Hawke has been know to write the odd Star Trek novel and a book or two based on the Dark Sun role-playing game (we can presume the pay was good).

Often critical neglect of large portions of a writer's career can be a blessing, but not for Simon Hawke. Some of his work ranks with the best and most creative pure entertainment writing I've ever read, with extremely complex, multifaceted plots and solid characters. His Time Wars series demonstrated this aptly. They should be on any science fiction fan's bookshelf. So should Psychodrome, his stab at cyberpunk -- which in two short installments managed to entwine virtual reality, alien changeling terrorists, and a nasty government agency out to manipulate the populace in proper shadowy government agency fashion.

With both of these series, however, Hawke fell rather flat when it came to the conclusion. Time Wars came to a completely unsatisfying end after a dozen installments -- a scant fifteen page epilogue mapped out the main characters' futures following a decent but unspectacular story (Six Gun Solution) -- while Psychodrome never did come to a resolution. After producing the second book in that series (The Shapechanger Scenario), Hawke had lodged his characters in such a solid predicament that it's truly hard to guess how they might prevail. Apparently Hawke couldn't figure it out either, because he quit writing about them altogether.

This brings us the series that began with The Wizard of Fourth Street and has, finally, ended with The Last Wizard -- definitely Hawke's best attempt at a concluding novel to date.

This is not a series review, so I won't go into great detail about the entire story arc. However, some basic details would probably be an asset.

The Wizard of Fourth Street introduced us to the second thaumaturgical age (read: magic is back and doing fine), which was started when some poor fool went into one of the last stands of trees in an ecologically ravaged England and took a swing at the one in which Merlin Ambrosius had been imprisoned for the better part of a thousand years, freeing him and bringing magic back to the world. Merlin is directly descended from the Old Ones -- a race of relative immortals who could use magic and dominated the primitive human "animals" living around them. And here's the crunch. Merlin isn't the only Old One left. The Dark Ones, necromancers who use the life force of humans to power their spells, are trapped in an ancient tomb in the Euphrates Valley and, lo and behold, along comes a perfectly timed archaeologist to let them escape.

The lock on the tomb was a trio of gemstones cut with runes, which also disappear. This is where our main characters enter the scene. Wyrdrune, Kira and Mordred -- yes that Mordred, he's part immortal, too -- wind up with the stones magically bonded to them, giving them the immense power of the Council of White, a group of Old Ones who sacrificed themselves in the war that led to the entombment of their enemy: the Dark Ones. It's up to this trio to hunt down all the necromancers before they can unleash a brutal killing frenzy that will leave them once again dominant over humankind. So, through each book to date the trio put out nasty necromantic fires in places like Whitechapel, Santa Fe (Hawke's home town) and Tokyo, finally leading to this, the last and hottest of the fires.

The Last Wizard is entertaining and well-paced. There are neat character revelations and Hawke's usual witty dialogue, but as the final installment in the series it's again somewhat lacking. Hawke hasn't written about these characters in several years and his rather perfunctory treatment of the plot gives this an "I-owe-my-readership-some-closure-but-don't-really-feel-like-writing-this-stuff-anymore" feeling.

Still, it does cross all the t's and dot all the i's, and it's a decent enough story. One might have hoped for better though. Now all he has to do is finish Psychodrome.

Copyright © 1998 by Alex Anderson

Alex Anderson is a long-time SF reader just pompous enough to believe other people may want to read the meanderings he scribbles down between fits of extreme lethargy he calls contemplation.

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