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After Magic
Bruce Boston, illustrated by Lari Davidson
Dark Regions Press, 54 pages

After Magic
Bruce Boston
Bruce Boston is a 3-time winner of the Rhysling Award for science fiction poetry. He has also won the Asimov's SF Reader's Awards and been selected twice as Best Poet of the Year by SPWAO.

Bruce Boston Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dark Tales & Light
SF Site Review: The Lesions of Genetic Sin / Confessions of a Body Thief / The Last Existentialist
Dark Regions Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

What is After Magic? Why have three separate presses reprinted the novella? After Magic, says the back of the book "is a quest, a love story, an adult fairy tale, an historical slapstick. Take your pick," which is somewhat misleading. The story is perhaps Victorian and slapstick but not a Victorian slapstick (if such has ever existed). There is a quest but a questing that succeeds traditional fantasy quests. Moreover, "Take your pick" might lead some to wonder whether the author knew what the story was about when, in actuality, it is not one but a combination platter.

After Magic begins with Stephan, a magician in search of perfecting his magic through spiritual highs, journeying further and further into the Far East. Meanwhile, back at the British séance, Madame Tutoni of the Tarot and of the other world has been waiting for her tidal powers to fluctuate beyond the occasional parlour trick of pulling strange cards out of the ether. Both wish to plumb the depths of their trade. And so opportunity knocked...

"All day she had felt it, a ripening in the air about her, an inaudible static rippling through the invisible ether. Her powers were peaking... clothed only in a loincloth and meditating beside the holy man Sri Rhomboid, Stephan felt his consciousness streaming upward on a ray of pure thought."
When their powers cross, they are initially displeased with the outcome: Stephan puts in an appearance at the séance and won't go away, tethered like a helium balloon to Madame Tutoni by an invisible string. They search through the annals of magic to find that there are some problems that magic cannot solve, some places that magic cannot reach. For that, more is required; for that, they are willing to give, sharing the same passions -- professionally and personally; and for that, they will exceed what magic alone can provide.

What is After Magic? Boston's characters' quests ultimately question this, and ultimately After Magic is a fantasy about fantasy itself, questioning what lies beyond escapism. Does the novella succeed? Yes, most definitely. No reader could be disappointed by the speculation or characterization. The ending, for the hard-to-please, will feel vaguely anti-climactic when truly it climaxes upon climax to the nth. Perfect ending or not, the pleasure in any act is in getting there, and After Magic is quite a ride, a must for every fantasy lover or Boston enthusiast, and one of his best entertainments yet.

Copyright © 2001 Trent Walters

Trent Walters' work has appeared in Speculon, Spires, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly, among others. He has interviewed for, Speculon and the Nebraska Center for Writers. More of his reviews can be found here. When he's not studying medicine he can be seen coaching the Minnesota Vikings as an assistant coach, or writing masterpieces of journalistic advertising, or making guest appearances in a novel by E. Lynn Harris. All other rumored Web appearances are lies.

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