Thursday, October 16, 2008

Magic Street by Orson Scott Card

What do you do after after an initial success? Physicist and mathematicians famously do their greatest work before they're thirty and spend the rest of their lives waiting for recognition from the Nobel committee. Joseph Heller made a big splash with Catch-22 and struggled to match this initial brilliance for the rest of his writing career. Another example is Orson Scott Card who wrote Ender's Game (published in 1985 and still one of the top 2000 best-selling books on Amazon!).

Fame and fortune puts enormous pressure on creative people like scientists and artists. Orson Scoot Card's recent Magic Street is an ambitious project. First it is an attempt by a conservative, white author and English professor from the suburbs to write of the African-American experience in Los Angeles. Second he gave significant roles to Oberon, Titania and Puck from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to add "a whole new layer of meaning."

The result is a book that follows the worst traditions of science fiction and fantasy where pontificating talking heads weight down the narrative and the story telling gets lost. Considering Orson Scott Card might be one of the greatest living story tellers, this is a soporific disappointment.

From the man who gave us the wonderful story in Ender's Game, we now get:
"That's what humans never understand," said Titania. "They're seduced by the material world, they think that's what's real. But for all the things they touch and see and measure, they're just - wishes come true. The reality is the wishes. The desire. The only things they are real are being who wish. And their wishes become the causes of things. Wishes flow like rivers ..."
"That's his mistake," said Yo Yo. "That's our secret weapon. He thinks you're weak because he always managed to hide his kind heart under a mask of jokery and rages and malice. But it was there, and kept him from utterly destroying people. ... Without you in his heart, he turned himself into the devil."

LGBT Book Watch: While Orson Scott Card has been called homophobic, this book is basically neutral on the topic with no LGBT characters and just a single neutral reference to gay marriage.
"But we're not asking for a legally binding marriage. More like those ceremonies they do for gay couples. No legal force, but all the same words as a church marriage."

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