On my bookstore adventure last weekend, I tried to expand my horizons a bit by looking not only in my standard fantasy and young adult sections, but also the horror section. After all, Barbara Hambly’s vampire books belong there. And, lo and behold, I found another book with her name on it in the horror section, one I’d never heard of before. This was Magic Time by Marc Scott Zicree and Barbara Hambly.
I didn’t even read the synopsis before collecting it.
As I started the book yesterday, there were two main thoughts in my head. Firstly, that books with a well-known coauthor may or may not have much from said big name inside. After all, my fear of the Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey book proved to be unfounded, as Anthony had only contributed some ideas and edits. Most of the work was Lackey’s, which everyone knows I love. Mostly. Secondly, that so far, this book didn’t seem very horrific.
Frankly, I would classify Magic Time as fantasy, not horror. Even the quote on the cover does this. “The best new dose of magic to hit the world of fantasy literature in a long time,” says Orson Scott Card. A quick amazon search for Marc Scott Zicree shows me that yes, he probably does do work in horror, just like Hambly. But I don’t see it here. And I am quite positive, now that I’ve finished the book, that Hambly didn’t do much for the story itself. That’s not a problem given that the book itself is good, I’m just pointing out that her name is probably just to help it sell and acknowledge that she probably helped out behind the scenes.
Magic Time is also the first book in a series. I suspected as much by the halfway point – it seems like the first quarter or third of the book is introducing characters, many of whom are red shirts. That is to say, many of whom die before the book is out. And while we see the characters consolidating as the story goes on, they’re not all in the same place by the time it ends. But I should back up a bit.
This is an apocalypse book. The world as we know it comes to a screeching halt at 9:15 am Eastern Daylight Time when everything more advanced than muscle-powered gears suddenly stops dead. Also there are earthquakes and storms to make it even more fun with planes falling out of the sky. In the wake of this event, later referred to as the Change, some people are also Changed. Some turn into monsters of myth or nightmare. Others display strange powers. Those who don’t change outwardly seem to become more of the people they were meant to be. I sometimes think of those who physically change, because they feel good about the changes. It could be an alteration to their actual thought patterns, but I suspect that deep down these people wanted to be something other than human, and the Change made it happen with or without their consent.
The Change seems to have been triggered by a scientific study called the Source somewhere in the Dakotas. They’ve been funneling government funding for years, but their motive as a whole is unclear. Aside from the usual, being power. One of the scientists is hoping that the Source will be able to bring healing into the world, allowing him to help his twin brother who has been on life support since a car crash. The brother is in their mother’s house in West Virginia.
From New York City, there are two directions indicated as being related to whatever caused the Change, one west, and one south. West is the big bad, but south is a lot closer, and so it’s there that the climax of this book happens. Again, making it very obvious that there was more to come, without even needing the excerpt from book two.
According to amazon, there’s also a book three, and you can bet they’re both on my wishlist now. I have no idea when I’ll get around to acquiring them, but it’s going to happen.
This is a different take on the apocalypse than I’ve read before, if only because it’s so instantaneously overwhelming, and not only does it take out technology, but it stays out afterwards. No electricity, no batteries, no guns even. I’ve also not seen the three groups of humans before as a result of the apocalypse: transformed, empowered, and normal.
Don’t get me wrong, Magic Time isn’t perfect. I think there are way too many characters given a chapter or two before dying, and the chapters aren’t broken up very well as far as indicating a shift in viewpoint. There’s even a scene or two where it starts out from one person’s perspective, then shifts to another person in the same room. Rookie author mistakes, really. Hopefully the next books in the series show improvement.