Friday, March 19, 2010

Dirty Magic

After a night of particularly strange and vivid dreams, Joe is visited by a girl who seems to be all gray, from her hair to her eyes to her clothes. Wherever she steps, the world melts away, replaced by a land of mud and rain. Telling Joe he must come with her if he wants to save his younger sister, who is gravely ill, the girl leads Joe through to her gray world, which is in the midst of a twenty-year-old war. There Joe dodges bullets, fearsome motion-tracking tanks, and the secret police as he searches for his sister.

This was a strangely written book. I found it in the children’s section, the book looks childish, the writing is big, the protagonist is ten. Yet the vocabulary used is that of an adult, the children reason like adults, the setting is very mature. A war-streaked land, two ethnicities fighting ruthlessly, manipulative ambassadors, slavery, death penalties are all part of this book.

First of all, Joe, the protagonist, was bland. He was a flat nobody who had absolutely nothing else in mind than his guilt (since he thinks he is responsible for his little sister’s sickness). In fact, he obsesses over it and after a hundred times, the whole deal gets annoying. Also, he has way too much luck for my liking. Katherine was okay, but she thought too much like an adult. A ten year old, no matter what it went through, will always be a ten year old. Her decisions were the wise, rational ones of a battle veteran. Because yes, she lives and has lived all her life in the midst of a twenty year old conflict and runs around in sodden trenches. It’s a wonder she didn’t die of hypothermia. The thing is, she isn’t the only child in this condition. They all are. Lastly, Spider was way too good at orientation even though he was a blind man. And his “I felt the ground, It was dryer” and other lame excuses for his super-skills don’t fool me, he has the same comportment as a seeing man. Spider hears and smells and feels too well for it to be anywhere near realistic. He can also read and write.

The plot itself took too long to unravel. Travel to place A, then place B, and then place C, and then you might understand a little better what’s going on. I kept wondering why Joe had had to come to this warring world from our own, what a charge was, and the lack of answers made me frustrated and mad. Everything was explained in the very last chapter, and it ended very abruptly after that, almost as if the ending had been rushed. But to be fair, I have to say the plot was okay. The problem is, it was more or less drowned by strange and rather useless events, and the lack of explanations made this a tough read.

The writing style was downright strange. At times, it felt as if she were talking to a six year old. At other times, words like derelict or simian come up, and even I need a quick check in the dictionary to make sure I understand correctly. Also, the fact that a clicking sound was compared to the noise made by a Geiger counter was too much. Most people don’t know what a Geiger counter is, let alone know what it sounds like. The attempts at humor were pitiful fails.

There was one thing that made me desperately annoyed. Joe got a bullet through his hand in the first few pages of the book, and 215 pages, there is no mention of this event. He walks for three days straight, his bloody bandage is wet and muddy, yet he isn’t in pain? Not even a little? When I remembered about this wound, I smacked my head against the book a couple of times.

One truly great point in this book was the machines. They were extraordinary. They were frightening to read about, and I wouldn’t want to encounter any of them any day. Each machine had a different role, different weapons, a different appearance. Their descriptions were epic, and I have to admit the parts in which they were included fascinated me.

Perhaps if the characters had been more realistic, the writing more unified and the story and plot more explained, this book would’ve been better. The good elements were hidden behind the incoherencies, and a little more realism could’ve gone a long way. It is a book only to be read if absolutely nothing else is available.


Dirty Magic by Carol Hughes
Rating : 6,2/10

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