The Magician and the Fool Paperback – 25 Mar 2008
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"Brilliantly drawn characters draw you into this magical mystery tour-de-force, and take you on a magic carpet ride into the strange and wondrous cult of the Tarot. Barth Anderson's grasp of the darkness and light of human nature will astound and astonish."--Ann Benson, author of The Plague Tales
"Compelling... a fevered dream universe."--"Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Barth Anderson lives in Minnesota with his wife and children. He has written short fiction in numerous publications and anthologies, and six of his stories have received honorable mentions in "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror." He was the winner of the Spectrum Award for best short fiction in 2004. The Magician and the Fool is his second novel.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is Mr. Anderson's second novel, and in it he displays prodigious gifts, seamlessly blending items such as transcripts of interviews, faxes, and redacted government letters with amazingly vivid descriptions of surreal events, such as this scene from a festival in Rome: "A crowd of men in gas masks were playing sanders, drills, and one man with a whining electric saw was pressing it against an iron slab, sending up rooster tails of sparks over the crowd, all of which turned upon multifold Moroccan rhythms and the singer's reverent, warbling voice." (p. 197) (The use of mirrors in Rosemont's first key romantic liaison and the conclusion is also noteworthy.) On the other hand, he refuses to spoon-feed the reader with "what's really happening" behind the viewpoint character's immediate thoughts and perceptions--leaving enigmas such as the identities of minor characters unresolved--and the result is a post-modern fever dream that feels longer than its 290 pages and should captivate a reader who lets him/herself succumb to it, but that is unlikely to enlighten or educate (with the exception of tarot lore, but even there, one struggles to separate fact from myth from fiction).
Overall, this should be a fascinating library loan for mature fans of modern or literary fantasy (but to this reviewer, it was much lighter and less rewarding than Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, for example). Its card is ... the Three of Stars.
Rosemont flies to Rome and enters through a back door a hotel where he sees some sort of weird gala occurring; filled with people he once knew. At the same time that Rosemont is left bewildered, two killers in Minnesota pursue Boy King, a dumpster driving tarot card reader. They seek a legendary ancient pack that they believe Boy King owns; that same pack is why Rosemont has been brought out of self exile; disgraced or not he is expected to affirm its origin. If he is able to do so it will change recognition of this thought to be pseudo science into something valid and acceptable.
This is an exhilarating convoluted thriller that is not going to allow readers to remain in their comfort zone. Instead THE MAGICIAN AND THE FOOL is a well written complex tale that questions what is real in a singular and collective sense and is the singular real normal if it differs from the collective. Fans looking for something radically different and not easy to comprehend will relish Barth Anderson's atypical tale that will either turn someone off early or have them re-read immediately to gain additional nuances and perspectives.
Two protagonists, Jeremiah Rosemont and Boy King, are both caught in a modern world with an occult subculture in which tarot cards have real power and ancient forces are calling the shots. Rosemont and the Boy King each must not only unravel the mystery of why they are chosen by these powers to play a part in some inexplicable game, they must also overcome people who want things that they have - or that the people after them think they have.
Anderson, like many authors, seeks to keep the pages turning by thrusting his heroes into tense situations that force them to react without having time to figure out what's going on. This ploy can work, but Anderson takes far too long to reveal enough to even minimally inform the reader - in part because the plot is very simple, behind the bells and whistles, and the narrative arc is better suited to support a short story or novella rather than a full-length novel.
In the end, `The Magician and the Fool' is unsatisfying for fantasy readers, as it is more reminiscent of Robertson Davies than fantasy and science fiction, and Anderson is nowhere close to Davies in style or substance. But he is young, so there is hope - but still, this is one to check out of the library rather than buy.
the story is mysterious and multi-layered, fast-paced and exciting. it grabs you by the throat from the get-go and doesn't let go, well, ever. it sticks with you long after the last page. it's the kind of book that you *want* to read again right away. partly because it's hard to leave this world and these characters behind; but also because it's such a page-turner, you get swept up in the action and it can be hard to s-l-o-w down to process information or look for clues, even though you sense there are many more layers there to explore. but that's okay, because the second reading is even more rewarding than the first.
it's true that anderson doesn't spell it out for his readers, but all the pieces are there and it's fun to turn them over and fit them together. he does not insult your intelligence but instead weaves it all together in an elaborate tapestry that makes closer scrutiny enjoyable and rewarding.
if offers the sweetest kind of reading pleasure -- a world where you can happily lose yourself, a story that won't let you go, and mysteries that your mind keeps turning over and over like a toy. it's like catnip for your mind.
The plot is summed up in the other reviews, so basically all I'll say is halfway through the book I felt like the plot was just getting started, another quarter of the way through and it felt like nothing big had really happened yet, then he quickly rushes through to the end with a sloppy climax that ties together the two story threads in pretty much the most obvious deus-ex-machina-way possible. MAGIC DID IT!
A HUGE disappointment for a HUGE fan of his previous book. Hopefully this is indeed just an early work they picked up after the success of PSOP and his future books will be up to the standard of his first.