August 19th, 2002

The "Just Waking Up On A Monday Morning" Review: The Magickers

All round the world publishers are kicking themselves for not having been Bloomsbury. You can hear the screams even now: "How can we have missed out on Harry Potter?! How can we have that success in our children's books line?" Perhaps somewhere there is a formula that can be applied to text that will miraculously turn it into the next magical success story, turning print into pounds. It's worked for pop music, surely it can work for books...

Emily Drake's The Magickers has come straight out of that production line. Slightly nerdish hero? Check. Mysterious induction into training? Check. Male friend and female friend? Check. Strange group of teachers? Check. Hidden evil? Check. Various trials and tribulations on route to power? Check. Hero saves the day in the end by use of powers? Check. Plenty of made up names with odd spellings? Check. Bingo, it's Harry Potter by the numbers. Sure, the school is a summer camp, the hero is an all-American kid, and the magic is new age crystal waving, but all the elements are there. It's got to be a hit. It worked for Stock, Aitken and Waterman...

But literature isn't The Hit Factory, and novels (especially YA fantasies) aren't Kylie and Jason, and The Magickers struggles to even entertain. Drake's writing is, like the plot, pure by the numbers. Technically it's fine, but there's no spark, no imagination. It's a pity, as the world does need, good, imaginative children's fiction, and Drake does show promise - but she really should write her own stories, use her own ideas, instead of writing formula fiction. There are some sections of the book that show that she can transcend the formula, especially the scenes with the teenage skinwalker, but they do more to show the paltry nature of the rest of the story than inspire us to go on...

In the end, a disappointing read. This is even more of a pity, as The Magickers could well have been a good book - and it's possible to just see the novel it could have been hiding underneath the write by numbers picture of Hogwarts and Harry...
  • Current Music
    Radio 4 - Today

Living in the future: one day at a time

So, we're living in the future. We must be, if a sleepy edge of London town like Bromley is finding its way into the world of tomorrow despite its innate conservatism.

Take this lunchtime. After a walk through what can only be described as South London's answer to The Mall That Ate Watford, I found myself looking at a high street shop bearing a commemorative blue plaque. This shop was the site of the birthplace of H.G. Wells...

I'd have to wonder how he would feel to see the heart of his home town covered in a single building, while kids with skateboards and digicams frame tricks and get instant feedback on their concrete fantasies. If it didn't work, delete it and try again - editing your life on the fly with technology. And introducing a new watchword for teenage life - "Be patient - we can keep practicing until we get it right..."

It's a world a million miles from The World Set Free, and yet it's only just around the corner from the one time country town...
  • Current Music
    Euphoria - Ibiza 2002 - Chocolate Room/Punk Kidz