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BAD MAGIC by Stephan Zielinski

BAD MAGIC

By Stephan Zielinski

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-87862-1
Publisher: Tor

A task force known as the Opposition resists an onslaught of zombies and vampires and their kith and kin in Zielinski’s engagingly insane first novel.

When an attack of “reanimated” canines confirms the group’s fears that “there are monsters and demons and undead all around,” a “journeyman synesthetic mage” named Al Rider assembles his seven cohorts to check out the approaching menace. The Opposition includes miscellaneous alchemists, thaumaturges, and other magicians—among them potty-mouthed witch Maggie-Sue, “occult medic” Chloe, phlegmatic German biker Kristof Arbeiter, sinister voudon Creedon Thibaud, white-haired black dwarf Joseph Washington, retired archaeology prof Pericles Whitlomb, and (comparatively ordinary) computer security specialist Max Sturgeon. All possess some paranormal abilities, including a “third eye” that enables them to perceive the monsters Out There that the rest of us can’t (or won’t) see. Crises multiply: from strange occurrences in a hospital ward to a battle with the male chauvinist San Diego Navy, a trip to an Amazonian rain forest to bring back a live jaguar (whose blood is needed for a particularly potent incantation), and a face-off with the Vulture Cult briefly employed by an emergent Adolph Hitler, and now committed to await “the night the border between the worlds weakens. . . [and establish] an empire of the undead.” There’s dissension in the Opposition’s ranks (Rider is suspected of being a double, perhaps a triple agent), and a lot of angry bantering, but the eight get their act together just in time, as Armageddon comes to San Francisco Bay. Bad Magic is fun for a while, but Zielinski overworks the gags, and ends the novel—most unwisely—with an unconscionably prolix Appendix that overexplains relevant occultism and arcana.

On the other hand, how not to admire an archvillain who confesses, “I want to rule the world. It’s a hobby of mine.”