BLACK MAGIC by Whitley Strieber


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Strieber, who generated bona-fide shivers and chills with the unabashed horror of The Wolfen and The Hunger, goes astray with this slow, predictable, silly mix of routine spy-chasing and telekinetic/astral zap-ology. ""Black Magic"" is the Soviet scheme to use astral, extra-low-frequency (ELF) mind-control to first neutralize the US missile force (by mind-zapping the US into a disastrous first strike)--and then to turn all Americans into mind-controlled zombies. And what exactly is the source of all this ELF power? Well, the main power-bank is an effete Iranian youth named Jamshid, who's hiding out in South Dakota, ready to zap America with a projected ""Field"" from Russia via ELF antennae. (Jamshid and his Muslim Brotherhood pals think they're going to destroy both the US and the USSR; they don't know that the KGB is behind their whole set-up.) There are two complications getting in the way of the Soviet scheme, however. In Russia, the two ""Black Magic"" overseers--one military, one civilian--ere at each other's throats (the military man is against the phase-two zombie plan): this feud will eventually lead to double-cross and murder. And in New York, the one man who knows all about Jamshid and ELF--ex-CIA agent Paul Winter--is, for obvious reasons, being lethally pursued by KGB agents. . . while Paul, with actress-girlfriend Catherine, tries to convince the CIA that ELF is for real. Paul escapes assorted murder attempts (""He somehow managed to neutralize a DDK-forty aerosol,"" mutters a Russian); Catherine is abducted and tortured; with CIA approval, they eventually head for South Dakota to locate and de-activate the ELF-control center. And finally, there's a race/showdown just before the Grand Zap is supposed to occur--as Jamshid's weird-o mind releases snakes, bats, and such to fend off the good guys. Suspense-less flimflam overall--with comic-book dialogue for the pallid Paul/Catherine romance--and especially weak when compared with Campbell Black's Brainfire or other scary, credible treatments of international-evil-by-mind-control.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow