Yesterday’s interview with Jack Barrow leads me neatly to today’s pondering of his book, which I have read. I had no idea how much I wanted this book until it turned up, but it turns out that I’ve been craving this kind of thing for a long time. Our Mr Barrow is a magician, he knows his stuff, and thus when he sets out to write comedy magical fiction, he does so from a basis of understanding, and the results are kickass.
Most fiction writing about magic, occult people and Pagans comes from the outside, and it’s usually there to be a plot device, spice the story up or cover a plot hole or five. Often this depresses the hell out of me, especially in the paranormal romance genre.
The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil features four guys who I know I’ve met, somewhere along the way. The geeky, overweight, slightly intoxicated ones who might be totally ridiculous, or might, on the other hand, be all that stands between us and certain doom. This book is full of chaotic magic that is all about the power of your will and imagination, not at all about having the right coloured candle. The insights are so on the money, and so funny… I laughed out loud a lot.
Furthermore, this isn’t just excellent magical writing, its damn fine writing. Mr Barrow has a self conscious narratorial style (Not unlike Robert Rankin) and plays with the nature of fiction and reality in a seriously effective way. It is a clever, clever book. I rarely find a book that both surprises me and holds together, but this one does. Most of the time I had no idea where it was going, but it went there, and I followed along, alternately giggling and being impressed.
Now, The Hidden Masters have the potential to be a series, which would be splendid, to which end, lots of copies need to wing their way out into the world. The publisher, Twin Serpents, is not big. However, I’m a firm believer in small publishing, and in getting more good stuff out there. If you like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin, if you like clever, knowing, very funny writing, and if you’ve been aching for the kind of magical realism that comes from inside the English magical tradition, this is your book. Seek it out now.