Monday, February 22, 2010

Magic Street

My trip to my local library a while back yeilded a few audio books for me to check out. They weren't part of my whole Science Fiction Reading Project, but I'm grandfathering them in (I suppose that you can't really use that term that way, but I don't care, I'm doing it all the same).

Magic Street is a book by Orson Scott Card that I'd previously never heard of. I've been a fan of Card since I first read Ender's Game back in tenth grade. Since then, I've read the rest of the original Ender quartet. I really enjoyed those books. Then I read the Shadow quartet. Those weren't quite as good. I've also read all the Alvin Maker books, all the Homecoming books, and even some of his standalone novels like Pastwatch, A Planet Called Treason, Hart's Hope, Wyrms, Lost Boys, Treasure Box, and Enchantment. It's probably the most books by a single author that I've read.

Unfortunately, in my mind, his writing has slipped in recent years. Like Stephen King, whose writing was sharp and fast-paced in his early years, Card has fallen off as he's gotten older, and his stories have become bloated and uninteresting. This new book by Card, Magic Street, is no different. It just moved too slowly for it to be very interesting at all. But aside from that, the story, idea behind it all, just didn't catch my attention, it didn't speak to me. The book is a modern fantasy, involving a fairyland that is superimposed over our own world, and incorporating many of the characters from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. All in all it was just too silly for me to take seriously. It was meant to be serious, though. It wasn't a comedy. I think I might be too old for this book, although I don't think it was aimed particularly at younger readers.

In his author's note at the end of the tale, he said that he wrote the book with all black main characters after having been challenged by a friend to do so. His friend was disappointed that black people don't get their equal time in literature. For the percentage of the population that they represent, they don't get a similar percentage of starring roles in books. Card begged to be allowed off the hook, because he's not black, and any attempt that he might make to portray a black character would come up wanting. In the end, however, he went for it. His portrayal of black culture seemed genuine to this pasty white guy anyway. He seemed to have succeeded. I'm sure black people who read the story, however, surely found things that didn't seem quite genuine. Who knows?

But I wonder if the fact that this book was so black-centric was why I didn't like it. It didn't speak to me like many of Card's other works have. Am I a racist? I don't think I am, but I guess there's something to be said about having a book targeted at you. When it's written for a certain piece of the population, like blacks, then they are more likely to enjoy it. I guess Card's friend was right when he said there needs to be more black main characters in fiction. If I were a black man, I might be less inclined to read books, just because the characters never resemble me in any way.

Anyway, I made it through the whole book, but I couldn't really recommend it to anyone. If you want to read a good book by Card, then read Pastwatch, or the original Ender series. Those are some really good books. Magic Street just wasn't fun like I wanted it to be. I guess you can't win them all, and even someone's favorite author doesn't always please. Then again, if you're black, this book might be right up your alley.


  1. I'm planning on becoming black in the next two to five years. I think I'll pick up the book then.

  2. Isn't it interesting that the character on the cover is pink? Marketing fail.