I’m going to feel slightly guilty about this one, because I don’t think Stephan Zielinski’s Bad Magic is a terrible book. In a lot of ways, it’s not even a bad book. Yes, it has a super-irritating narrative voice, written in the present-tense with lots of choppy, staccato sentences that are trying too hard to be cool; yes, it has totally confusing stretches of dialogue where four characters speak amongst themselves at length without any indication who’s saying what; yes, it has a magicpunk setting that’s not specifically derivative of anything, but feels generic all the same; yes, it has characters whose only differentiating aspects seem to be the catchphrases they use and the clothes they’re occasionally described as wearing; yes, it has a plot that exists as a series of events without any real motivation; yes, scenes are interspersed with each other in paragraph-length jump cuts that make the book the literary equivalent of a music video; but for all that, it’s not horrible.
Still and all, I’m not going to finish it. I read halfway through the book, and every time I went to pick it up, I subconsciously winced and wished I didn’t have to read it. Well, hey, it turns out I don’t.
I suspect the book may just be the sort of thing I really, really don’t like. It’s got that sort of Doctorow/Stross/Slashdot techno-pseudo-hip feel to it, even though it doesn’t actually have any tech, which is a remarkable achievement. It’s an atmosphere and style to which I’ve developed a toxic allergy, perhaps caused by over-exposure to techno-pseudo-hipness over the course of the last decade. So if you don’t have my aversions, don’t not try the book on my account. But certainly don’t try it on my account, either.