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REVIEW: The Silicon Mage by Barbara Hambly

REVIEW: The Silicon Mage by Barbara Hambly

Computer programmer Joanna Sheraton must rescue an imprisoned wizard to save the universe from destruction.

There was a time when Joanna Sheraton knew nothing of the Void. She was an ordinary computer programmer, toiling in a cubicle in air-conditioned Southern California comfort, unaware that sinister forces had penetrated her universe. But from across the interdimensional divide, an evil mage had put in motion a scheme for eternal life, by transferring himself into a computer that feeds on Earth’s life force. Called upon to help by the wizard Antryg, Joanna could do nothing more than delay. At the end of her first sojourn across the Void, Antryg was imprisoned and their task seemed hopeless.

Now she must depart from Earth once more, to rescue Antryg and save humanity. She is friendless, and the dark mage’s forces hound her every step. But a good hacker is not easily deterred.

The Silicon Mage by Barbara HamblyDear Ms. Hambly,

Last autumn I read two of your classic novels. First was “Bride of the Rat God” which I loved. This was followed by “The Silent Tower” which I didn’t adore quite as much but which ended with a cliffhanger which made me glad that the next two books in the series were already written so that I wouldn’t have to wait – hate waiting! – in order to find out what happens next. I had some other books I’d already committed to read and thus it’s taken me until now to dive into “The Silicon Mage” to discover how Joanna plans to save Antryg from the certain torture he’ll endure at the hands of the Council. Oh, and she also needs his help to save her world and his.

The opening line is a great one but I won’t quote it so that people who haven’t read “The Silent Tower” won’t have things spoiled too much for them. Because I strongly advise newbies to the series to start at the beginning since this book takes up right where that one left off, jumps straight into the action and doesn’t cut much slack for people who either don’t know what happened in that book or who don’t remember the finer details. You do provide some background stuff but no great heaping info dumps.

Joanne’s initial quest is to save Antryg from the place where she’s pretty sure he will have been imprisoned – that is if he’s still alive after a six week delay she was forced to endure as she made her plans, downloaded the information she thought would help them save the world and stuffed a nifty backpack with all kinds of doodads which eventually come in handy along the way. Joanne is, I think, like a lot of us in that she’s not especially brave, isn’t a kickass badass heroine ready to take names and karate chop booty. She really is a mild mannered computer programmer who has to nerve herself up, and quiet that little inner voice telling her to just go home and forget all this, to do what she knows has to be done. A lot of people will no doubt identify with that. But she’s also got an inner core of decency which helps her to stifle that inner voice and jump into the formless, and may I say intensely scary sounding, Void knowing that if anything goes wrong, she may never emerge from it or be stuck on the other side, alone and friendless, for life. That takes guts.

Her arrival shows her that things really are as bad as she was afraid they’d be. People she thought she might be able to rely on turn out to either not believe her or are eliminated. The new friend she makes is a touch convenient yet Pella turns into a fascinating character who, along with Joanna, grows in strength and character across the course of the book. Another return person from book one, Caris, is initially suspicious of Joanna with good reason. It takes some concrete evidence to sway him but given his profession and training, it’s the only way his change of belief makes sense. I had to laugh at how the rescue takes place and yet, as with Caris’s change of heart, what occurs is perfectly logical given Antryg’s brilliance and knowledge gleaned from previous years of imprisonment.

And thus begins, or rather should I say continues, the cat and mouse hunt as Antryg, Joanna and Caris once again become the intrepid band on the run trying to thwart the evil mage. One thing that ends up annoying me is the almost constant Weather Channel reports on how cold it is, how wet it is, how miserable our protagonists are, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I didn’t need to keep being hit over the head with this as the weather doesn’t seem to change and I already understand how gawdawful the conditions are. There is also a deviation subplot-lette which made me wonder why on earth it was there. It’s gross, it’s nasty, and at the time it only seemed to show Antyg’s humanity. Later on it becomes clear why you included it but at the time, it had me scratching my head.

The final showdown was suspenseful and intense, even if I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on part of the time. It does make sense and again I love that Joanna and her programming skills help save the day. Then comes the afterward and the reason for the earlier inclusion of that seemingly pointless episode which in fact turns into a deus ex machina. Generally I hate deus ex machinas but I’m still pondering whether or not I’ll make an exception here since you have the main characters clearly call it what it is. As the book progressed, I also wondered how much more Antryg was going to be beat up before The End. The man needs his own hospital ward.

I found “The Silicon Mage” to be a good follow up to “The Silent Tower” yet I’m glad it doesn’t wind up with another suspenseful “Who Shot J.R.?” ending. I feel I can take a bit more of a breather before starting “The Dog Wizzard.” Hopefully in that book I’ll discover how Antryg is keeping himself busy and if he likes tacos. B



REVIEW: The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly

REVIEW: The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly

Seventeen titles in all are republished by Open Road Media and can be perused here.

Dear Ms. Hambly,

The Silent Tower by Barbara HamblyIn the discussion of my review of your book “Bride of the Rat God,” lots of our readers chimed in with their favorite Hambly books and with suggestions of what book of yours I might try next. The Windrose series was listed more than once and I added it to my “eventually going to get it” list of books. Then I was contacted by Open Road Media about possibly reading more of your newly available ebooks and when I said, “Sure! And here are some book titles that have been recommended to me” this is the one that was forwarded (thank you very much, Lauren). After checking out some reviews at Amazon and getting a rough idea of the plot, I dove in.

I won’t even attempt to describe the plot but instead will steal the blurb from Open Road Media:

A wizard and a computer programmer from opposite sides of an interdimensional portal must work together to save their worlds from destruction

In a world where wizards are relegated to ghettos, it is no surprise to see one murdered in the street. But for Stonne Caris, a young warrior monk who sees the killing and gives chase to the culprit, there is nothing ordinary about seeing a murderer disappear into a black, inky portal. The Archmage sends him in search of Antryg Windrose—a half-mad mage who understands the nature of these passages between dimensions.

On the other side of the Void is Joanna, a programmer as mild as Caris is deadly. She has spent her life in cubicles, staring into computer terminals, as far from heroism as she can get. But when the power that is crossing between dimensions draws her through the Void, she finds herself battling to save a world she never even knew existed.

Okay, so I dive in and almost immediately feel that I’m slightly over my head and at risk of drowning. I think some of my reluctance to read fantasy books stems from the initial feeling I usually get of being totally lost. As the world building is accomplished, I frantically dog paddle around trying to keep everything and everyone straight and oh, lets not forget the plot of the book. Once I know which direction shore is and strike out for it then get my feet under me, I’m okay but those initial “which end is up?” moments frustrate me. Add to this the fact that there is lots of information here that initially seems extraneous and the first 100 or so pages were, let me be honest, a slog. The sections of Joanna in our world were like a much needed oasis to me on a dry journey. The repeated descriptions of the waving grass along the roads and the silent, menacing tower in which Antryg is held seemed on an endless loop. I had to call to mind the number of people who raved about the book to keep going. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

Then I got my bearings and began to get caught up in the story. Things began to seem familiar, facts mentioned earlier came to mind, and your skill in painting another world sucked me in. I also enjoyed the wry, understated touches of humor as our band of enforced companions traveled along, dodging danger and becoming closer even as they, in truth, didn’t entirely trust each other. The gentle unfolding of the romance is almost as light as a butterfly as these two delicately and slowly realize what they feel – and that their feelings might be reciprocated. More of a “coming home” versus a “Hot damn! I’m in lurve!” It also makes sense how it spools out between two people who don’t actually want it, never expected it and have never experienced anything like it before.

And when the betrayals kick in, they’re all the more gut wrenching. Was everything Joanna felt a lie? Can she trust anyone on either world again? And worst of all, is the heartbreaking choice she has to quickly make the right one? Let me tell you I was madly reading at top speed by this point. “Wait! No, that can’t be! Nooooo, tell me it ain’t so. Is this the end? OMG, it’s not.” My kittens were regarding me strangely and no doubt wondering about momma’s sanity.

Some things seem dated and younger readers will no doubt be baffled or charmed by this vision of antique computer technology (Floppy discs! Yes, they were once state of the art. Go look it up.) but I’m perversely glad you didn’t update this. Am I set to immediately start the next book in the series? You betcha! Do I need to wait to do that in order to complete other reading commitments? &^%$#@ it, yes. But I’m caught up in the series now and will be returning to it as soon as I can. B- for the first part, B+ for the rest.


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