Worlds within worlds within worlds…

Holy shitsnacks, you guys. Has it really been almost a month since I last posted a blog? I’m so sorry. Please don’t think I’ve forgotten or given up. I assure you when I lose my shit completely, I’ll probably tell you first. But, the good news is that our great moving adventure is complete! We have reached our final destination and unpacked the suitcases and put the dishes away and filled out the paperwork and complied with all kinds of mind-numbing bureaucratic nonsense. Now, onward and upward. I’ll be back on a regular blogging schedule as much as is possible from here on out. Cross my heart.

It is strange, though, this new living situation. You know how you have those friends who you can geek out with over shared interests? Like, your super scifi-loving homie, or the person who turned you on to your favorite tv show? Through a series of fucked up coincidences, I have somehow ended up having one of those friends as a roommate. It’s a full-on when worlds collide situation. Point is, rather than going out and being normal and interacting with other humans, we decided to spend a whole day drinking on the couch and binge watching season one of The Magicians. We read the first two books together a few years ago, so most of that couch time was spent having some version of this conversation a hundred times:

“Who’s that guy? What’s happening right now? Why’d they do that?”

“Dammit, Vanessa, I don’t know! I don’t remember! Stop asking me questions!”

Still, the show is awesome and now I have to go back and reread the books. Because clearly I don’t remember a lot of the details. I’ll try to run down the basics for you, though, with the caveat that I’m about to use some analogies that really only work on the surface. Bear with me for a minute.

Imagine that you’re a Harry Potter type. You don’t know magic is real, but you’ve always felt a little weird and out of place. Suddenly, you’re told that you can study magic at a school specifically for people who are particularly talented, and that you’ve been scouted for some time without your knowledge. Now, on top of all that, imagine that when you arrive at said university, you are a big old geeky fan of something like the Narnia books. As a reflex, you couch everything in this weird new magical paradigm in Narnian terms simply because it’s the best frame of reference you have. With me so far? Good. Being chosen and, obviously, being the main character, when the shit inevitably hits the fan, it’s aimed at you. Of course it is. Only, here’s the problem: the only possible solution that you can come up with to fight the big bad, comes from the books, the fiction, that you’re obsessed with. It’s silly and no one takes you seriously, but you’re absolutely convinced that in addition to all this other wacky shit, Narnia might be real.

And you’re right.

In all seriousness, though, that summary isn’t too far off, putting aside my using somewhat lazy comparisons because they’re easy points of reference (but it seems appropriate, given the books-about-books, worlds-within-worlds nature of this series – I think that if he weren’t probably sick to death of hearing how his books are similar to/different from the Potter and Narnia series, Grossman would approve of my tortured analogy). Quentin Coldwater is our hero, who has recently finished a short stint in a mental hospital when we meet him. He leaves the facility so he can make it to an interview for a spot in a graduate program, but when he gets there realizes that the interview is a fake and he’s there to take an exam for entrance into a university for magicians. Mind fucked, he passes the test and starts his studies at Brakebills, which has a vibe like Hogwarts and Harvard had a baby – snooty and refined, but still full of idiot young people with the requisite hormones and illicit substances onboard. Quentin loves the Fillory books, a series of children’s fantasy novels from the 1930s, which he’s read so often since he was a kid that he knows them backwards and forwards. Thus, when the bad guy from the books rolls into the school and starts killing innocent bystanders, he figures out what it is when no one else does, but he doesn’t trust himself because of his so recently being 5150’d. (That’s not a spoiler, this is all in the first half of the first book – we’re just getting to the good bits and I’m going to have to cut you off, sorry.)

But here’s the thing I dig the most about The Magicians trilogy: it’s magic by grownups for grownups, with all the crap that comes along with grownupness or striving for grownupness (sex, drama, drugs, drug problems, obsession, frustration, self-doubt, existential angst, loss, death, etc). And while you’ll find some of these in fantasy for kids or young adults, anything with a villain worth his or her salt, there’s something really refreshing about the realism of these characters and how utterly fucked up they are. Like we all were at that age. They’re trying to learn how to be people just as much as they’re trying to learn to be magicians, and Grossman pulls no punches in showing how tough that can be. Sometimes shit gets dark, you know? Even if you don’t have otherworldly beasts stalking you. None of which is to say that adults can’t or shouldn’t thoroughly enjoy fantasy for children, but I’m pleased to see something in this vein that is specifically not for children, that also isn’t just a romance novel or one long fight scene in disguise. That shit gets boring real quick.

So, yeah. I highly recommend The Magicians books, if you’re up for some excellent magic and worldbuilding with bonus drinking, drugging, and sexy times. And if you’re the sort of person who has access to television on the interwebs (not endorsing nefarious behavior, but not judging it, either) the television adaptation is definitely worth your time. And it’s really beautifully shot, which surprised me. Because SyFy (fuck those guys for making me spell it that way) has been pretty hit or miss in the past with the old production value. Let’s hope they’re on an upswing, yeah?

Anyway, new blogs soon. Stay tuned. I bought a fat stack of books the other day. Because I can. Because there’s a bookstore here. It’s like it’s the real world or something. Hooray for civilization! It’s so good to be back.