Dec 10, 2007

Magic Street by Orson Scott Card

Dreams are the stuff that life is made of.

Magic Street opens with a very strange birth: a woman has a baby after only one hour of gestation. After the baby is taken away from her in mysterious circumstances, she has no memory of what happened. About an hour later, in another area of the L.A. neighbourhood of Baldwin Hills, a young boy named Cecil Tucker finds a baby inside a grocery bag, covered with ants. The baby ends up being taken in by Ura Lee Smitcher, Ceese’s neighbour, and Ceese helps bring him up.

Mack Street, the baby, is still very young when he realizes that he can see and feel things that nobody else can. He calls these “cold dreams” – they are instances in which he can see the deepest unspoken wishes of someone in the neighbourhood, and, if he doesn’t interrupt the dream before its end, something strange, and inevitably terrible, always happens to the person involved. What is happening is that something, or someone, is granting people’s secret wishes, but with a twist – which is why Tamika Brown, a young girl who loves to swim, wakes up one night inside her parent’s water mattress.

This is a modern story in a modern setting, but it also involves Faerie lore and character’s from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: changelings, an entrance to faerie land, Puck the tricksters, and Oberon and Titania and their eternal quarrel.

This book was a lot darker than I expected it to be. Tamika Brown’s story is nightmare inducing, as are some of the other consequences of the cold dreams. There were also humorous moments in the book, though – the mood goes changing as the story moves along. Something else I liked was how Orson Scott Card mixed the belief in the Fay folk with other mythological traditions, as well as with stories about William Shakespeare himself. Titania and Puck claim to have known him, and this reminded me of what Neil Gaiman does in The Sandman, and it made me smile. Shakespeare was obviously a man who understood people and their emotions better than they often understand them themselves, so one can see where tales about him having been touched by some sort of magic or power would come from.

There were several instances in the book where I feared that the story would take a direction that would disappoint me – settle for too simplistic a solution, become too obvious. But in every one of those instances I fortunately turned out to be wrong. The book is not obvious, although it could easily have been so. But Orson Scott Card plays with the reader’s expectations. Like a glamour cast by a Fairy, the book deceives us, only to set us back on track later on.

While I did not like this book quite as much as the lovely Enchantment, it was still very much a worthwhile read, and I certainly plan on reading more of Card’s work in the future. This was my last read for the 2nds Challenge – thank you Joy for hosting this great challenge and motivating me to read more books by great authors.

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8 comments:

Suey said...

I just bought this today for my son for Christmas. He loves the Ender's Game series, so I hope he enjoys this one. He's a hard one to buy books for.

Chris said...

I'm glad you read this one! I had forgotten so much of the story! It's been awhile since I've read it and now I want to go back to it again. This and Enchantment are his two big Fantasy books and I agree that Enchantment is the better of the two, though I loved this one. His other fantasy is Hart's Hope and it's not as popular, but very good! So you reading this and Carl reading Ender's Game must be my Christmas gifts! :D Your reviews sure did put a smile on my face!

Debi said...

I have yet to read anything by Card. (I promise that will change soon, Chris!) This one sounds like one I would definitely enjoy. Of course, you really do have a way of making every book a magical experience, you know!

Carl V. said...

This is one of those books where the cover does nothing for me, but the description of the story itself is very intriguing. And now that I have fallen for Card due to Ender's Game, I could see myself enjoying this one.

Rhinoa said...

Sounds interesting. I haven't read anything by Card but so many people are doing the Cardathon challenge I feel like I should give them a go at some point.

Stephanie said...

Oh...this sounds so good!! Looks like I definitely need to add Card to my list of authors.

Nymeth said...

Suey: I hope your son likes it! I have yet to read the Ender series, but I really want to.

Chris: I definitely want to check out Hart's Hope, and also that new series set in the same world as the story in Wizards. That was a great one!

Debi: Chris is going to make us all read Card, isn't he? :P

Carl: Yeah, I'm not too fond of the cover either. And it's too bad, because they could have come up with such cool artwork for a story like this!

Rhinoa: I was going to join the Cardathon, but I figured it'd be wiser not to join more challenges. I still want to read more of his work next year, though.

Stephanie: You do indeed! Chris is the expert so I'll let him advise you, but I think "Enchantment" is a great start. It was for me!

Booklogged said...

I was glad to read your good reviews of this book. It's one I have on my list for the Cardathon Challenge and was a bit worried about.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Nymeth.

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