Magic Time by Marc Scott Zicree, Barbara Hambly
List Price: $26.00
Hardcover - 384 pages 1 Ed edition (November 27, 2001)
Eos (Trade); ISBN: 0061050687
Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

I had a good time reading Magic Time. It's not especially heavy fantasy, which isn't surprising, considering it was developed for TV, but it's a good story written by an excellent team, Zicree and Hambly. If you like Terry Brooks' Running With The Demon (SFRevu Oct. '97)you'll like this too.

In a move not unfamiliar to readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy, the people in Magic Time are going through their morning in the usual way, flying back to DC to deliver the report from a secret undercover operation, walking out on the head of your law firm because you can't stomach lying for a living, leaving your deadbeat boyfriend to fend for himself while you go off to pound the streets of NY as a cop. You know, typical, normal lives.

All of which come to a crashing halt when the Magic Time arrives. 

Somewhere in the US a team of government physicists working on a black (magic?) project have opened the door to a whole lot of magical energy...and the world changes suddenly into a very strange place. The very rules of physics have even changed, including things like the burning temperature of gunpowder and jet fuel...making our technological civilization grind to a halt.

In its place is the magic that people are finding suddenly within them, and the weird transformations they are undergoing to become demons, gollums, angels, seers and a whole host of classic fantasy characters. All set against the backdrop of an America that feels like home.

The story follows Cal Griffith, who's been dreaming about darkness and swords and trying to get through the day at an NYC law firm to keep a home for himself and his sister...who's attending the American Ballet School. When the change comes, Cal's relatively unaffected, except for finding the sword he's been dreaming about in a pile of garbage, but his sister, always light on her feet, sprouts wings and well...flys.

Cal picks up a cast of characters from the flotsam and jetsam around NY that he knew as refugees and street people before the change, as well as a friend and ally in Colleen Brooks -- who was a street cop until the change, and whose interest in bow-hunting is about to come in really handy in a world where guns might as well be hammers. Psychic street people, a secret service agent without a president to protect, a spinster schoolteacher and a miner who becomes a thing of the dark. Lots of changes coming, but the big one, the entry of an evil force into the world through that laboratory door, isn't done yet, and Cal's drawn to the source of the change, drawn to a destiny to try to put the Djinn back in the bottle.

With a little help from his friends.  

There's something horribly appealing about a world without technology in it. Stripped of all the devices that cloak us, the characters become not just more human, despite the physical mutations they experience, but more importantly/ more consequential. Oh god, I'm going to say it: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. Stop me now. But that's what you find in Magic Time. A cast of unhappy folks trapped in lives that don't make much sense find that depending on each other for survival (and possibly even to save the world) makes for a better deal. 

In the grand tradition of long running TV shows, Magic Time is much more interested in setting the stage for future episodes than in moving the characters along in their development. For most of the band, that suffices, but for Cal and Colleen, it smacks of reader manipulation. Either they're going to fall in love or they're not, and putting the question off doesn't improve the veracity of the story a bit.

The best thing that could happen to this book is that two more volumes could come out to make a trilogy out of it. Soon. The worst thing would be for it to actually be picked up as a TV series, in which case we'd have to wait until every possible plot line is exhausted before we find out what finally happens to our band of heroes...and whether Cal gets Colleen.

Of course, the writers no doubt see it the other way around, and they're entitled to their point of view, but I'm selfish. I want to know what happens next.

2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu