Zielinski, Stephan -- Bad Magic [re-read]

An old book (2004! -- relatively early in the urban-fantasy craze). Still very enjoyable, although in retrospect it doesn't quite feel like it's pulling in any particular direction. Retrospect includes the fact that the author never wrote a sequel, or any other fiction at all, as far as I know.

We are given an extremely motley crew of San Francisco occultists. Motley to the point of dysfunctionality, right? Chloe is a shaman whose spirit animal is the geoduck clam. Maggie-Sue is a misanthropic veterinarian and elementalist. Kristof Arbeiter is a psychopharmacist junkie. Joe Washington is a dead midget voodoo sorcerer. And others, ending with Al Rider, who practices the subtlest art: synaesthetic magic. In his spare time he makes sculptures out of traffic noise and the light reflected from stirred coffee.

The group are undercover operatives in the secret war, the war that underlies our reality, the war between... well, between Seattle and San Diego. It's a philosophical thing, or maybe just a lifestyle thing elevated to the level of philosophy. The war is real, though, and the skirmishes are ugly.

I'm not really communicating the tone, here. The point is, this book is understatedly and consistently hilarious. Violent, flamboyant, full of horrific monsters and fates worse than death -- but funny as heck.

You get one bookful of these characters, plus a bonus monograph on Zombi diego, the San Diego Sunbathing Zombie. (I haven't been to San Diego so I don't know how accurate it is.) Enjoy while it lasts.


I want to re-read this. Snarky urban street magicians. I was hooked from the moment I met the invisible wizard walking through a hospital burn ward, peeling pain off of patients' skins and dropping it into a liquid-nitrogen thermos for later alchemy.


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