The Siege of Wonder

by Mark S. Geston
Reviewed date: 2018 Jun 24
Rating: 1
190 pages
cover art

After centuries of fighting wizards, dedicated scientists have found the answer to winning the war: turn magic into science. Reduce it to its final empirical base, to be read and studied.

But to gather such information, the Special Office decides a transmitter must be implanted in a legendary unicorn, the prize talisman of the most powerful magician. Then it can spy upon the highest councils of sorcery and the daily transmissions analyzed.

Wearing this electronic eye in place of his own, Aden enters the Holy City and carries out the mission. But it leaves him vulnerable to the wonders of enchantment and he wanders the middle ground between two warring forces.

As scientific rationality picks up momentum and the enchantment of the enemy crumbles away before it, Aden--and those out to stop him--races to find the unicorn again...

A war pitting science against magic? Rationality and the scientific method applied to magic, ferreting out its secrets and laying bare its inner workings? How could I not read this book.

Unfortunately, it's a muddled mess. Geston gives us long infodumps about the history of the Wizards' War, but these reveal only incomplete and disjointed bits and pieces. We learn that the war has been ongoing for 700 years. Science has finally gained the upper hand by turning its rational processes to studying the mechanisms of magic. Magic's power works on a spectrum parallel to the electromagnetic spectrum. Not just one parallel spectrum, though: there are at least eight. With special sensors, the scientists can detect these emanations. By following these emanations, magical constructs (like gryphons, giants, or dragons) can be traced back to the Men of Power who create them. And with the properly-calibrated weapons, magic can be destroyed.

It's not clear, but it also seems that once magic is understood, it ceases to function. That is, if the scientists can explain to a Man of Power (that is, a wizard) how his magic works, then he will be unable to perform that magic. Geston seems to hint at this a number of times, but doesn't come out and say it.

The plot is sort of dumb. Aden is an agent for the Special Office. He infiltrates the Holy City and places an electronic spy eye in a unicorn owned by a powerful wizard. This eye transmits vital information back to the Special Office. Frustratingly, Geston never explains what that information is. In fact, the information from the eye doesn't seem to figure into the story at all. Magic is defeated because Etridge, an ambitious military officer for the science team, decides that all this waiting around is silly. He launches an unauthorized invasion deep into magic's territory. He makes it all the way to the Holy City, and destroys it. Magic is defeated. Science wins.

Aden, meanwhile, is wandering purposelessly after his mission was completed. He leaves the Holy City and wanders around in the magical lands for a while. He meets a beautiful wizard woman who he falls in love with, I think. He stays with her a while, inside her magic bubble. He leaves after missiles from science strike her compound. Aden keeps wandering and eventually ends up back in the Holy City when Etridge's forces arrive and destroy it. Etridge and Aden have their dramatic confrontation, and the book ends. Wait, dramatic confrontation? Why? What does Aden have to do with anything? It makes no sense.

I'm sorry Mr. Geston. I liked the premise: magic vs. science. But I didn't like the book.

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