The Magic Goes Away

by Larry Niven
Reviewed date: 2009 Jun 29
Rating: 2
212 pages
cover art

I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but I like Larry Niven, so I'd been keeping my eyes open for The Magic Goes Away at the used bookstore. It's been five or six years, but I finally found it. The story is about what I expected.

The Magic Goes Away is set in Earth's past, when magic still worked. The effects of magic are waning, because the world's supply of mana is being depleted. One magician, Warlock, hatches a plan to get more mana. He calls a council of magicians and suggests that everyone work together to capture the moon and bring it down to earth. The mana from the moon will solve the shortage.

The concept of mana as a limited resource is something Niven invented. It later became the basis for the game Magic: The Gathering. In The Magic Goes Away, Niven uses it as a parallel to the world's oil crisis. The worldwide shortage of mana means disaster for some--Atlantis is swallowed up by the ocean when the magicians can no longer hold back the sea. For those who survive, it means a shorter lives--rejuvenations spells no longer work--and a changed way of life--houses must be built to hold themselves up, instead of being supported by magic.

Warlock gets help from Clubfoot, a American Indian with a limp; from the magician Mirandee; from the dead skull of the necromancer Wavyhill; and Orolandes, a Greek warrior. The group is hounded by Piranther, a magician who seeks to rule the world.

The book also contains a Sandra Miesel essay, The Mana Crisis, which examines the themes in Niven's Warlock series and in The Magic Goes Away in particular.

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