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Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"Magician's Greatest Risk"
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Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952
Communion Blood by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Tor hc. Oct. 1999
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult, Pocket Books hc, May 2000
The Quiet Invasion by Sarah Zettel, Warner hc., Feb. 2000
Obsidian Butterfly an Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novel by Laurell K. Hamilton, ACE hc., Jan. 2000
Sky Knife by Marella Sands, Tor Historical pb. March 2000
A Magician, or anyone who has Power of any sort, mundane, financial, spiritual, inherited nobility, or simply by being in the spotlight of publicity and having the ear of the media (e.g. Elian Gonzales & families), anyone who has Power is at risk. They are karmicly responsible for the results of the use of that Power, by their own hand, or merely in their Name.
The Teacher chooses the student carefully and with much trepidation, for once taught, the student will use Knowledge according to his own personal values (Second House / Taurus). The results of the student's actions, magical and otherwise, rebound to the teacher's karma. S/he who has been taught is Honor-bound to teach -- but teaching is a terrible risk.
Besides Teaching, there is another Honor-bound function inherent in carrying Power. And it is much more risky than Teaching, for it requires a kind of surrender. It is very much like giving your ATM password to someone -- it allows them access to your Assets. When that Asset is Power, the potential damage to you is far greater than any loss of money could ever be.
That Honor-bound function is Love.
Not just romantic love, not just sexual involvement, not just the investment in a "marriage" in the sense of life-partnership, but love in all its various forms.
Love is an element in Honor. An Honorable person can not fail to love, for lovingness is intrinsic to the definition of Honor itself. Look around you and find a truly Honorable person who is filled with Indifference. The opposite of Love is Indifference. Find an Honorable person who is indifferent to the fates and plights of those around them.
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain novels leap instantly to mind. There is a portrait of an Honorable vampire/alchemist, and what is his repeating life-story? In Communion Blood,(reviewed in the Jan. 2000 issue of this column and available online at http://www.lightworks.com or at http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2000.html - search on the title.) St. Germain risks all to save Olivia's servant, Niklos. Here as always, he helps those in misfortune, puts himself at risk, lends his Power to offset injustice. And he trusts ghouls.
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult is a portrait of an Honorable Lawyer, which is realistic and believable. Yes, that sounds odd, and technically this book isn't even SF, though I might class it as Fantasy. It is set in the contemporary Amish community in Pennsylvania. The author ably uses the worldbuilding techniques of sf/f to portray and develop a penetrating view of an "alien" culture with the plot-dynamic of a murder-mystery.
But the thematic core of the book is Trust offered by a Magician of Power (a high-profile, high-win-rate Lawyer who can "magically" get her client, an Amish girl, out of a murder charge) to a young Amish woman who has suffered dissociative amnesia about the murder she's accused of.
Out of Honor and Trust, the Lawyer freely offers the use of her Power to this "alien" girl -- who by acculturation and nature simply could not consider murder as a solution to any problem. The Lawyer studies, tests and examines the girl, her society, her family and her religion, and comes to trust the girl's word that she did not commit the murder. She then uses some very Slick Tricks to get the girl off.
Then she discovers who the real murderer is, and knows that the Slick Trick she used was an abuse of her Power. This is an intricately plotted novel, fast moving, gripping, suspenseful and very, very memorable.
The Quiet Invasion is set mostly on Venus which is being invaded by Aliens from far away who see Venus has a wonderful climate ripe for becoming a garden planet they can live on. Their own planet's ecology has been fatally disrupted by their genetic manipulations, and they must have Venus.
Meanwhile, an idealistic woman from Earth has founded a floating city in Venus's atmosphere devoted to scientific research, and funded by her own slick-tricks backed by her personal Power -- a vast charisma.
She has succeeded because of a friendship based on mutual trust with a woman in Earth's government. Upon discovering the Alien Invasion, she breaks that trust -- and it's up to the reader to decide if she abused her Power or not.
The story of the leadership on the alien planet is also told, and the theme there is also trust -- a trust between the sentient lifeforms they have engineered to become their cities, and the alien's own governing bodies. A trust develops between human and alien on Venus. And in every case, the trust is based on an opinion of the trusted formed on incomplete information. In every case, the person with Power must leave themselves vulnerable when placing that power at the disposal of another whom they must trust.
This novel is not about "blind trust" -- but about trusting on the basis of one's best judgement, and the ways in which that judgement can be at fault, and the consequences of acting on faulty judgement. The consequences are just as real whether there is complete faith in the trusted, or not. The consequences are just as dire whether the motives or original intentions of truster and trustee are pristine, or not.
In "real" life, it is always necessary to act on insufficient information -- we are not omniscient, and can only guess. If we guess wrong, the consequences are dire. If we hesitate and fail to act because of fear of being wrong, the consequences are dire.
Reading novels such as The Quiet Invasion is one way to examine yourself for flaws in your Trust-mechanism without any dire consequences. This is a book well worth its hardcover price -- watch for the paperback.
Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton is likewise about trust, mutual trust between those about equal in Power, and as it turns out neither one of them is in error in their judgement of the other. The two are Edward, an assassin character from previous novels, and Anita Blake herself, the lead character of all these novels.
If you read Anita Blake for the romances between Anita and her werewolf and vampire cohorts, or have been caught up only in the plight she's in because of the Vampire Marks and this Triumvirate, this novel will disappoint you. It's not directly on that story-arc.
If you read Hamilton's work because she writes well and you love a fast-paced action tale about a tough woman struggling to overcome the foibles of adolescent womanhood despite her overwhelming magickal Powers, then you will love this novel.
Here, Anita is required by an Honor Debt to Edward (she killed his backup in a previous novel and owes him a favor) to become involved in the love affair of one of Edward's alternate identities, and incidentally to meet an ancient Aztec vampire Master of the City with the Aztec name Obsidian Butterfly who is at odds with a revived Aztec god who is demanding human sacrifice.
Both Anita and Edward acquit themselves like master white magicians in the matters of Trust and Love. Contrast and compare this novel with Plain Truth and The Quiet Invasion and ponder the thematic statements on Trust, Love, and Violence.
Plain Truth and Quiet Invasion say trust is always betrayed, somehow, somewhere, and that betrayal often breeds violence. Obsidian Butterfly says, as the Martial Arts teachers aver, that properly acquiring power makes you trustworthy.
Honorable Mention this month goes to Sky Knife by Marella Sands. It is published as a Historical, but is set in the world of the Aztec culture, and is about a young Aztec priest who is trusted by the King to save his city, despite bearing an unlucky name. Everything depends on his understanding of his gods, and his ability to learn Magick quickly. Note the importance of Name in Aztec culture in both these novels. We have discussed the magick of Name in previous columns focused around the problem of Identity. Honor is a component of Identity.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg