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Bewildering Stories

Kelly McCullough, Web Mage

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

Web Mage
Author: Kelly McCullough
Publisher: Ace, 2006
Length: 310 pages
ISBN: 0-441-01425-9
Ah, the perennial teenage rebel. James Dean, like Elvis, never dies. And it’s the rebel with the sweet streak I’m talking about here, not Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious. Underneath his leather jacket this one’s got something a girl can take home to Mama. He kicks over the generational traces but he’s still old-fashioned enough to marry. Can any girl resist that sort of rebel, at least in his leather jacket?

Simon R. Green does guy-with-attitude-hiding-nice better than any other writer, but Kelly McCullough doesn’t do a bad job, either. His rebel Ravirn is a smart-ass hacker (not maybe an endearing trait to me, since I’ve known a few, and one of those adolescent pranksters spiked my drink once, to unfunny results).

But the hero of Web Mage is a good guy deep down. His greatest talent, besides that gift for quick and dirty hacking, is ticking off his elders. That’s a classic.

I don’t often see many science fiction books that marry old Greek myth (you know, Furies, the Fates, various gods and goddesses) with geeky web lingo. There might well be a good reason. It takes getting used to.

But sorcery has upgraded. Instead of pronouncing those dull old Latin spells, Ravirn, whose grandmother is one of the three Fates, can rattle off even less pronounceable web-speak. Like, magically connecting to his girlfriend and fellow semi-divinity by shouting out “Cerice@shara.gob via” (Though I’d like to see him try ripping out "http://www.wondermage.trythis/14345/” and not stumble). Ravirn’s a web mage.

He’s got to save the worlds. It seems his great aunt, Atrophus, the last goddess of Fate, has messed with Free Will. The master programs are now embodied in the Fate Core. Ravirn has to do a noble deed of hacking and get into the Fate Core to find out what’s wrong.

But Eris the goddess of Discord has already thrown a spanner into the spinning gears_code, I mean. When damage and death result, poor Ravirn unjustly gets the blame. Now his aunt Atrophus is sharpening her shears to cut his life short. And his grandmother Lachesis and his aunt Clotho are holding the ends of the thread.

This is a lighthearted book. Though the three grannies are supposed to be the terrors of the tale, believe me, my own grannies were far better at inducing genuine fright than these three. No chilling villains here. Ravirn’s a sweet romantic under his leather jacket. His girl gets a rebel who doesn’t need much reforming. When the rebel fantasizes taking his girl to Paris, she just needs to sit back and relax.

You won’t remember much about this book when you put it down, but it’s fast and light. Save it for when you pick up a burger and fries and settle into your easy chair for the evening without shame. Burp! Book’s gone, burger’s gone, time for bed and forgotten tomorrow. But still not a bad way to spend the occasional evening.

Copyright © 2009 by Danielle L. Parker

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