Seeking Dr. Magic

Seeking Dr. Magic

Seeking Dr. Magic was written by Scott Spotson and was first published in 2013. It is a mystery story containing fantastical elements which focuses on a retired FBI agent’s attempts to uncover the identity of a powerful wizard. The novel stands alone as a complete story in its own right and so you do not have to have read any of Spotson’s earlier works in order to fully appreciate it.

It is a perfectly ordinary afternoon when the first phantom ninja throws itself off a building in Chicago. The mysterious creature proves that it is able to survive a fall of a hundred feet before it leaps back up the side of the building and disappears. As videos are uploaded to the internet, it rapidly becomes apparent that the same thing is happening worldwide yet no one can explain how the stunts could take place.

Theories about the phenomena vary wildly, from holograms to alien invasions, but Tony Hetfield is not convinced by them. He is a former FBI agent, now working as a private investigator after an injury forced him to retire. Since he solved a high profile case, the detective has enjoyed celebrity status and is quick to make his opinions on the phantom ninjas heard. He believes that they can only have been created by a powerful wizard – a man he dubs Dr. Magic.

Although his former colleagues ridicule him, Tony reaches out in an attempt to contact Dr. Magic and soon succeeds. In their brief meeting, he manages to deduce a few things about his past and this gives him everything he needs to begin an investigation. As he delves into Dr. Magic’s origins, he looks to answer two questions – is Dr. Magic human and is he capable of hurting others?

Firstly, I should probably note that I don’t really feel like this story is actually a young adult novel. Although the author advised me that it was when he sent me my copy, I really can’t see any way in which this story is targeted at young adults. This does not mean that a teen reader would not enjoy the story (like The Silver Chest and Siege of Providence, it does not really contain any adult material), but at the same time it does not really contain anything that would really cater to a teenager’s interests.

Seeking Dr. Magic is an incredibly strange novel and, because of this, it is really hard to give it a balanced review. When I say ‘strange’, I mean that some aspects of the story are wonderfully bizarre. The phantom ninjas appear right in the first chapter and never get any less weird. If I had to sell this book to someone, my argument would certainly hinge on the fact that it has phantom ninjas in it, because how many novels can say that? Yet, as a reader, I could not really escape that this is a fairly strange occurrence. I mean, Dr. Magic is a wizard with virtually limitless power and yet he decided that phantom ninjas were the best way to show this off to the world. Phantom ninjas? Really? There is no other way that you could think of to reveal yourself?

The story also contains some really magnificent leaps of logic. I am a great fan of mystery novels but I do like for them to make sense. Tony is presented (though some pretty heavy exposition) to be a fantastic detective, yet he concludes the identity of Dr. Magic through guess work. In trolling through English missing person reports from ten years previously, he manages to whittle them down almost instantly to thirty, and then two possible children who could be the good doctor. Being English myself, I did a quick Google search to see how easy this was. While I’m obviously not a master detective, I did discover that over 200,000 people under the age of 18 go missing in England every year. Based on this, I’m really baffled as to how Tony managed to instantly narrow down his search to two boys based only on his gut instinct.

These are just two of the ways that this novel seems really strange if you think about it too hard. There are more but as some of them constitute fairly major spoilers I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself. However, I should note that if you read beyond the weirdness, Seeking Dr. Magic does have some redeeming features as a novel. For one, it was not really the story that I was expecting. Despite the title, it’s not really a story about magic. In reality, it’s more a coming of age story. Its inspiration seems to be a hypothetical “what if” – what if a little boy was born with incredible powers? How would his ordinary parents respond? How could he ever be disciplined? What kind of man would he grow into?

Although Dr. Magic begins the novel being too arrogant to be likable, as the author address these questions he gradually develops into a fully rounded and sympathetic individual. Although I don’t want to spoil too much of the mystery for you, I will say that his early behaviour becomes more understandable when you begin to learn more about his childhood and how he was treated by others around him. The way that he combats his isolation at the end of the story is rather nice and left me curious as to what the future has in store for him.

However, I did not feel that I had as good a grasp on Tony’s character. At varying points of the novel, he came across as being either obsessed with retaining his celebrity status or hating it. Although I expect that the author was trying to convey his gradual disillusionment, this really did not come across. The Tony of the early novel could still be altruistic and the Tony of the end still showed little concern as to the feelings of others (particularly his poor secretary). We also did not see much of his relationship with Kathleen or his teenage daughter (Kathleen’s romance occurs entirely off-page and his daughter vanishes from the plot early on). Both of these would have been welcome additions to the story as they would have given him someone more sympathetic than Dr. Magic to bounce his feelings off, therefore giving a better impression of what kind of man he was.

The story for him also wrapped up a little too neatly, being resolved entirely between the final chapter and the epilogue. I personally think that this was summed up far too briefly and made it feel completely unsatisfying. The story spent over 200 pages building up to an ending that just made me feel a bit “meh”. I think that what we really needed at the end was some sense of catharsis, rather than a sense that everything was just resolved off page. That way, I would have felt that Tony had actually grown from his experiences.

All in all, I feel that this is the kind of story that you really should judge for yourself. Although it contains some very weird stuff and a plot built upon enormous leaps of logic, it was very memorable and Dr. Magic himself served as a great way to address some interesting ethical questions. It may not have been one of the best novels that I have ever read but it was certainly very original and certainly worth taking a look at if you’re curious to learn more about phantom ninjas.

Seeking Dr. Magic can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: My Wizard Buddy / Wizard Planet / Target: Earth | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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