An engaging read (listen) from the first page to the last page.
I recently finished listening to the, free, podcast version of Digital Magic by Phillipa Ballantine. I was turned on to this novel by a professional colleague, in my day job career, and for this kind act I am very grateful.
In the last five years I've led a very sheltered reading life. With the exception of re-reading the Honor Harrington series, my sole fiction intake has been BattleTech with a side of Shadowrun sourcebooks. You might say I was taking a busman's holiday. While I love BattleTech, you can get burned out on a single universe when you are reading, writing, playing, fact checking in just that universe.
So when my neo-luddite self discovered that people had put complete books out on podcast, for free, I had to check it out (Okay in my own defense, I was once a tech geek. But it has been so long since I've been a geek that when Twitter first came out I was one of those who said "What's the point?" I am no longer an early adopter and look to others for good trends).
Digital Magic will appeal to anyone who loves the Cyberpunk genre and especially to those who enjoy the magic/technology sub genre that games like Shadowrun specialize in.
Given I listened to this as an audio book, I have to start with saying that Miss Ballantine's reading was superb. She has a very engaging voice and very seamlessly handles the majority of the characters leaving you no doubt who is speaking. The other voice actors were for the most part very good. The Daniel character had some audio issue in his later appearances that really jarred you out of the story, but this was an exception.
The story snags you from the beginning, putting you right into the mind of one of the lead characters from page one. And when the character happens to be a shape changing thief who has a startling reaction to an ancient mask, you know you are in for an interesting story. Miss Ballantine then proceeds to throw you into a quick series of turns as she introduces the rest of the cast and sets up two completely separate story lines, one set in a war torn New Zealand and one in a sleepy (or not so) English village.
Several times I thought I had the story figured out. Several times I was proven completely wrong and guessing anew at just where things would end up. And then only two chapters from the end, you get a complete right turn that leaves you marveling at where you've ended up. She keeps you guessing, interested and thinking through the whole book. A mark of a good novel (or podcast).
The only other negative mark I have to give is for the podcast production schedule. I was lucky to not discover the book until it was already up to chapter twenty of twenty-two. Still, when I reached chapter eighteen and there was no sign of the last two chapters, I stopped listening and waited. It was close to three months before the final two chapters came out and I could finish the book. I can't imagine what it had to be like for those that had been listening from chapter one. To Miss Ballatine's credit, she was moving half way around the globe during this time, but still it was a painful wait for her listeners. Having more of the book in the can, before posting it might be better in the future.
Where would I place Digital Magic and Miss Balantine in my repeat appearances list? I rarely re-read a novel, so its no slight that I don't put this on my must keep around list, but I Pip Ballantine has been added to my must read/listen to her work again. I've just started listening to Chasing the Bard and will probably buy (spend real money) her new print novel, Phoenix Rising (co-written with Tee Morris).
Digital Magic is available as a free podcast and also as a digital eBook, so you can choose your medium for experiencing this great story.
Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner