Given that I had some downtime for spring break this week, I watched a couple of episodes of this SyFy show called The Magicians because folks around me had been talking about it, saying it was a "more grown-up Harry Potter" and all. I had heard about the show and read a free sample of the first book for my Kindle and I thought the read was terrible. Here's what I said in the book thread several months badk.
Oh, and because I heard about some SyFy series called The Magicians that is based on a book series, I decided to get sample of the first book for my Kindle. The premise seems sound- a more "grown up" Harry Potter where instead of real-world kids being whisked off to a magical school at age 10, real world teens are whisked off to a magical university at age 18. And apparently, it also has some Narnia type elements. Anyway, I figured "ehhh, why not" and read the free sample.
The sample was terrible.
For starters, the book initially takes place in Brooklyn NY, yet the three teenage characters spoke very stiffly, overly formally, and very "English." Like, there was no Brooklyn swagger in any of their speech. I get that these were the most elite students in the gifted/talented program, but I'd expect they would still talk/interact like city-dwelling teenagers. The awkward kid was too restrained (clearly not from Brooklyn), the confident kid wasn't cocky enough (clearly not from Brooklyn), and the girl (who the awkward kid crushes on) had no personality (again, clearly not from Brooklyn.) I also felt that the author's narrative style, his sentence structure and his word choice, was too English. There as nothing American about it, and when a book is set in America it needs to "feel" American. Apparently the author (Lev Grossman) is American and from Brooklyn, so I don't know if he's trying to be sardonic and parodical in his work (like typical British dry-wit humor), but it comes off as just asinine. At least British humor has a little "wink wink" but with this, I can't tell if it's meant to be parody or meant to be taken seriously. It doesn't even give me the satisfaction of laughing AT it rather than WITH it and just comes off as insipid and amateurish writing.
That being said, I would like to revisit a fantasy/magical school setting. The Magicians seemed like it would be a good fit for me, especially since it's a college setting with older characters in more adult situations, but I can't get over the dreck writing.
So, I wondered if the show would be any better. It was not. The acting was completely wooden, the characters had less personality than stale unsalted rice cakes, the scripting (both the event scripting and dialogue) felt very juvenile, and the visual effects often looked chintzy. Again, the concept of "mature Harry Potter" is nice, but if the creators' definition of maturity is simply "getting drunk, partying, hooking up, and dropping the F-bomb every other word" then I question their maturity, creativity, and savvy.
Yet the book AND the TV show seem to get positive reviews from critics and viewers. And a part of me is left wondering if I'm missing something here. Whatever. I'm not wasting any more time with poorly written drivel that is The Magicians novel nor life-sapping swill that is The Magicians TV show.
To end on a positive note, the one thing the series (both book and TV) seems to do well is illustrating the difficulty and complexity of learning magic. It's like learning a complex language like Mandarin Chinese where simply saying a syllable at a low vs high pitch changes its meaning. Except these subtleties lie both in words and hand movements. It's not just simply waving a wand and saying some Latin or Latin-esque words.