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Mister Magic


Mister Magic

If you crossed a David Lynch film with Stephen King’s IT, featuring Pennywise the Dancing Clown, you only would begin to skim the surface of MISTER MAGIC, Kiersten White’s sickly absurd and completely unnerving new novel. The book’s title refers to a classic children’s program that no one seems to be able to prove ever actually existed.

White opens with a statement that really sets the tone for this ultra-creepy novel: “Your favorite childhood television program feels like a fever dream.” Yet there is no initial explanation for the apparent mass hallucination that oodles of fans experience. They can remember the names of the final cast members to be shown and even sing some of the songs. They also recall a tragedy that caused the show to go off the air, ranging from a fire that burned down the set to the on-air death of the youngest member of the cast.

"Kiersten White has created an absurd horror masterpiece, and the pages turn with ease. MISTER MAGIC presents one surreal puzzle after another. The answers...are well worth the wait."

These same fans are now over the moon about the reunion podcast that will bring Val, Isaac, Javi, Marcus and Jenny back together. Jenny, who played the “best friend neighbor,” is working closely with the creators of the podcast to make this reunion happen. She succeeds in getting her former co-stars together, but because it has been 30 years since they have seen each other, their memories of the show and their participation range from vivid to nearly nonexistent.

The problem is that the cast member considered to be the leader of the group, Val, hardly has any memory of the program. She just knows that she has been working on a ranch with her aging father and has not seen her mother since stepping away from the limelight. Things really get weird when Val learns that she supposedly had a younger sister, Kitty, who allegedly died on the air during the final telecast.

The castmates head out to a strange solitary house in the middle of the desert to film their interviews for the podcast. It supposedly housed the families of the young cast while “Mister Magic” was being shot nearby. As they are led down to the basement, they are met by a faceless monitor that asks them questions, many of which are bizarre and unsettling. The owner of the podcast is not there in person and claims that whatever they say can be edited before the show is ever aired. When Marcus agrees to go first, he is told cryptically, “Oh, he’d never forget you. I promise. Magic never forgets the taste of your friendship.”

This brings me to the horrific elephant in the room. Who or what is Mister Magic? Those at the reunion are still afraid to say his name out loud. He has been described as a human magician with a huge cape, an animated character, even a puppet. No one knows for sure --- they just know how that sick show made them feel. Val is taken to see her estranged mother who lives in an extremely odd trailer park not far from the house. Let’s just say that this encounter is just as wacky as nearly everything else in this splendid novel.

Kiersten White has created an absurd horror masterpiece, and the pages turn with ease. MISTER MAGIC presents one surreal puzzle after another. The answers, which will not be revealed here, are well worth the wait.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 11, 2023

Mister Magic
by Kiersten White