Monthly roundup culture consumed – June 2016

How was June for everyone?


I mentioned last month that I’ve started watching The Magicians TV show, which reminded me to read the last two books of the original trilogy by Lev Grossman (The Magician King and Magician’s Land). I really liked these books, in fact I’m surprised I haven’t read them before now. Modern fantasy for adults definitely, but also the popular culture references that abound in the book seem particularly suited for people around my age. It does make me wonder whether the books will age particularly well. Still, for the time being I really enjoyed these two books and reading them did enhance my enjoyment of the TV series.


Nothing hugely different for the month of June. At the very end of the month, the second series of Dark Matter (a science fiction show that actually features a spaceship) and Killjoys (intergalactic bounty hunters) started back up. Looking forward to those shows.


No movies for me this month, but I did suddenly realise that another Star Trek movie is due out in the very near future. This wasn’t on my radar at all! As a result, I did make it my business to re-watch the two recent Star Trek movies, both of which I quite enjoyed. Looking forward to seeing Star Trek: Beyond in the next couple of weeks.

I am filled with joy that my 8-year old daughter is super excited about the release of Ghostbusters next week. I was relieved that the movie has been rated PG, so next weekend we’ll be off together to see the film. I can’t tell you how happy I am that there are more and more examples of strong, female led films and franchises for my daughter to consume. I know things aren’t perfect and still have a long way to go, but if I think back even 5 years ago I worried a lot about what would exist for my daughter in the future. Now, I can at least find a fairly steady stream of material.


My daughter and I enjoy a show called Teen Titans, Go! There are quite a few nods to adults watching along, including an episode where one of the main characters listens to a song called Night Begins to Shine, a very 80s sounding song that you would almost swear you remember from your teenage years. It isn’t – the song was written for the show. However it is way too catchy, and I was forced to go onto iTunes and buy the song. It has made its way onto my exercise playlist. I’m currently a lot in love with this song!

The Magicians by Lev Grossman – review

The Magicians by Lev Grossman cover

The Magicians by Lev Grossman tells the tale of Quentin, a genius level high school student who is wondering what to do with his life when he receives an invitation to sit an entrance exam to a very exclusive school. Given his secret obsession with a children’s fantasy book series (Fillory) and his general lack of direction, he is very pleased to find that the school in question is for people who can do magic.

This is a very engaging book, I found myself pulled through it and devoured it in a few days. The premise was strong and I enjoyed the style of the writing, the use of language and the grittier reality of what life might be like for people with magical powers in the modern world.

Fair warning – if you aren’t a fan of sex, drugs, swearing and generally bad behaviour, this probably isn’t the book for you. Imagine if you had magical powers, you couldn’t reveal those powers and there were no magical threats in the real world. Seems that most magicians in Grossman’s world, rather than trying to solve world poverty or anything, twist their talents towards a hard core partying lifestyle once out of school.

The fact that magic required painstaking training, intelligence, creativity and hard work to master was a relief. I’ve said before that sometimes the sense that characters go into the woods with a wise mentor, have a very quick training montage and are suddenly the absolute masters of their craft (all within a couple of weeks) can really throw me out of a story. The magic in The Magicians required tedious repetition and close study over the course of years – and was more engaging for all that.

It was a strong ensemble of characters, although I must admit by the end of the novel I was starting to wonder if the main character, Quentin, was ever going to a) be happy or 2) step up. While the novel was a lot more grown up, the main characters were still, for all intents, mopey teenagers (although by the end they were well into their twenties and one could be forgiven for saying “get over yourselves”). From that perspective, it will be interesting to see what Grossman does with the sequel.

The novel was very aware of the fantasy genre, with references to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia. For all that, I don’t think it would necessarily appeal to people who liked fantasy primarily aimed at a younger adult (e.g. Potter) – this is a much darker story with less likeable characters. I preferred it for that reason, but I can see how others might not.

I always struggle with “meta” concepts in these kinds of novels – I’m sure there was deep commentary on the nature of modern fandom, the cartoon style approach to violence in many fantasy novels, the reality of what power does to the human psyche etc. You might have to read another review to get more details on that side of the novel though – my powers of critical commentary don’t quite stretch so far as to have strong opinions there.

This book has been reviewed umpteen times and I doubt I’m going to add anything original to the discussion. So I’ll just end by saying highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

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This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.