CBRIII Maneuver #24 – Cybermancy

Target: Kelly McCullough’s Cybermancy

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Greek Mythology, Modern Fantasy.

Summary: From the back of the book, “Not just any computer geek and hack into Hades.  But Ravirn (please don’t call him Raven), a direct descendant of one of the three Fates, is no ordinary hacker.  Magic has gone digital in the twenty-first century, and Ravirn is a sorcerer with a laptop – otherwise known as his shape-changing best friend.

These days, Ravirn’s crashing at his girlfriend’s place while she works on her doctorate in computer science.  Only one problem: all of her research is in her webgoblin’s memory, which is now in Hades along with its soul.  To save Cerice’s webgoblin (and her Ph.D.), Ravirn must brave Hell itself. (Truncated)”

After Action Report:

Well that was disappointing.  After a fair-to-middling performance in his debut novel WebMage, I was really hoping Kelly McCullough would improve for his second outing.  And he did, to some extent.  Cybermancy is plagued by many of the same problems that made WebMage tedious and repetitive.  They’re toned down a bit, and by the end of the book McCullough seems to have been able to rid his writing of word count boosting repetitive sentences.  Unfortunately, he’s substituted bad writing for bad storytelling.

Cybermancy picks up a little after WebMage leaves off and starts like a heist novel/movie.  Ravirn has been busy prepping the rescue of Shara from Hades.  His trump card is his friendship with Cerberus, the three-headed guardian of the Underworld.  Fun and mayhem ensue.  The first part of the book is by far the most enjoyable.  The charm of the first novel’s hacker/rebel/rogue hero is present here, and the story flows better than WebMage because a lot of the repetitive spellcasting language and internal monologue moments have been scaled back.  He only whines about his new command prompts a few times and doesn’t mention Melchior’s impish nature more than twice.  He has started bitching about his new name, Raven, which takes up the page space McCullough needed to break 250.

Then things go, predictably, horribly wrong.  Busting Shara out did something horrible to the rest of creation and now it is up to Ravirn to troubleshoot reality and its computer operating system.

The basic premise of the story is pretty much okay.  It’s almost painfully obvious who is behind everything from the start, but the players go through the motions, have a few exciting confrontations and end up back where they started, at the gates of Hades.  Then McCullough tosses out everything he’d been working with for the better part of two books and ::spoilers deleted for security reasons::.  It’s awful.  Like the worst possible Deus ex Machnia ever.  Times ten.

You know why the first book was good?  Because even though there was a Deus ex Machina moment (with a real Goddess), it wasn’t Raivrn doing it.  He needed help.  From Discord herself and the atavistic persona of the entire universe.  Raven does it all himself this time around and invalidates his entire rogue image by doing so.  McCullough gives his protagonist the ability to make his own “get out of jail free” cards and expects the audience to just go along with it.

There are three more books in Ravirn’s little series but they might as well have ended here.  There cannot be a story if the main character can’t be challenged.  This is storytelling one-oh-one.  I’m sure McCullough figured this out when he got started on book three and he probably ret-conned it or reset Ravirn somehow, but that doesn’t excuse the atrocious ending he’s written now.  It’s a damn shame too, because this is still a really interesting concept that hasn’t been explored by a lot of authors.

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Posted on June 1, 2011, in Cannonball Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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