Mage Against the Machine
Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves?

Mage Against the Machine Details

TitleMage Against the Machine
Author
ReleaseOct 30th, 2018
PublisherSaga Press
ISBN-139781534403048
Rating
GenreFantasy, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy

Mage Against the Machine Review

  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    DNF @50% I tried with this one.I really, really did.But between me and the book, something's gotta give and the book is, well, a book. It doesn't have emotions. It doesn't have a network of neurons all simultaneously screaming "Abort! Abort!" The book will remain cool and unbothered and utterly pristine.I can't say the same for my tablet which has suffered from verbal abuse and my fantasies of hurling it against the wall.Or the future of my tenancy in this apartment. Because I can't count the nu DNF @50% I tried with this one.I really, really did.But between me and the book, something's gotta give and the book is, well, a book. It doesn't have emotions. It doesn't have a network of neurons all simultaneously screaming "Abort! Abort!" The book will remain cool and unbothered and utterly pristine.I can't say the same for my tablet which has suffered from verbal abuse and my fantasies of hurling it against the wall.Or the future of my tenancy in this apartment. Because I can't count the number of times I yelled "What???" and "UGH" as I was reading through this, and I'm sure my neighbours were all privy to my 1 AM musings.I actually considered DNF at about 1/4 of the way in, and the only excuse I can give for continuing is that I was overcome by an especially strong bout of masochism.Here's the thing. Nothing about the premise or the cover or the marketing screamed "DNF." Harry Potter meets Terminator? Sign me up! And if you look at it from a wide angle, you can see that it's got some really interesting material to work with: an Earth that's been taken over by machines, a human Resistance group created to combat them, a mage world that occupies the same space as the human world, and some snappy action scenes sprinkled throughout.All of that is negated by the characters.One character in particular.Nikolai Strauss gets the honour of being the most irritating, rage-inducing protagonist I've come across this year, his glowing list of qualities including arrogance, entitlement, pettiness, and fits of jealous rage. I have zero good things to say about him.But I'm getting ahead of myself.Nik is a mage and a member of the Edge Guard which the book unceremoniously tells you right from the start is "a powerful government order charged with the defense and maintenance of magical domed Veils that hid the magi from the human world, which had been reduced to lifeless, magically radioactive wastelands a century prior, in 2020."Clunky worldbuilding info isn't all that the story throws at you from the first page. There are also reveals of long-buried family secrets, confession of betrayals, blooming of romance and then unblooming of it, and all within the first 50-ish pages.Naturally the next half of the book would be dedicated to untangling some of these mysterious and exploring more of the world, right?Yeah, no.The next half of the book is dedicated to Nik trying to get with a girl he likes but getting the "I'm not one for relationships" treatment, brooding about it for some bit, meeting his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, and then brooding about that in the most childish ways imaginable.At one point, after hearing about the boyfriend's promotion, he stomps to his bedroom, slams the door and thinks, "okay, that was kind of immature," and then proceeds to rip away all the posters on his walls in a fit of rage. Which is, of course, the far more mature option.And the biggest kicker is that these childish fits come with dollops of self-awareness. Comments like "He knew he was being immature" and "What was he doing?" doesn't make him any more likeable or complex, it just makes his actions all the more baffling.The side characters fare no better, with some verging on caricature-levels of ridiculous. I mean, just what am I supposed to do with dialogue like this? "I have a girlfriend now. And you know what that means?" "That you--" "Sex!" he interrupted. "And I don't have to tell you, but this sex thing? It is some seriously good shit." The other protagonist, Jem, is much more likeable, if a little bland. Through her PoV chapters we get glimpses of the Resistance group's conflict with the Synths, and Terminator vibes are most definitely present here in a good way.But then halfway through the book I came across this one nonsensical sequence of events involving Jem and her love interest and I just had to call it quits. While a non-irritating protagonist is a big plus, I generally like my characters to come with credible motivations and actions that make sense.If you can ignore cringey romance and unlikable characters, the story might be entertaining in a messy kind of way. It wasn't to be for me, unfortunately.Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
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  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 out of 5 starsIn 2120, humans can no longer reproduce, artificially intelligent overlords have a stranglehold on humanity, and small communities of mages are hidden throughout the world. Nikolai, a newly minted mage Edge Guard, protects the border between his world and ours, while Jem, a cybernetically enhanced human, smuggles contraband away from the watchful eyes of Earth’s AI overseers.What’s so alluring about this book is that its characters are basically living in two different genres. 3.75 out of 5 starsIn 2120, humans can no longer reproduce, artificially intelligent overlords have a stranglehold on humanity, and small communities of mages are hidden throughout the world. Nikolai, a newly minted mage Edge Guard, protects the border between his world and ours, while Jem, a cybernetically enhanced human, smuggles contraband away from the watchful eyes of Earth’s AI overseers.What’s so alluring about this book is that its characters are basically living in two different genres. Nikolai is attempting to come-of-age in a Harry Potter-ish mage community, while Jem is just trying to survive and overthrow evil AIs in a Terminator/Fallout/Children of Men-ish post-apocalyptic world. Jumping between their perspectives kept me engaged and kept things fresh throughout this lengthy tome while I waited for their storylines to converge. It did seem that Nikolai’s story was more fleshed out than Jemma’s, but I enjoyed them both for what they were.And although I winced at a few overexplain-y info dumps, bristled at some cringe-y romance, and was slightly disappointed by a concluding act that somehow feels both rushed and overlong, I found Mage Against the Machine to be a fun genre-mashup that was an utterly enjoyable ride.My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.https://spikegelato.com/2018/09/28/re...
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  • Elisabeth Jewell
    January 1, 1970
    Fresh and exhilarating, even for a jaded and bored fantasy fan such as myself. Stayed up late several nights in a row, and let my kids eat too many junk snacks in order to burn through the pages.
  • Megan Lyons
    January 1, 1970
    This took me forever to read. I started it in June and just finished it now (it's the end of August). There were a few reasons this didn't work for me. First of all, there was just too much going on, what with the wizard society and a post apocalyptic, post nuclear human society that is at war with AIs. I like genre bending, and I don't mind going into a book a bit blind and learning about the world as I go. However, to make this work, you need to connect to some of the characters, otherwise, yo This took me forever to read. I started it in June and just finished it now (it's the end of August). There were a few reasons this didn't work for me. First of all, there was just too much going on, what with the wizard society and a post apocalyptic, post nuclear human society that is at war with AIs. I like genre bending, and I don't mind going into a book a bit blind and learning about the world as I go. However, to make this work, you need to connect to some of the characters, otherwise, you don't have a reason to try and understand the world, or care what happens. Speaking of characters, the characters didn't work very well either. Nikolai was just downright unlikable. He was angry and broody and bratty. However, I preferred him to Jem who I never connected to at all. There was lots of action, but without really being invested in the characters, I just didn't really care. This was also the first in the series. After struggling to get through this one, I have no intention of reading the next one. *I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Indigo Books and Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*
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  • Billie
    January 1, 1970
    The idea is great, but the actual product is less so. 500+ pages spent largely with a completely unlikable protagonist in a world that doesn't really hold up to close scrutiny was just way too much. It doesn't help that the author's influences are very present on the page and that this is apparently the first in a series. In so many ways this book had the potential to really excite me and become a favorite and instead it became a slog that I kept hoping would redeem itself. Sadly, for me, it jus The idea is great, but the actual product is less so. 500+ pages spent largely with a completely unlikable protagonist in a world that doesn't really hold up to close scrutiny was just way too much. It doesn't help that the author's influences are very present on the page and that this is apparently the first in a series. In so many ways this book had the potential to really excite me and become a favorite and instead it became a slog that I kept hoping would redeem itself. Sadly, for me, it just felt like the author throwing all the things they love on the page with the result being over-long and rather messy. I wanted to love it, but it just didn't work for me.
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  • Alex Can Read
    January 1, 1970
    Mage Against the Machine is a true Science Fantasy novel. Strong story threads of both science fiction dystopia and utopic fantasy are woven together to create a seamless blend of Science Fantasy.The synopsis focuses on Nik but a good half of the book is from Jem’s perspective and I wish she’d have been more represented in the synopsis as she’s a much more compelling narrator to me than Nik. Nik, unfortunately, has a terrible case of the poor-me’s and I found him incredibly unlikeable, which res Mage Against the Machine is a true Science Fantasy novel. Strong story threads of both science fiction dystopia and utopic fantasy are woven together to create a seamless blend of Science Fantasy.The synopsis focuses on Nik but a good half of the book is from Jem’s perspective and I wish she’d have been more represented in the synopsis as she’s a much more compelling narrator to me than Nik. Nik, unfortunately, has a terrible case of the poor-me’s and I found him incredibly unlikeable, which resulted in the loss of the star. He makes terrible decisions, is aware that he’s making terrible decisions and then doubles down on the terrible decisions with more terrible decisions. Half of the Nik’s parts of the book are him throwing tantrums.Throughout the book Jem also makes bad decisions, but at the end of the day, her motivations made more sense, and wherever she could she made decisions that were the best she thought she could do at the time. She may choose wrong, but she’s choosing from a place I can sympathize with. I largely enjoyed her POV sections.The overall story, unlikeable Nik aside, was a really enjoyable read. Two very different worlds exist and Barger did an excellent job fleshing the two societies out. I loved the tension he built when describing Jem’s running operations. Nik’s world was so interesting and I could read hours more about Focals and how the mages function. The layers of conspiracy ran deep and I found that plot really emgaging. I also loved the details like Nik’s handmade knockoff Chucks. Barger obviously spent a lot of time working out how his two universes would work and it shows in his prose.I’m looking forward to the second book, and I desperately hope Nik does some serious character growth in the next installment of the series.Mage Against the Machine hits shelves October 30.Thank you to Saga Press for providing me with an eARC of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Daniel Rowinski
    January 1, 1970
    Intriguing premise with, mostly, direct and natural action. I found it fun and intriguing with the right hint of emotion, even if that emotion is most often angst and guilt. Even at its length (nearly 500 pages, quite long for a debut), I found it very easy to read.There are some sticky points, especially at the end where you aren't quite sure what is going on. There is a penultimate scene where one of the two protagonists is fighting a "Moonwatch" and the mage/wizard character does something se Intriguing premise with, mostly, direct and natural action. I found it fun and intriguing with the right hint of emotion, even if that emotion is most often angst and guilt. Even at its length (nearly 500 pages, quite long for a debut), I found it very easy to read.There are some sticky points, especially at the end where you aren't quite sure what is going on. There is a penultimate scene where one of the two protagonists is fighting a "Moonwatch" and the mage/wizard character does something seemingly extraordinary, but the whole scene is rushed and incomplete. It seemed like it wanted to be a "Gohan unleashes his true power" moment, but it doesn't quite land like it could. There are other examples of rushed scenes like that through the novel, which can be a bit distracting, but the conceptual clarity and worldbuilding is good enough to overcome some of the more fraught moments of sticky prose. Overall, yes, I would recommend it. Barger shows talent to spin a yarn that should give this legs for a series (at least one more book) if the publisher wants to go down that road.
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