Protagonist Musicians in SF, pt.8

TITLE: City of Dark Magic

AUTHOR: Magnus Flyte

YEAR: 2012


YES?—action takes place in the now, and there is neither advanced technology, nor any parts of the present that we wouldn’t recognize. It is quite speculative, as the present tries to come to turns with the science of the past, and how it still seems to work. Ultimately, the reference to Prague as the “city of dark magic” is potentially explaining because of miniature-yet-local time warps.

After her mentor dies mysteriously in Prague while studying Beethoven-related manuscripts and letters, Sarah Weston, a graduate student in musicology as well as a pianist, travels to Prague to complete her mentor’s work, to figure out why he died, and to try to avoid death herself. Along the way, she meets a dwarf who may have been Tycho Brahe’s assisstant, unocvers who Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved” really was, and falls in love with the heir to the throne of the royal house of Prague. She also comes to experience a drug that allows one to experience time in layers based upon whatever location she’s in, and as such witnesses the dealings of former occupants and passers-through, including performances by Beethoven and experiments by Brahe. She also manages to expose the nefarious plottings of a traitorous and murderous U.S. Senator with Presidential aspirations.

YES, great musical descriptions regarding technique, dynamics, harmonies, ensemble skills, tempi, etc. Sarah Weston is a teacher as well, giving lessons to a young and blind piano prodigy. In fact, Weston’s kind of musicianship (ear training, manuscript studies, paper writing, exhibit preparation) is presented in stark relief to that of the prodigy, who just seems to have unnatural and innate abilities. Part of the backdrop is the opening of a museum dedicated to the Royal collection, and Weston meets experts in the fields of weaponry, fashion, fabrics, blah blah blah, and the fact that the author chooses Weston above the the others as the focal point, elevates Music to my mind. 

Someone with a good ear, with heightened perceptual abilities. Someone whose typical day-to-day experiences are the connection of old papers to current people. Someone who accepts the magical yet also sets their noise to the grind-stone as a matter of course.  Beethoven is the link between Brahe and the present, so why not a musicologist?    It is also great that the musician-protagonist has multiple and complicated facets to her character.

YES, not pure SF, but there is enough science, and a lot of throwing different time periods into relief. Reads really quickly and easily—there’s a lot of humor, and a lot of sex, as well as a race against the clock within a plot of evil intrigue. Kind of like Dan Brown, perhaps, but better, funnier, and more believable.
© 2016 Peter J. Evans, theorist