Mark Reads ‘A Wizard of Mars’: Chapter 9, Part I

In the first half of the ninth chapter of A Wizard of Mars, Kit, Ronan, and Darryl face their second test on Mars. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

Y’all, I love the sheer chaos that is executed by Diane Duane in the first half of this chapter. (HALF, for the record. There’s still so much more!!!) I mentioned this in the video below, but it was comical to me that the boys are facing such a difficult time trying to get these wizardries to tell them ANYTHING, while the girls have pretty much gotten the bulk of the backstory. And it was all because Nita was nice and respectful towards the creatures in her test! Here, the chaos comes from the means by which this strange wizardry manifests after reading Ronan’s mind. AND MAYBE THESE WIZARDS SHOULD STOP THINKING ABOUT HORRIBLE, VIOLENT DEPICTIONS OF MARS FOR A WHILE SINCE IT IS NOT WORKING OUT FOR THEM. Just a thought????

This is even remotely the sole thing they have to cope with, and that’s how Duane is able to make this feel so chaotic. She makes her characters deal with the ramifications of their wizardry, and that means that they HAVE to consider how non-magical humans might witness what they’re doing. Initially, I assumed this chapter would cover their attempt to and success at disabling the satellite that would send some sketchy images back to Earth. Which is STILL a valid concern, even after half this chapter. Wizards can’t risk non-wizardly scientists observing phenomenon that would utterly change their perception of science and reality. So, disable a satellite it is! Given that this would be Kit’s specialty, I assumed that he might find a challenge in pulling this off, but he would succeed and we’d be thrown into the next test.

Yeah, nope. In fact, as far as I can tell, they never dealt with this, right??? They never had a chance because of another variable: the appearance of one of the Mars rovers that is still chugging around on the surface, sending back information to Earth. If it’s not one thing, it’s something else. So Duane combines all three elements into one scene that feels breathless and relentless. Seriously, right as they deal with the rover, the green light wizardry washes over them and they are immediately dropped into the world of…

…New Jersey. NEW. JERSEY. This was absolutely one of the most jarring plot twists in this book and certainly one of the most surprising ones in the whole serious. (Of course, if you were more familiar with the US broadcast of The War of the Worlds than I was, you probably figured this out.) It was bewildering to experience because WHO EXPECTS NEW JERSEY. At the same time, the fun of the Young Wizards books comes from experiencing these tonal or genre or narrative jolts, and realizing it’s all part of this bizarre ride. In hindsight, none of this feels non-sensical! Within the framework of the wizardry planted there by the survivors of that unnamed world, this is how these tests unfold. The wizardry grasps onto your understanding of Mars or your preconceived notions of it, then it tests your worth by having you “defeat” the very notion from your mind.

Which means we get treated to the UNFAIR sequence in which monstrous water towers attack Ronan, Darryl, and Kit, all while they’re able to read any wizardry these kids put up and DISMANTLE IT. Like, the sheer horror and NOPE of the towers alone was suspenseful, but Duane brilliant peels away every offensive move as it is made, which gives this an unrelenting tension. They may have stopped the towers in the end (with Kit’s ingenuous logic of advancing time and attacking the towers with the same weakness from the source material), but, again, still only half the chapter. What NOW? Did they pass? Will they get the complete story or part of it???

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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