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Magic Street

Magic Street

3.7 18
by Orson Scott Card

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Orson Scott Card has the distinction of having swept both the Hugo and Nebula awards in two consecutive years with his amazing novels Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. For a body of work that ranges from science fiction to nonfiction to plays, Card has been recognized as an author who provides vivid, colorful glimpses between the world we know and worlds we


Orson Scott Card has the distinction of having swept both the Hugo and Nebula awards in two consecutive years with his amazing novels Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. For a body of work that ranges from science fiction to nonfiction to plays, Card has been recognized as an author who provides vivid, colorful glimpses between the world we know and worlds we can only imagine.

In a peaceful, prosperous African American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mack Street is a mystery child who has somehow found a home. Discovered abandoned in an overgrown park, raised by a blunt-speaking single woman, Mack comes and goes from family to family–a boy who is at once surrounded by boisterous characters and deeply alone. But while Mack senses that he is different from most, and knows that he has strange powers, he cannot possibly understand how unusual he is until the day he sees, in a thin slice of space, a narrow house. Beyond it is a backyard–and an entryway into an extraordinary world stretching off into an exotic distance of geography, history, and magic.

Passing through the skinny house that no one else can see, Mack is plunged into a realm where time and reality are skewed, a place where what Mack does and sees seem to have strange affects in the “real world” of concrete, cars, commerce, and conflict. Growing into a tall, powerful young man, pursuing a forbidden relationship, and using Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream as a guide into the vast, timeless fantasy world, Mack becomes a player in an epic drama. Understanding this drama is Mack’s challenge. His reward, if he can survive the trip, is discovering not only who he really is . . . but why he exists.

Both a novel of constantly surprising entertainment and a tale of breathtaking literary power, Magic Street is a masterwork from a supremely gifted, utterly original American writer–a novel that uses realism and fantasy to delight, challenge, and satisfy on the most profound levels.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Magic Street, the much-anticipated urban fantasy from Orson Scott Card, is set in Baldwin Hills, an upper-middle-class African-American suburb of Los Angeles, and features an enigmatic black protagonist -- as well as supernatural characters from Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.

When Cecil "Ceese" Tucker finds an abandoned newborn baby in a grocery bag in a city park, he unknowingly sets in motion of series of events that will change his neighborhood forever. He brings the baby to Ura Lee Smitcher, an unmarried nurse who lives nearby; she promptly adopts the child, names him Mack Street, and, with the help of Ceese, raises him. As Mack grows up, he realizes that he is fundamentally different: He has the ability to see other people's dreams, to know their deepest desires. When he discovers a portal into another world -- the realm of Faerie -- he begins to understand his mysterious origins and his bizarre role in an ongoing battle between Oberon and Titania, the king of the fairies and his estranged wife. When Oberon begins tormenting the people of Baldwin Hills by manifesting twisted versions of their dreams, Mack and his friends must somehow find a way to defeat an immortal…

Fans of Card's previous works (Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, the Alvin Maker saga, et al.) will surely enjoy this magic-filled fantasy, which is powered by a cast of compelling and truly unique urban characters -- Puck, a "big Rastafarian fairy"; Yolanda White, the motorcycle-riding hoochie mama; and the preacher Wordsworth "Word" Williams, to name a few. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
The residents of Baldwin Hills, a middle-class African-American L.A. neighborhood, get caught up in a battle between the king and the queen of the fairies in this wonderful urban fantasy from Card (Seventh Son). Mack Street, who was abandoned as an infant, grows up to be a sweet but strange but sweet boy. No one could imagine how he is connected to "Bag Man," who lives in an invisible house at the opening to Fairyland and can temporarily force anyone to happily do his bidding, or to a darkly mysterious "motorcycle riding hoochie mama," who seduces men with a touch and has big plans for Baldwin Hills. Not even Cecil "Ceese" Tucker, who found Mack in a shopping bag, can believe that the neighbors' most secret desires are flowing into Mack's dreams, occasionally dripping out and becoming true in a horrifically twisted fashion. When a young swimmer who wishes she were a fish is found drowning in her father's waterbed, magic is never suspected. But once everyone knows the truth, what will they do about it? The ways that the mundane and fantastic intersect are completely believable, and the characters crackle with personality and attitude. Crisp, clean writing creates a vivid sense of place and plugs readers into a story they won't want to see end. Agent, Barbara Bova. 8-city author tour. (June 28) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - Sherry Hoy
Cecil and Raymo find a naked newborn baby in a grocery bag while riding in the park in their semi-prosperous African American neighborhood in Los Angeles. Cecil takes the infant to his mom, who sends the baby to the nurse next door. She takes him in and names him Mack Street; she and Cecil work together to raise him. Mack roams the entire neighborhood and all the residents play a part in his rearing. Little do any of them realize that they have taken in a Changeling, a baby left by Puck himself, with ties to the King of the Fairies. When Mack is a teen, he is able to see things that others don't and follows Puck (known as the Bag Man in our world) into the realm of the Fairies. Mack eventually realizes that his actions in Fairyland have direct and unexpected consequences on Earth and that an epic battle is about to begin: a battle that only he can avert, with help from all of the neighbors who raised him as a child. The themes and language limit the audience for this but the plot, by the renowned author of Ender's Game, is classic. This is a gem of a story, with authentic black heroes, male and female; it's also an introspective piece about who has ultimate responsibility. Card's use of language is authentic and his characters are larger than life, while retaining their human foibles.
Library Journal
The young boy known as Mack Street lives with his adopted parents in Los Angeles, aware of his strange origins (he was found in a grocery sack) and unique and sometimes terrifying gift-the ability to dream the dreams of others. As Mack grows up, he learns how to handle his gift, or so it seems until his talent leads him to the land of Fairy. Veteran award-winning sf author Card (Ender's Game) turns to modern fantasy in his portrayal of a young African American man caught between two worlds and burdened with a responsibility to both of them. The author's always elegant prose and storytelling talent add a dimension of grace and morality to his work, which results in a modern fable that belongs in most libraries. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Contemporary fantasy (Enchantment, 1999, etc.) set in the close-knit, exclusively black Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Hills. Professor Byron Williams, having given a ride to a homeless, bag-laden man-he isn't sure why-arrives home to find that his wife, Nadine, is pregnant. Imagine Nadine's astonishment: an hour ago she wasn't pregnant; now she's giving birth! Bag Man shows up to take the infant, along with Nadine's memory of the entire incident. Soon after, young Ceese Tucker discovers a newborn baby in a shopping bag, and brings the boy to Ura Lee Smitcher. Nurse Ura Lee whisks baby and Ceese off to the hospital, where Ceese assists with the boy's care-and resists an unaccountable urge to drop him down a stairwell. Ura Lee and Ceese informally adopt the child, whom they name Mack Street. As Mack grows, he learns to fear the "cold dreams" in which he dreams other people's wish-fulfillment dreams, because the dreams come true-but always with a macabre twist. Mack discovers a house that nobody else can see, where he meets Bag Man, better known as Puck, whose back yard opens into fairyland! Oberon, king of the fairies, grown evil by casting off all his good elements, was imprisoned deep underground by his wife Titania, whose ambiguous human-world counterpart is lady biker Yo Yo. And Mack-well, he's Oberon's good aspect, placed in the world as the instrument by which Oberon can escape confinement. An often intriguing story, told with Card's usual impeccable skills-and yet the themes fail to cohere, and this peculiarly off-center fable never quite drags itself out of sheer make-believe and into fictional reality.
From the Publisher
Praise for Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment

“Card is a powerful storyteller.”
–Los Angeles Times

“[His] prose is a model of narrative clarity; the author never says more than is needed or arbitrarily withholds information, yet even a simple declarative sentence carries a delicious hint of further revelation.”
–The New York Times

“The best writer science fiction has to offer.”
–The Houston Post

“Card is skilled at pacing and good with an action scene, but he has raised to a fine art the creation of suspense by ethical dilemma, and in doing so has raised his work to a high plane.”
–Chicago Sun-Times

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Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

Bag Man

The old man was walking along the side of the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, gripping a fistful of plastic grocery bags. His salt-and-pepper hair was filthy and hanging in that sagging parody of a Rastafarian hairdo that most homeless men seem to get, white or black. He wore a once-khaki jacket stained with oil and dirt and grass and faded with sunlight. His hands were covered with gardening gloves.

Dr. Byron Williams passed him in his vintage Town Car and then stopped at the light, waiting to turn left to go up the steep road from the PCH to Ocean Avenue. A motorcycle to the left of him gunned its engine. Byron looked at the cyclist, a woman dressed all in black leather, her face completely hidden inside a black plastic helmet. The blank faceplate turned toward him, regarded him for a long moment, then turned to the front again.

Byron shuddered, though he didn’t know why. He looked the other way, to the right, across the lanes of fast-moving cars that were speeding up to get on the 10 and head east into Los Angeles. Normally Byron would be among them, heading home to Baldwin Hills from his day of classes and meetings at Pepperdine.

But tonight he had promised Nadine that he’d bring home dinner from I Cugini. That’s the kind of thing you had to do when you married a black woman who thought she was Italian. Could have been worse. Could have married a black woman who thought she was a redneck. Then they’d have to vacation in Daytona every year and listen to country music and eat possum and potato-chip-and-mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread.

Or he could be married to a biker like the woman still revving her engine in the other left-turn lane. He could just imagine getting dragged into biker bars, where, as an African-American professor of literature specializing in the romantic poets, he would naturally fit right in. He tried to imagine himself taking on a half-dozen drunken bikers with chains and pipes. Of course, if he were with that biker woman, he wouldn’t have to fight them. She looked like she could take them on herself and win—a big, strong woman who wouldn’t put up with nonsense from any- body.

That was a lot to know about a woman without seeing her face, but her body, her posture, her choice of costume and bike, and above all that challenging roar from her bike—the message was clear. Don’t get in front of me, buddy, cause I’m coming through.

He only gradually realized that he was staring right at the homeless man with the handfuls of grocery bags. The man was stopped at the edge of the roadway, facing him, staring back at him. Now that Byron could see his face, he realized that the man wasn’t faking his rasta do—he was entitled to it, being a black man. A filthy, shabby, rheumy-eyed, chin-stubbled, grey-bearded, slack-lipped old bum of a black man. But the hair was authentic.

Authentic. Thinking of the word made Byron cringe. Every year there was at least one student in one of his classes who’d mutter something—or say it boldly—about how the very fact that he was teaching courses in nineteenth-century white men’s literature made him less authentic as a black man. Or that being a black man made him less authentic as a teacher of English literature. As if all a black man ought to aspire to teach was African studies or black history or Swahili.

The old man winked at him.

And suddenly Byron’s annoyance drained away and he felt a little giddy. What was he brooding about? Students gave crap to their teachers whenever they thought they could get away with it. They learned soon enough that in Byron’s classes, the students who cared would become the kind of people who were fit to understand Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Grey, and—of course—Lord Byron himself. That’s what his good students sometimes called him—Lord Byron. Not to his face, because he always gave them his withering glare until they apologized. But he reveled in the knowledge that they called him that behind his back. And if he ever let anyone see his poetry, perhaps they’d discover that it was a name he deserved.

Lines from one of his own poems came to his mind. And from his mind, straight to his lips:

Into my chariot, whispered the sun god. Here beside me, Love, crossing the sky. Leave the dusty road on which you plod: Behind these fiery horses come and fly. No matter how fast we go, how far, how high, I’ll never let you fall. All your life On earth you’ve crept and climbed and clawed— Now, Mortal Beauty, be my wife, And of your dreams of light, I’ll grant you all.

The bag man’s lips parted into a snaggle-toothed grin, and he stepped out into the traffic, heading straight for Byron’s car.

For a moment Byron was sure the man would be killed. But no. The light had changed, and the cars came to a stop as he passed in front of them. In only a few moments, he set his hand to the handle of Byron’s passenger door.

It was locked. Byron pushed the button to open it.

“Don’t mind if I do,” said the bag man. “Mind if I put my bags in your back seat?”

“Be my guest,” said Byron.

The old man opened the back door and carefully arranged his bags on the floor and back seat. Byron wondered what was in them. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be clean, and the bags probably had fleas or lice or ants or other annoying creatures all over them. Byron always kept this car spotless—the kids knew the rules, and never dared to eat anything inside this car, lest a crumb fall and they get a lecture from their dad. Sorry if that annoyed them, but it was good for children to learn to take care of nice things and treat them with respect.

And yet, even though he knew that letting those bags sit in the back seat would require him to vacuum and wash and shampoo until it was clean again, he didn’t mind. Those bags belonged there. As the old man belonged in the front seat beside him.

The motorcycle to his left revved one last time and whined off up the steep road to Santa Monica.

Behind him, cars started honking.

The old man took his time getting into the front seat, and then he just sat there, not closing his door. Nor had he closed the back door, either.

No matter. To a chorus of honks and a few curses shouted out of open car windows, Byron got out and walked around to the other side of the Lincoln. He closed the back door, then reached in and fastened the old man’s seat belt before he closed that door, too.

“Oh, you don’t need to do that,” murmured the old man as Byron fastened the belt.

“Safety first,” said Byron. “Nobody dies in my car.”

“No matter how fast we go, how far, how high,” answered the old man.

Byron grinned. It felt good, to have someone know his poem so well he could quote it back to hm.

By the time he got back to the driver’s door, the cars behind him were whipping out into the leftmost turn lane to get around him, honking and screaming and flipping him off as they passed. But they couldn’t spoil his good mood. They were jealous, that’s all, because the old man had chosen to ride in his car and not theirs.

Byron sat down, closed his door, fastened his seat belt, and prepared to wait for the next green light.

“Ain’t you gonna go?” asked the old man.

Byron looked up. Incredibly, the left arrow was still green.

“Why not,” he said. He pulled forward at a stately pace.

To his surprise, the light at the top of the hill was still green, and the next light, too.

“Hope you don’t mind,” said Byron. “Got to stop and pick up dinner.”

“A man’s got to keep his woman happy,” said the old man. “Nothing more important in life. Except teaching your kids to be right with God.”

That made Byron feel a little pang of guilt. Neither he nor Nadine were much for going to church. When his mother came to visit, they all went to church together, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. But they called it Grandma’s church, even though she only attended it when she came to LA.

Byron turned left on Broadway and pulled up in the valet parking lane in front of I Cugini. The valet headed toward his car as Byron got out.

“Just picking up some takeout,” he said as he handed the man a five-dollar bill.

“Pay after,” said the valet.

“No, don’t park the car, I’m just picking up a takeout order.”

The man looked at him in bafflement. Apparently he hadn’t been here long enough to understand English that wasn’t exactly what he expected to hear.

So Byron spoke to him in Spanish. “Hace el favor de no mover mi carro, si? Voltaré en dos minutos.”

The man grinned and sat down in the driver’s seat.

“No,” said Byron, “no mueva el auto, por favor!”

The old man leaned over. “Don’t worry, son,” he said. “He don’t want to move the car. He just wants to talk to me.”

Of course, thought Byron. This old man must be familiar to all the valets. When you spend hours a day at the curb in Santa Monica, you’re going to get to know all the homeless people.

Only when he was waiting at the counter for the girl to process his credit card did it occur to Byron that he spoke Italian and French, and could read Greek, but had never spoken or studied Spanish in his life.

Well, you learn a couple of romance languages, apparently you know them all.

The food was ready to go, and the card went right through on the first try. They didn’t even ask him for i.d.

And when he got back outside, there was his car at the curb, and the valet was inside, kissing the old man’s hands. By the time Byron got around to the driver’s side and opened the back door, the valet was out of the car. Byron put the takeout bags on the floor, stood up, and closed the back door. The valet was already walking away.

“Wait a minute!” called Byron. “Your tip!”

The valet turned and waved his hand. “No problem!” he called in heavily accented English. “Thank you very much sir!”

Byron got in and sat down. “Never heard of a valet turning down a tip,” he said.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Orson Scott Card burst on the scene in the early 1980s as a short-story writer, whose highly praised work appeared frequently in Omni and other magazines. He is the award-winning author of Enchantment, Ender’s Game, and the Alvin Maker series, among other novels. Card lives with his family in Greensboro, North Carolina.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

Greensboro, North Carolina
Date of Birth:
August 24, 1951
Place of Birth:
Richland, Washington
B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981

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Magic Street 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read many books by this author and always respected his imagination but wished his books had better flow. Some ramble on too philosophically, some have flimsy characters. THIS is combines the best of imagination, characterization and writing I could have ever hoped for. If you are a fan of fantasy, especially as entwined with modernday society, don't miss this book! Literate, funny, hip---can't wait for the movie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge OSC fan but this one was different. I found this book boring and just plain weird. It also lacked the plausibility of other OSC books. I guess it just wasn't for me; thus, I'm giving it a strictly neutral rating.
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M_AND_S More than 1 year ago
I heard the audio version of this book and enjoyed it so much that I bought a hard copy to read and share with my family. The premise of the book is similar to "Ender's Game." A young boy finds himself in a situation not of his choosing, where he must find a way to overcome obstacles, both internal and external. "Magic Street" is fantasy, with magical characters providing much of the action. If you have enjoyed other books by Card, you will like "Magic Street" too.
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thinkdunson More than 1 year ago
before this book, i had only read four or five from the ender universe. based on that, this book was just completely unexpected coming from card. the first quarter or so was pretty darn boring... i had to force myself to go on, but then it started to pick up... and then it got really good. i liked it enough for five stars, but not enough to be on my list of favorites (not enough to read again, like ender's game).

i haven't read anything else like this, so i have no recommendations of the same type, but if you liked this book you should try other orson scott card books. he's an excellent author. you may not like one of his books, but you can't argue that it wasn't well written. besides, i've liked them all so far, to varying degrees. least of which, still being four stars to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed almost every other book by Orson Scott Card, especially the Ender series, but this one fell flat. I found it rather dull, I had to force myself to finish it. I expected much better from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first time I've ever read one of Orson Scott Card's novel and I'm impressed. This story was full of characters, adventure, and soul. It's a simple story of good verses evil but so much happens during the course of the story, it's almost at a breakneck speed and by the time you've figured it all out, so have the characters, which even the ones that aren't mortal, are so human. Ultimately, that's what this story is about humans.
harstan More than 1 year ago
One day while driving home Dr. Byron Williams acts totally out of character by picking up a homeless person he dubs the Bag Man. This creature tells him his wife is pregnant and when they arrive home, he finds his spouse who wasn¿t pregnant giving birth to a baby boy. The Bag Man puts the baby in a paper bag and orders them to forget what happened which they do. A few hours later Cecil ¿Ceese¿ Tucker finds a baby in a bag by the drainpipe....................... The child called Mack Street is taken in by Una Lee Smitcher who with Ceese raises him will love and the whole neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, an affluent black community, takes him into their hearts. Mack has odd dreams, the ability to see another person¿s deepest desires and give it to them in a perverted way. For years he does his best to suppress the dreams or cut them off before something bad happens. However, he finally learns who and what he is and who he will have to fight if he doesn¿t want true evil, the opposite side of himself to be let loose on an unsuspecting word............................ This is Orson Scott Card¿s first contemporary urban fantasy and he demonstrates his considerable talent with a work that is sure to win him an award nomination. Readers see Mack mature from a baby to an adult who begins to understand he is the essence of all the things good and bad. It is impossible not to care about him and we root for him on when it is time to face his real enemy, himself. MAGIC STREET is a spellbinding tale that engages the audience.................... Harriet Klausner