1988’s The Silicon Mage is the second volume in Barbara Hambly’s Windrose Chronicles.
In the belief that the malevolent mage Suraklin was possessing Antryg, Joanna Sheraton left the dread revenant and its host in the gentle care of the authorities in Suraklin’s native dimension. She returns home, across the dimensions, to California.
It is then that Joanna realizes that she has made a terrible mistake. Suraklin is not possessing Antryg; he’s ensconced himself in Joanna’s nasty boyfriend Gary. Antryg’s arrest did not neutralize Suraklin’s threat. It neutralized the only person able to stop Suraklin.
Knowing that an evil wizard is peering at her out of her dreadful ex-boyfriend’s eyes is one thing. Knowing what to do about it is another. For the moment, all Joanna can do is come up with excuses never to be alone with Gary/Suraklin. While that may save her, it will do nothing to stop Suraklin’s grander plot to live forever at the cost of those around him.
Suraklin’s scheme bridges two worlds. Therefore, Joanna’s solution will have to bridge two worlds. Crossing the Void is hazardous; trained mages avoid it. Having no choice, Joanna travels back to Antryg’s world despite the hazards.
Bad news: while Antryg is still alive, torture and magical binding have left him quite mad. Even if Joanna could somehow free him, a deranged mage is unlikely to be of much help against body-hopping Suraklin.
Unless, of course, the madness is but a ruse and the magical bonds confining Antryg merely a minor impediment. Then Antryg might be freed and recruited to stop Suraklin. Piece of cake.
But then there’s also the matter of the Dead God….
Suraklin is planning to become immortal by cramming a functional copy of his mind into a Cray 3. Cray 3s were hot stuff by the standards of 1988 (date of publication) but 1988 was many Moore’s Law generations ago. Readers may well doubt any supposed copy of Suraklin’s mind could possibly be functional on a commandeered Cray 3. Latest greatest tech turns into a moldy antique all too quickly.
Earlier I mentioned the Dead God. All I can say about that is that it tried to take over a form that couldn’t hold all of it. A gallon of mind into a teacup of brain. Once there, no way out. No doubt my readers can point out a dozen books in which such a thing features, but I can’t think of any other fantasy novel that plays with this trope.
Unlike the previous volume, this volume of the trilogy does not end on an enormous cliff-hanger. It ends with the exact opposite, a Deus ex machina that deals with an otherwise insurmountable challenge. (Which is not Suraklin; he gets handled by the protagonists.)
The previous volume was unsatisfying; this one is unsatisfactory in a different way. It doesn’t drag, like The Silent Tower did, but it ends all too abruptly. As well, a significant character appears more or less out of nowhere, and having performed her role, vanishes to whence she came. Overall, the book gives the impression of that it would have benefited from a good editor. Or a sterner editor.
I suppose I’ll read the third volume, but I have no idea what to expect. Most of the plot issues seem to have been resolved in the second book. Why is there a third book in the series? What’s left to do?
The Silicon Mage is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo). There do not appear to be recent, purchasable editions from either Amazon UK or Book Depository.