I’m a bit loathe to be critical of this book because I sought out the book myself – convincing the author to send out a book at his own expense, rather than an author doing that voluntarily. But of course it wouldn’t speak to well about the objectivity of these reviews if I was totally biased.
The reason I sought out to review this book – which I’d seen reviewed highly favorably on Odyssey Reviews – is because I’m interested in how occult subjects are tackled in fiction. Interestingly, many of these books that tackle more esoteric subjects (such as Poker without Cards, to be reviewed at a later date), need to be self-published – based on the subject matter alone and not the quality of the book. Niche books just need to be self-published, especially fringe subjects.
My main problem with this book is that some of the events in the novel have as much relation to magick (with a “k”) as Harry Potter. What makes the occult an interesting topic is that it is a practical spiritual discipline – an attempt to make prayers become manifest. There is more white magic in the occult than black magic – though the darker aspects of the occult – Satanic murders, etc. – are what get all the attention. But the occult is really just another spiritual discipline. It’s no more evil than “The Secret.”
What makes this novel disappointing at first is that it is a kind fantastical look at occult practices. It’s what you might dream you could do with occult power, but it’s not so much about how occult practices might be used in everyday life. I’ve read enough about the occult to know that the teacher’s name in the novel, Levi, is a nod to Eliphas Levi, an occult mastermind. I have to admit that I find Alistair Crowley’s writing inscrutable.
But what bothers me about mainstream depictions of the occult – or esoteric subjects in general – is that it’s always menacing and negative. So my hope for the Aquarius Key was that this would be a more positive spin on occult topics. But really, the book is more like a horror novel, with the occult practitioners having a superhero’s sense of power. I was hoping for more realism.
But once I got past that initial disappointment and started reading the novel for what it is, rather than what I hoped it would be, it is an enjoyable read. People who love horror novels with an occult twist will absolutely love this book. Sometimes the language is overwrought, but overall it’s a fascinating story, and a well-managed blend of difficult, complicated subjects within a gripping storyline.
The writer also asked me to review the quality of the book itself, which was fulfilled by Amazon and printed by Amazon’s own printers, rather than iUniverse (it’s an iUniverse editor’s choice). There have been complaints about Amazon’s printing process. I haven’t seen other copies of the book, but the quality of the cover and the paper stock is as good as any I’ve seen out of Lulu, iUniverse, or BookSurge.
Author site: www.magick.co.za
About the Author: Henry Baum
I’m the author of The American Book of the Dead. The novel won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." I'm also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). Visit henrybaum.com for more information. I’m the editor of Self-Publishing Review.