Book review

Condensed Chaos

by Phil Hine


I should confess first of all that this book isn’t really about my kind of thing: I’m a maths/science geek, so a book talking about how to perform real magic, with spirit summoning and so forth, isn’t likely to be my cup of tea. But it was on my wishlist (because of a recommendation by an author I rate) and my thoughtful son bought me a copy for my birthday, so I read it with some curiosity.

And it’s fair to say that even from my somewhat doubting point of view, Phil Hine does a great job here. He explains in a really very straightforward way how one might go about doing some of these magical things, if one wants to do so. He’s very clear that you need to actually DO the things, rather than just read about them in books, and that if/when magic starts to work for you, only then will you truly believe.

A lot of what Hine talks about seems plausibly to act on a psychological level, and I can see how much of this might be useful. You’re reminded that the world is in many ways deeply interconnected, in ways that we don’t always see. You’re told about your power to make small changes that may have large effects – again, undoubtedly true, and the foundation for the mathematical “chaos” theory that Hine references.

You’re also given specific instructions for magical acts – for example how to construct a mental “servitor”, and how to project it forth into the world to do your bidding. You’re reminded that you need to be very specific, otherwise you may get exactly what you ask for, not what you wanted. Given the way I do think minds work, together with the vast set of situations one actually encounters every day if you’re paying attention, I can see how this might seem to work for people, setting your mind up for success, and tuning it to look for the early signs.

Hine says he says that he, too, used to think of magic as simply psychological, until early one morning when he awoke to be confronted by a cloudy grey creature sat on his chest, which he eventually dispelled by “projecting” a pentagram at it with his mind. I haven’t had any such experiences, and even if I had I think I would likely attribute them to a particularly vivid dream, or some other bug in the wetware of my brain. So it seems to me there are many explanations of these things that still conform to conventional physics, without having to resort to creatures from another realm materialising in your bedroom. However, I can say is that the author seems entirely sincere, and so I should at least do him the courtesy of adjusting my prior belief in the reality of magic from “extremely unlikely to be the case” to perhaps a tiny fraction more possible.

Three stars, because it was entertaining and well written, and if you were after something like this, then this would seem to me to be a good book for it.