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January 9, 2021

Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger

Filed under: Reviews-Science Fiction — Suramya @ 11:40 PM

Mage Against the Machine
by Shaun Barger


Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.

The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the other side, the mages have spent the last century putting their lives back together.

Nikolai is obsessed with artifacts from twentieth-century human life: mage-crafted replica Chuck Taylors on his feet, Schwarzenegger posters on his walls, Beatlemania still alive and well in his head. But he’s also tasked with a higher calling—to maintain the Veils that protect mage-kind from the hazards of the wastes beyond. As a cadet in the Mage King’s army, Nik has finally found what he always wanted—a purpose. But when confronted by one of his former instructors gone rogue, Nik tumbles into a dark secret. The humans weren’t nuked into oblivion—they’re still alive. Not only that, outside the domes a war rages between the last enclaves of free humans and vast machine intelligences.

Outside the dome, unprepared and on the run, Nik finds Jem. Jem is a Runner for the Human Resistance. A ballerina-turned-soldier by the circumstances of war, Jem is more than just a human—her cybernetic enhancement mods make her faster, smarter, and are the only things that give her a fighting chance against the artificial beings bent on humanity’s eradication.

Now Nik faces an impossible decision: side with the mages and let humanity die out? Or stand with Jem and the humans—and risk endangering everything he knows and loves?

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Rating: (4/5)


This is the first book by the author and I really liked it. The premise is that mages live in sheltered enclaves and believe that the world outside is a wasteland where all humans died out hundreds of years ago. Nik who is a rookie officer with the Edge Guard believes the story whole-heartedly and over the course of the book we start to get an idea of what is going on. I thought that the explanation for the discrepancy would be something else but was pleasantly surprised.

One small thing that bugged me initially was the fact that the chapters didn’t have dates mentioned so was a bit confused at first thinking about why we are suddenly talking about humans when they were supposed to have died out centuries ago. After I read a few chapters things started making more sense and then I was really pulled into the story. The character of Nik was really rough in the beginning and his behavior felt very unnatural and forced. The author did try to justify it, but it didn’t quite click for me till about half-way through the book. I am sure in the next one things will be a lot more smoothly handled as the author gets more practiced.

I would have liked more of an explanation about how the mages came to be, there was a brief explanation but it would be interesting to read more about their beginnings. I think that might be forthcoming in future books.

I am waiting for the next book in the series as this one ends just as things are starting to get a lot more interesting.

– Suramya

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