Kelly McCullough,
(Ace, 2006)

First, let's take a look at the dramatis personae in WebMage.

• Ravirn, a.k.a. Ravi Lacher: a young graduate student in systems engineering, also an increasingly accomplished hacker, also a near-immortal descendant of Lachesis.

• Melchior: Ravirn's wizarding "familiar," a webgoblin who alternates between looking like a small, bald, blue man and a blue laptop computer; possesses a mastery of sarcasm and a powerful sense of loyalty.

• Cerice: a beautiful computer programmer, sorceress and near-immortal descendant of Clotho. Cerice and Ravirn are long-time friends, distant cousins and possibly more.

• Shara: Cerice's voluptuous, flirtatious purple webgoblin, who sometimes converts seductively into a purple laptop computer.

• Ahllan: an ugly, fierce-looking, but caring and grandmotherly webtroll, who might just be the key to Ravirn's survival.

• Clotho: the Aspect of Fate who spins the threads of life out of the very essence of Chaos. Also, an ancestor of Cerice.

• Lachesis: an Aspect of Fate who measures and weaves the threads of life. Also, an ancestor of Ravirn.

• Atropos: an Aspect of Fate who cuts the threads of life, thereby signaling and/or causing death.

• Magaera, Tisiphone and Aleto: collectively known as the Furies, these three children of the goddess Necessity are the "heavies," or punishers of the immortals.

• Eris: the beautiful, unpredictable, naughty goddess of Discord, who is not all bad (or all good).

Now, the scenario: In this fictive universe, magic, science and mythology are all equally powerful and equally true. Magic, as exercised by the gods and goddesses of Olympus, is now modernized and exercised through computer and Internet codes. Spells are hummed or whistled lines of codes, and run through the "mweb" or magical counterpart of the World Wide Web.

And, finally, the plot: Ravirn is studying systems engineering at the University of Minnesota, but his true love is hacking, just to prove that no one's security systems are unbreachable, and shooting down any computer virus he might encounter. Amongst his many excursions in the world of cybermagic, he finds that Atropos has decided free will causes too much disorder and has decided to eliminate it. Ravirn, being quite the free spirit, decides to challenge the powerful Atropos; he finds a back door into the "Fate Core," or mainframe of the power used by the Fates, and promptly finds a major virus, planted by Eris. In a way, Ravirn wants Eris to defeat Atropos, but he is also loyal to his family. He is not powerful enough to openly challenge Atropos and/or Eris, but he also wants neither the excessive order sought by Atropos, nor the chaos so loved by Eris. What to do, what to do?

If my summary sounds strange, confusing and bizarre, that's because this novel, a debut by Kelly McCullough, is all of those things. It is also just plain fun to read! The characters are strange but credible and interesting, the writing is fast-paced and the cyber-jargon never gets in the way. If you try to make it make sense, it will confound you into oblivion; if you just go with the flow, suspend disbelief and allow yourself to enjoy it, you'll have a blast.

In pace and strangeness, it reminds me of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. In concepts, it reminds me of Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality. What genres are included here? How about: science fiction, cyberpunk, fantasy, modernized mythology, adventure and a bit of romance and mystery.

This is a wild, fun ride. It is perfect reading for any time.

by Chris McCallister
5 August 2006

Buy it from