A freelance journalist threads together a personal story of the sudden death of his father, his mother's escape to the poker tables, and how his fascination with the modern magicians and their swift resurgence in popular culture led him to discover The 52, magic's most brilliant young minds who are gathering in secret and revolutionizing the art form.
Like any good magic trick, there is much more going on in this book than is readily apparent. While the obvious through line of Magic Is Dead is a behind-the-scenes look at magic and the reveal of the52, it is also a skillful misdirection that allows him to introduce the reader to many other topics as well ... In one chapter he describes a meeting with Shaquille O’Neal where they discuss the loss of their fathers, and though this seems to be a complete diversion from everything else in the book, in terms of its humanity it may be the most magical thing he writes.
The history is compelling, and it's an integral component of the big magical picture ... Frisch often mentions websites where you can look up and watch magic—one of the coolest features of the book. But it's also one of its weaknesses: When Frisch says you can find a video of a trick online, you're apt to leave the book and go find the video. Then you Google some more about sleight of hand, close-up magic, card manipulation, and get back to reading later ... Short biographies and anecdotes make the book personal, revealing the secret lives of magicians ... Frisch crushes it with a cool debut. The book is funny, illuminating, and personal. To paraphrase Frisch, the book is not really about card tricks or stage illusions, it's about adjusting the lens through which you view magic and, consequently, the world.
...highly entertaining and deeply felt ... [Frisch] ably captures the transcendent allure of...magic, not just describing the tricks he learns (such as the Diagonal Palm Shift, a simple sleight-of-hand), but imparting the awe such deceptions can deliver ... Frisch’s enthusiastic deep dive into the world of magic is infectious enough that it just might send readers to the stores for their own magic sets.