Here are some reasons why I highly recommend this eBook:
It contains four, solid routines from Mark Shortland and various colaborators. These are described in detail and go well beyond the use of the box as a simple forcing utility (e.g. for a name or a number.) In addition, there are five presentation variations on the four basic effects; an outline suggestion for a longer and more elaborate routine and a number of other presentation tips.
The four basic types of routine described are:
Add a Number. Spectators write numbers on billets. These are placed in the box. When tipped out and the total is calculated, the magiciain’s prediction is close to but not equal to the calculated total. In a kicker ending, the total is rectified in a very convincing and baffling manner. Several variations are described in detail including versions with dates of signifcant events, Monopoly money and weights.
Counters. The magician accurately calculates the proportion of coloured counters placed by spectators in two Amazeboxes. (!)
Q & A. Spectators put billets in the box containing questions or personal information. The billets are tipped into a glass bowl and the magician selects a few. Without seeing the writing on the billets, the magician is able to discern the information and answer the questions.
Jigsaw. A spectator selects a single jigsaw piece form the box he/she has loaded with puzzle pieces. The significance of this freely selected piece is only discovered when a second jigsaw puzzle is revealed.
The book also contains Mark Shortland's account of the development of the Amazebox, from his prototypes to the three versions commercially available (to date.)
The eBook contains important thinking on the psychology of this kind of mentalism. For example, Mark explains why a magical production at the end of a routine is better than a straight prediction. Insights such as these from such a seasoned, professional performer are extremely valuable and I found them very helpful.
Who would like this book?
Amazebook would mainly suit Amazebox owners (any version) who wants to have a range of varied routines to include in their shows. It might be especially helpful to someone who is looking for opportunities to move into stage performances and is developing routines that particularly suit their style and special interests. Amazebook is intended to get you thinking and, instead of giving you numerous scripted routines, it gives you the raw materials to inwardly digest and build your own, special effects.
Is the eBook worth the money?
The eBook is not a super bargain, but it is super helpful. Some people will baulk at the idea of having to pay this much for an ‘instruction sheet,’ containing a few routines, especially when they have already paid between £35 and £60 for one of the boxes. The best professional magic props today include high quality video tutorials, often with numerous routines thoroughly taught. If you buy a Svengali Deck for a fiver, you expect to have to pay a little more for a decent book with routines taught. However, rightly or wrongly, we have come to expect full instructions and routine ideas when we buy magic designed for the working professional or keen amateur. When your Amazebox arrives in the post (in a beautiful, giant envelope), you get a pre-cut, flat-packed piece of corrugated plastic and about an hour’s DIY to do. Although Mark Shortlands instruction video is excellent (and entertaining,) he only gives some hints for the use of this excellent utility device. When I bought my Amazebox, I had a particular use for it in mind already (the simple force of a vote for favourite TV series at a wedding), so I wasn’t at all disappointed. It was only some months later that I discovered the Amzebook eBook, and I am very glad I did. I have to admit, it took a bit of courage to part with and extra 30% of what I had already paid for the box, but I do think it was well worth it. It would be helpful to have information about about the Amazebook in the ad copy for each of the Amazeboxes. Then people can make a more informed purchase right from the start. For this reason, in this review, I have given some details of the kind of effects taught in the eBook without giving anything away (I hope.)
The eBook consist of a 48 page PDF. It is an easy, enjoyable read. It reads a bit like a transcription of one of those live Youtube interviews added to ideas posted other professional magicians on an owner’s Facebook page and topped up by Mark Shortland's biography of the Amazebox.
If you are very experienced with or well read on billet box effects, you may not find quite so much help in this eBook as I did. I suppose it makes sense, therefore, to sell the box and the book separately. Amazebox is excellent and is being used by many professional magicians. For us amateurs, we dip into magic designed for working professionals as the piggy bank permits and I feel that this excellent tool deserves excellent routines to go with it. It would be a great shame not to stretch its potential to the absolute limit of its capability in terms of an audience's awe and wonder. (Mark's insights in this book into how spectators reverse engineer possible explanations for magic tricks is very thought provoking and challenges you to refine routines without overthinking them.)
Nevertheless, I think that the content is excellent and it contains enough detailed information to help you perform at least six really solid routines. That alone would justify the price of the book. And for those launching into stage shows, the combined cost of an Amazebox plus the Amazebook is less than half the cost of the stage version of Cardiogrpahic and, to my mind, is much more interesting. Mark’s insights into the psychology of billet box mentalism is worth its weight in gold. Also, I think the book is all the better for being a little open ended, getting you to see some of the potential of the box, but forcing you to think about how to use it in your own style of magic.
As is probably clear from this review, this eBook is mainly geared towards magic on stage. However, most, but not all of the routines would work in a parlour setting or a small stage show at a wedding.
Readers may wish to read the whole hearted recommendation of the Amazebox (Black) in my review on the Vanishing Inc. website. (Julian)