SUMMARY: A sequel to Strong Magic, and essential magic theory about creating impossible effects
Designing Miracles is not a cheap book, but you can consider it a valuable investment in helping you raise the level of all your magic. But the good news is that this title it is available not just as a hard copy, you can also buy a digital download of an audio version of the book, which only costs around half the price of a hard copy (if including shipping). I wasn't in a position to buy the hard copy, so I was very glad to discover that the book is available in this cheaper form. Even better, this audio-book is read by the author himself, who does a fantastic job of reading his own material clearly and passionately. I've enjoyed listening to the audio version over the last few weeks, and it's this version that I'm reviewing in particular here, although naturally the majority of my comments apply to the printed book as well.
WHAT YOU GET
The audio book features the entire text of Darwin Ortiz, read out loud by the author himself. The entire recording is just over 8 hours in total. Darwin Ortiz does an excellent job in reading his own work, with good clarity, expression, and emphasis. Sometimes an author may be a good writer but not a good reader; that is not the case here, and Ortiz is a pleasure to listen to.
There are some disadvantages to an audio book of course, not least the fact that navigation becomes more difficult, and it's not a simple matter to quickly look up and consult something. I got my audiobook directly from the publisher Vanishing Inc, and at first I wasn't thrilled to discover that it was a single massive file in M4B format, which works fine for an iPhone and even has digital bookmarks, but didn't work at all on my mp3 player. After corresponding with the Vanishing Inc team, they noted that a version in mp3 format should also have been made available, and in short order they had made a fix, enabling me to download a version with over 60 separate mp3 files. This format worked terrific for me, and also made it easy to navigate to different sections, and continue playing where I'd left off.
There are significant advantages with an audio book besides immediate delivery and cheaper cost. For one thing, you can listen to the book while on the move. This enabled me to maximize my commuting and driving, and I even enjoyed listening to sections while going for a jog or while laying in bed. The cost is another factor - the audio book costs only half of what it would to purchase a hard copy of the book and have it shipped to your house. And you get to enjoy the download immediately as well, and there's no need to wait for it to ship to your doorstep since delivery is immediate.
Since the audio book was done a few years after the book was first published, Darwin Ortiz has also updated a few sections with additional examples, and there's an extra section at the end in which he is interviewed, and offers clarification on a number of points. In this bonus 20 minute interview with Darwin, he's asked numerous questions regarding the book, including: How did Designing Miracles come to follow Strong Magic, and are there plans for a third book? What other books would you suggest on these topics? How would you compare magic with film-making? How do you avoid spectators don't have a negative experience of feeling fooled? How do you achieve clarity and simplicity with a complex effect? What tactics can magicians use to bring the audience to psychological surrender? How did you go about writing these books? With the benefit of six years since the first publication of the book, would you change anything about it?
Content: I've written a separate review about the book, which is OUTSTANDING, and an essential read for all magicians. The comments below pertain specifically to the audiobook.
Reader: As has been mentioned already, in the case of the audiobook, Darwin does a terrific job of reading his own book. He's easy to listen to, expressive, and there is something valuable and convincing in hearing the content of a book straight from the mouth of its author.
Cost: The audiobook is basically half the price of a physical copy of the book, making it great value.
Convenient: The real advantage of the audiobook is that you can easily listen to it while on the move, whether community or walking/jogging, making it very convenient to listen to while you're doing something else at the same time. Plus you get to download it immediately when you purchase it.
Updated: The audio book also has the benefit of some additional sections and updates that Darwin has made to his original book (mostly the addition of examples), including a bonus section at the end in which he addresses numerous questions and clarifies points.
Many in the magic industry would regard Darwin Ortiz as being at the very forefront of thinkers on magic theory, and his Strong Magic is considered to be a seminal work, and one of the most significant contributions to magic theory in recent times. After such a fine work with Strong Magic, one might think that Darwin Ortiz was setting himself the impossible, because the brilliance of Strong Magic meant that it would be a very hard act to follow. Surely that modern classic could not be equalled, and a follow-up work would only be a let down. Fortunately for us, Darwin Ortiz is all about miracles and achieving the possible, and in Designing Miracles he's surpassed himself by writing another outstanding book on magic theory, one that stands besides Strong Magic as an independent work, and at the same time is a worthy equal, and will quickly be regarded as a classic alongside its predecessor.
Where Strong Magic succeeded in educating us in the key elements of showmanship, Designing Miracles succeeds in educating us about the key elements of constructing magical effects. Darwin Ortiz has a remarkable ability to think clearly and analyze why certain effects are so strong, and further to draw out the principles behind this which we can apply to our own magic. He's also a very clear communicator, and ensures that his explanations are enhanced with constant examples that illustrate well the points he's making.
Unlike most magic books, Designing Miracles is not about teaching us new tricks, nor is it about the methods and mechanics of magic. It's not even about presentation or showmanship first of all. Rather, this important book is all about teaching us how to design and construct tricks in such a way that the effects become all the more powerful and foolproof, creating the genuine impression of the truly impossible. It gives us the clear thinking we need to take the tricks we've learned and improve small aspects of them to make them even better. Building on those who have gone before him, and drawing on his own insights and experience through years of magic, this is a book that stands on the shoulders of giants, and stands head and shoulders above most magic books.
I'm very pleased that this gem hasn't only been published in book form, but has also been made available as an audio version for half the price, with some updated content and added bonus features, all read by the author Darwin Ortiz himself. I can't recommend this highly enough! - BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame