These are wonderful books. Michael Close is my favourite writer (and reviewer!) in magic. He puts so much thought into each of his effects. You see a similar thing with Simon Aronson as well. I love seeing Michael's brain at work as he irons out the problems in his tricks. Either one he has created from scratch or a trick he has improved on by somebody else. Along the way, Michael often chucks in a cool subtlety a magician friend has sent his way or found a way to incorporate a sneaky idea taught to him by Harry Riser 40 years earlier.
Since Michael keeps working on and improving each of his tricks - he often finds a twist at the end that opens up another pathway to explore as well. So even if a trick of his does not catch your eye, make sure you read until the end. Since Michael is always looking to do double duty with his tricks and squeeze out extra moments that can be of use in other ways. He is the best routiner of magic I have seen. And it is an education to spend time looking at magic from his perspective.
Michael once wrote that he has "perfect pitch" when it comes to analyzing a magic trick. The flaw or illogical moment in a trick will immediately jump out at him. It takes a special type of eye to spot those moments that will jar with a layperson. It is a case of being able to see the wood for the trees. And it becomes harder and harder the more knowledgeable you become as your mind becomes cluttered with principles, secrets and methods.
It will take me a long time to digest these books. But I will mention a few things that caught my eye on my first read through...
The books open with an essay inspired by a book on behavioral economics and cognitive biases. It makes for fascinating reading. Michael has found a way to apply some very profound and systematic ideas to the study of magic. It allows you to think about your magic in a fundamentally new way. And improve your eye when it comes to spotting why certain moments in a trick arouse suspicion. And why a simple change in procedure can remove that heat.
I have always felt the Cross Cut Force was underrated by magicians. Andy over at The Jerx did some research proving this point as well - http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2017/10/8/the-force-unleashed
- and I got a real kick out of seeing Michael's new work on this move. There is something delightful about seeing a sleight free move (and the first move most magicians learn) be turned into a magician fooler!
Michael has some great work on the Zarrow shuffle as well. Again this is of use if performing for magicians since this is a move that often has a noticeable tell. Well - applying the thinking laid out in his opening essay - Michael has a handling for this move that will puzzle other magicians.
The two books cover about 385 pages in total. And the above only covers my thoughts on the first 30-40 pages. It really is just the tip of the iceberg. There is just so much stuff to cover. It is easy to see why Michael spent over ten years working on and off on these books. I am too lazy to give a detailed review of the entire books. Added to which - the fun of a set of books like this is discovering for yourself the treasure that is buried within. Besides - it would take months to fully absorb the contents of these dense books.
He is a writer who rewards deep reading. And his writing and thinking is incredibly rich. You just don't see books like these in magic anymore. I love his blend of creativity, sneakiness, attention to detail, sneakiness, understanding of magic history (and theory), sneakiness, and helping of underground information that has yet to see print. It makes for an incredible combination. This is a guy who will stop at nothing to find the most deceptive (and practical) method for a trick. Whilst also focusing on the importance of presentation (and how that can be used to disguise the method) as well.
It is Michael Close everyone! He literally invented the term "Worker"
when it comes to magic. Nobody else is thinking about magic on this level. Highest recommendation.