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Black Easter (After Such Knowledge #2)

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  441 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Black Easter is a Nebula Award-nominated fantasy novel by James Blish in which an arms dealer hires a black magician to unleash all the Demons of Hell on earth for a single day. It was first published in 1968. The sequel is The Day After Judgment. Together, those two very short novels form the third part of the thematic "After Such Knowledge" trilogy (title from T.S. Eliot ...more
Mass Market Paperback, #0653, 160 pages
Published July 1969 by Dell (first published 1968)
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I don't usually go for novels about black magic, which I tend to find boring and kind of stupid, but this one is pretty good. Blish isn't being campy, or playing it for laughs. The assumption made here is that black magic exists and really works, allowing you to summon demons from Hell and make them do your bidding. The author must have done a lot of background reading, and the atmosphere feels authentic. I particularly liked the descriptions of the demons, who are both chillingly evil and bizar ...more
WARNING: This review contains the BIG spoiler, but no others, so you may not want to read this if you haven’t read Black Easter yet.

Damn! God is dead. And James Blish is his killer.

I've been meaning to read a Blish novel for years, having read and liked a short story of his -- How Beautiful With Banners -- in a Sci-Fi class years ago, but Blish isn't carried in the book stores within my sphere of contact, and he's never been the first author I think of when I have money to spend online.

I lucke
6.0 stars. I just reread this book (February 6, 2010) and I liked it even better than the first time I read it (when I gave it 4.5 to 5.0 stars). While always problematic to say that a book is the "first" to do something (especially when you haven't read every book ever written), this appears to be the first book in which the art of magic is portrayed as a rigorous, almost scientific endeavor fraught with peril and potentially very unpleasant. Add to that a great plot and one of the best endings ...more
May 04, 2010 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Brad Simkulet
The book ends with three English words and a mathematical symbol commonly known as Aleph-naught. Or, in Rabbinic/Judaic folk lore, a reference to the reward given to the Aleph by starting the Ten Commandments and also begins the three words that Make up God's mystical name in Exodus: I Am That I Am

The revelation (pardon the pun sans spoilers) presents a compelling argument for the theological hypothesis raised by Blish.

I read this short novel in less than a day, a matter of hours, but I fear it
Jul 23, 2008 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This, and it's sequel / companion DAY AFTER JUDGEMENT, are a pair of hilariously-dark, end-of-the-world novellas that astonish and delight in equal measure.

Drawing extensively from actual magical rituals, the "always-delivers" Mr Blish imagines an international arms dealer employing a real wizard to unleash all the demons from Hell onto Earth for one night of Revelations-style armageddo-fun while a Vatican rep watches on, observer-style, because the Cosmic rules (the contract between God and Sat
Mar 20, 2016 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a soft spot for fantasies of the Apocalypse, as in the Biblical Apocalypse or Book of Revelations, but subverted or not played straight.

Black Easter (or Faust Aleph-Null) is a classic Nebula-nominated work by James Blish, in which an arms dealer contracts with a black magician by the name of Theron Ware to literally let all hell break loose for one night on earth - out of curiosity to see what would happen and to boost profits from arms sales. Most of the narrative is an intricate explora
Jun 22, 2009 DoctorM rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only book with necromancy I've ever seen that tries to be faithful to medieval visions of how sorcery should work--- which appeals to the historian in me.

And...the only book that asks the question all those End of Days/Apocalypse novels and films never do: What if the Apocalypse comes and things just don't go the way the Tim LaHaye types think it will?

Oh, yes. Dark and clever and very, very different. Worth reading, along with its sequel, "The Day After Judgment".
Oct 18, 2015 LQ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! Loved it!
Scott Ferry
Aug 28, 2012 Scott Ferry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful story for Easter! Should be required reading for all children. God is Dead and things are not always what they seem.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jul 11, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy Fans
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: A Reader's Guide to Fantasy
What Dracula and King's Salem's Lot is to vampires, Black Easter is to demons. These days, vampires, witches and wizards are lovable creatures in fiction. There are even neo-Pagans today who embrace a belief in ceremonial magic as benign. Blish says in his Author's Note that every one of the "novels, poems and plays about magic and witchcraft" he's read treat it as "romantic or playful." He sought to write a treatment that "neither romanticizes magic nor treats it as a game." His book is dedicat ...more
Jun 23, 2009 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Contemporary fantasy (even at its best, as in the Golden Compass) tends to emphasize again and again just how spectacular everything going on is. In some books it seems as though everything is imbued with a magical power, an otherworldly glow or a guarded history, and everywhere there are secrets upon secrets to be unearthed. Also, there are probably sexy vampires. It's fiction for the short attention span, which begs the reader "Keep reading! Keep reading!"
Blish's treatment of magic here is to
B. Jay
I read this at the same time as Frank Herbert's 'the Heavenmakers' and it was interesting to compare Herbert's worst book against Blish's best. Where Herbert was known for sweeping sagas of great depth in detail and philosophy, Blish had his most commercial success in being the first to novelize Star Trek stories. And the first adaptations he did of the original Star Trek epsiodes were JUST AWFUL. But in Black Easter Blish truly suprised me with a rich story full of great characters and a plot t ...more
Pam Baddeley
Jan 24, 2016 Pam Baddeley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
A disturbing tale of black magic against a background of impending nuclear war, with an extremely downbeat ending. Blish shows his research into mediaeval grimoires perhaps a little too protractedly in the scene where lots of demons are summoned, one after another.

Read as part of the After Such Knowledge omnibus and posted as an individual review as all the other GR reviews are under the individual books.
Benjamin Shehu
A very interesting read. Took me for a spin on something that was a bit outside my comfort zone.

A bit of strange magic, and a Faustian bargain. Kabbalistic, in general Jewish mysticism is used as the foundation for all of the magic incantations in the book, but there is also signs of more Medieval superstitious beliefs about them.

Also, nuclear warfare.

Decent read, not too long.
Feb 22, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
A rather clinical look at Black Magic with a big dose of Catholicism. A swift moving classic page-turner. I've not read Blish before and I really liked his erudite prose. An author I need to explore further.

It's a 160 page novel. I guess nowadays it'd be called a novella. I miss the days when novels were routinely shorter. A refreshing change from bloated novels of today.

Jul 25, 2011 Rod rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been a long-time fan of science fiction with religious themes, I inevitably got around to this one. I found it...well, a strange book. It's of the era when writers packed their ideas into modestly sized novels instead of exhausting themselves (or the reader) in 700-page "worlds." That said, there were chapters here that begged for some follow-up. It had a strangely disjointed feel that, in retrospect, may well have added to its impact. What if magic were a "real science?" What if there we ...more
Jan Kjellin
'Svart Påsk' är ett genomarbetat, på gränsen till nördigt, romanprojekt som både omfamnar och genomskådar den ockulta kulturen. Jag tror att James Blish gjorde sig ett tanke-experiment där han helt enkelt frågade sig hur världen skulle se ut om svart och vit magi - som den beskrivs i skrifterna - verkligen existerade.

Att resultatet blir så lyckat beror på att Blish kan ämnet i fråga. Regler för framställning av magiska föremål och inte minst förhållningsregler mellan vita och svarta magiker pres
Nov 03, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
1981 grade A
Religious Fantasy
aka Faust Aleph Null
Series book R2a
Eh. This was an old paperback lying around. More like a novella, it supposedly describes a "technically correct" black magic rite that summons demons and ... well.. I want spoil the ending. It's apparently part of a trilogy. The prose is fine, and the writer -- better known for science fiction -- approached it as an intellectual exercise, could he make this stuff seem logical and believable. Ultimately, the cosmology and theology are rendered absurd by the final sentence, a bit of a joke that wa ...more
Sophie Carsenat
Aug 18, 2016 Sophie Carsenat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it. Pretty erudite, slightly pulpy, and has a whiff of clever nastiness.
Doug Luberts
Jan 31, 2012 Doug Luberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great little book...It's more of a novella or long short story than a full-length novel, but it's a great read.

A tale of a Sorcerer who uses the black arts to enact crimes of violence against targets of his client's revenge, it uses text from actual medieval grimoires such as the 'Clavicula Salmonis' and 'The Goetia' (Lesser Key of Salomon) for the ritual magick scenes.

The ending is abrupt, and not nearly as satisfying as rest of the novel, but it's a fun book, and a very original appr
John Morrison
Jan 10, 2015 John Morrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book during some down time at work. Pleasantly surprised by it without having read the first book.
Oct 25, 2010 Batmensch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books of all time; a science fiction writer's take on the question "What if magic worked as described in medieval texts"? Horrifying, but never less than interesting, right on down to the references to 60s technology and political attitudes. Also, short and to the point.

A corporate arms builder merchant, no longer satisfied by the little brush wars he is able to create, asks the world's last black magician to release all the demons of Hell into the world for a day, just to see
Jan 28, 2009 Sidney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book of its era, slim by today's standards but still an intriguing read by SF author Blish. As an experiment, a cluster of men decide to conjure all of the demons of hell and unleash them on the world for a single night.

A great deal of the novel is devoted to slightly repetitious conjuring toward the end of the book but its overall effect is intense and chilling.

It's followed by Blish's the Day After Judgment.
Christopher Sutch
May 29, 2010 Christopher Sutch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh foolish munitions manufacturer, letting loose the demons of hell for one night! That'll teach you. As erudite as Blish's masterpiece, _Doctor Mirabilis_, but with more of the feel of a short story that he tried to pad out to novel length. And, of course, it's only half the story of Armageddon, which he completed in _The Day after Judgment_. An interesting read, though.
May 18, 2013 Krk rated it it was ok
Some interesting concepts concerning white and black magic. Unfortunately, the back cover said it would "scare hell out of me" and it did not deliver. I also wish Blish had expanded on the state of affairs in Heaven, but because he was going for a shocking concluding line I suppose that wasn't, in his mind, possible.
Nov 13, 2012 Kestrell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This seemed very interesting when I started it, but became increasingly less so as I approached the ending. I realize that Blish claimed his intention was to write an unromanticized version of black magic, but somehow this resulted in his characters being incredibly flat, even to the point of being mere cliches.
Sep 24, 2009 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Brief tale of the innvocation of evil spirits. Main purpose seems to be showinf of Blish's knowledge of arcane black arts - he claims that all the sorcery is based on historical texts. Good fun, no real depth.
Erik Graff
Dec 23, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Blish fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
As happens too often, I read Black Easter, third volume of the After Such Knowledge trilogy, prior to reading the others. Still, it made an impression and, comparing my recollections of the others, it is my favorite.
Benjamin Espen
This is the book you should give to people who think that the Harry Potter series teaches how to do ritual magic. Let them reflect that it has never been made into a film, and then let them count their blessings.
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James Benjamin Blish (East Orange, New Jersey, May 23, 1921 – Henley-on-Thames, July 30, 1975) was an American author of fantasy and science fiction. Blish also wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen-name William Atheling Jr.

In the late 1930's to the early 1940's, Blish was a member of the Futurians.

Blish trained as a biologist at Rutgers and Columbia University, and spent 1942–
More about James Blish...

Other Books in the Series

After Such Knowledge (4 books)
  • Doctor Mirabilis (After Such Knowledge, #1)
  • The Day After Judgment (After Such Knowledge, #3)
  • A Case of Conscience (After Such Knowledge, #4)

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