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The Incompleat Enchanter (The Incompleat Enchanter #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,036 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
The Mathematics of Magic - it was the greatest discovery ever. Or so thought Professor Harold Shea. With the proper equations he could instantly transport himself and his friend Reed Chalmers back - or sideways - in time to all the wondrous lands of ancient myth and legend.

But slips in time were a hazard. and Shea's magic didn't always work quite as he expected. A dragon s
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 25th 1979 by Sphere Books (first published 1940)
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Michelle B
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Another thing on my Recommendations list that I'd read long ago. I don't know what it is about de Camp but he simply doesn't do anything for me. I keep remembering the awful "Conan" volumes he and Lin Carter turned out that completely bastardized Robert E Howard's work, and the terrible Lovecraft biography where he tore HPL a new one. Still I gave this a shot since he did it in collaboration with another writer. But, no, it just didn't do anything for me. The supposed humor was a masquerade at c ...more
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Never thought I'd see the day where Frege's definition of a number is a key plot point in a fantasy novel...
Greg Curtis
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Of the incomplete enchanter books the first was clearly the best which is why I have given it five stars and the complete enchanter four. Having said that they are both excellent reads.

This is a fast paced, enjoyable fantasy adventure in several parts in which our hero, an academic of course, finds himself whisked across parallel universes simply by an act of will and belief to mystical realms from books and legends, where he can suddenly find he can do magic. Its awesome as he realises that his
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book over 50 years ago, and enjoyed it almost as much this time as I did then. I was surprised by how much I remembered. I'd forgotten how funny it was or maybe I didn't fine it funny back then. It was one of the first alternate-universe books I read and that has turned into my favorite variety of SF. It led me to try to read "Fairie Queene," but gave up on that until college. (Maybe I'll re-read it now.) So, back then, I enjoyed the Norse myth story much more. The main change in my ...more
Pinko Palest
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first story, with Harold Shea encountering the old norse gods, is absolutely magnificent, and on a par with Lest Darkness Fall. Hilarious and a great comment on what it means to encounter people from a different millieu. The second, which is a light-hearted look at the Faerie Queen is rather substandard, maybe because the author hasn't really come to grips with Spenser's work and doesn't seem to relate to it as well as he did with Norse mythology. The first story is definitely five stars and ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: appendix-n
This is nothing serious, but a very fun book. I can see how it would have inspired fantasy role-players, it is basically a couple of moderns using their modern ways of thinking in fantasy medieval worlds. Harold Shea seemed a bit too obtuse in the first part of the first half of the book: we figure out what’s going on long before he does, which makes his choices seem stupid.

In his defense, all the best-laid plans of mice and men often fail to survive first contact with an evil DM.

The only real p
Norman Cook
Retro Hugo Award Finalists (1940)

• “The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, May 1940)
Professor Harold Shea discovers a way to transport himself back to a time of ancient legend. But instead of landing in Ireland as he wanted, Shea discovers he is really in the Scandinavia of Norse myth, hanging out with the likes of Thor and Loki. To his disappointment, Shea realizes that his modern artifacts such as matches don’t work in this land, but through trial and error man
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I picked this up randomly from a used bookstore because the title caught my eye. It has a decent hook; namely, a handful of scientists and psychologists devise a mathematical formula that pushes people into alternate universes, and for some handwave-y reason these universes are based off existing myths and stories. Once in an alternate universe, they must use their wits and scientific knowledge to deal with the locals, figure out how magic works, and (ultimately) travel back home. This book incl ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Weird psychologists find a way to travel to fictional worlds through magic performed via complex formal logic. The worlds they travel to are worlds of our myths and legends, and there the magic they can use depends on the narrative style, lexicon etc the original opera's author used. So they often have to invent some sorts of poem, appropriate for the setting, to get the desired effect - and while one of the two psychologists avoids trouble and try to focus on understanding said magic, the other ...more
One of those good old literature hopping humour stories. In these Harold Shea transports himself into the myths of Viking legend and then the world of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene. I wouldn't say it is laugh out loud funny but is a nice romp and adventure nonetheless.
I must say I enjoyed the first half more than the second but that may well by the result of my familiarity with Norse Myth over Spenser's writings.
Alessandro Paci
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: narrativa
Stupendo libro, assoluta poesia. L'ho adorato per la sua particolarità, per come giustifica l'esistenza della magia, l'esistenza dei mondi fantastici stessi, per l'assoluta logica e indiscussa varietà della storia. Meraviglioso, non esagero nel dire che sia uno dei fantasy che in assoluto mi è piaciuto di più.
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was on my dad's shelf growing up, somewhere around where he kept Asimov, Aspirin, Heinlein, and so many others. I'm never really objective when reviewing, but here even less than normal. It's a part of my childhood. I wonder what I would think if I read it now?
Lyndon Hardy
This volume is the first of a series in which the protagonist, Harold Shea, is whisked away to parallel universes modeled on the myths in our own world. The tone is light and comic, absolute fun to read. I must have been subconsciously channeling when I wrote The Riddle of the Seven Realms.
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, adult, fantasy
Very, very funny fantasy! Some scientists discover a formula that allows them to visit alternate worlds, and they do: the world of Scandinavian Mythology, and the world of Spenser's Faerie Queen, with hilarious results!
Will Shetterly
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this when I was in my teens. Dunno what I would think of it now, and would rather like to reread it someday to see. For now, consider this the rating of my young self, who might very well be wiser about these things than I am today.
Timothy Boyd
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny fantasy series. Great read. Very recommended
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Piacevole e divertente, inoltre ti costringe a cercare i miti a cui si rifà per capire come dovrebbero andare le cose e comportarsi i personaggi incontrati :)))
Isca Silurum
Feb 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A strange book in as much as written in the American vernacular, but very enjoyable all the same.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book!! Everything your looking for in an adventure book!!
Jess George
I enjoyed this light, fun tale of time-travel into mythical worlds.
Oct 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Harold Shea in a parallel world or two. Nordic mythology and Spenser's Fairy Queene offer settings where magic works.
Erik Graff
Oct 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: followers of the series
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
This book of two connected stories is rather like Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest in concept. The device employed for the transition between worlds is interesting.
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, time-travel
Really fun read - a bit frustrating at times
Apr 16, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was one that belonged to my dad and I really wanted to like it, but I couldn't get to chapter 3. I couldn't understand the language or the plot.
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Lyon Sprague de Camp, (Pseudonym: Lyman R. Lyon) was an American science fiction and fantasy author and biographer. In a writing career spanning fifty years he wrote over one hundred books, including novels and notable works of nonfiction, such as biographies of other important fantasy authors.He was widely regarded as an imaginative and innovative writer and was an important figure in the heyday ...more
More about L. Sprague de Camp

Other books in the series

The Incompleat Enchanter (5 books)
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“Not at all," persisted Chalmers, unaware that Shea was trying to shush him. "The people of the country have agreed to call magic 'white' when practised for lawful ends by duly authorized agents of the governing authority, and 'black' when practised by unauthorized persons for criminal ends. That is not to say that the principles of the science — or art — are not the same in either event. You should confine such terms as 'black' and 'white' to the objects for which the magic is performed, and not apply it to the science itself, which like all branches of knowledge is morally neutral —"
"But," protested Belphebe, "is't not that the spell used to, let us say, kidnap a worthy citizen be different from that used to trap a malefactor?"

"Verbally but not structurally," Chalmers went on. After some minutes of wrangling, Chalmers held up the bone of his drumstick. "I think I can, for instance, conjure the parrot back on this bone — or at least fetch another parrot in place of the one we ate. Will you concede, young lady, that that is a harmless manifestation of the art?"
"Aye, for the now," said the girl. "Though I know you schoolmen; say 'I admit this; I concede that,' are ere long one finds oneself conceded into a noose."

"Therefore it would be 'white' magic. But suppose I desired the parrot for some — uh — illegal purpose —"

"What manner of crime for ensample, good sir?" asked Belphebe.

"I — uh — can't think just now. Assume that I did. The spell would be the same in either case —"

"Ah, but would it?" cried Belphebe. "Let me see you conjure a brace of parrots, one fair, one foul; then truly I'll concede."

Chalmers frowned. "Harold, what would be a legal purpose for which to conjure a parrot?"

Shea shrugged. "If you really want an answer, no purpose would be as legal as any, unless there's something in gamelaws. Personally I think it's the silliest damned argument —”
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