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Mage Against the Machine

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Harry Potter meets The Terminator in this action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers that everything he believed about his world is a lie.

The year is 2120. The humans are dead. The mages have retreated from the world after a madman blew up civilization with weaponized magical technology. Safe within domes that protect them from the nuclear wasteland on the oth
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by Gallery / Saga Press (first published October 9th 2018)
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Shaun Barger Hi Qcjodenis,

Mage Against the Machine is the first of a planned quartet! Stay tuned for updates on the sequel, Good Kid Mage City. ;)…more
Hi Qcjodenis,

Mage Against the Machine is the first of a planned quartet! Stay tuned for updates on the sequel, Good Kid Mage City. ;)(less)

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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  240 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

“Harry Potter meets The Terminator”—what could go wrong? Well, as we all know, even good ideas can fail if the execution is not that great. And this was my overall impression with Mage Against the Machine, which had the advantage of a solid concept behind its premise. The only problem was that the story took way too long to gain momentum and generate interest.

To its credit though, the book doesn’t waste time throwing the r
DNF @50%
I tried with this one.

I really, really did.

But between me and the book, something's gotta give and the book is, well, a book. It doesn't have emotions. It doesn't have a network of neurons all simultaneously screaming "Abort! Abort!" The book will remain cool and unbothered and utterly pristine.

I can't say the same for my tablet which has suffered from verbal abuse and my fantasies of hurling it against the wall.

Or the future of my tenancy in this apartment. Because I can't count the nu
Elisabeth Jewell
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fresh and exhilarating, even for a jaded and bored fantasy fan such as myself. Stayed up late several nights in a row, and let my kids eat too many junk snacks in order to burn through the pages.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: galley
3.75 out of 5 stars

In 2120, humans can no longer reproduce, artificially intelligent overlords have a stranglehold on humanity, and small communities of mages are hidden throughout the world. Nikolai, a newly minted mage Edge Guard, protects the border between his world and ours, while Jem, a cybernetically enhanced human, smuggles contraband away from the watchful eyes of Earth’s AI overseers.

What’s so alluring about this book is that its characters are basically living in two different genres.
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG. Fucking brilliant fun. Such a fantastic premise.

THIS WAS SO WELL PACED THAT I SKIPPED ANY BUMPY PARTS. I mean, I assume there were bumpy parts, it's a debut. But honestly, if there were, I have no idea because I was too busy flying through the pages.

After recently DNFing another book that had two different parts that never gelled, this gelled perfectly even way before anything came together literally. I don't think I would have been so terribly excited by these stories i
Darrin Fiddler
Finally a book equal to Pierce Brown's Red Rising series!

Mages versus robots, clashing in a post-Apocalyptic world. Yeah. Can't go wrong there with beautiful writing and characters. The world is like home, yet so not. I had a blast reading this one and cannot wait for the next!

4 1/2 stars
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great read, started and done in less than 24 hours... Mixed my 2 favorite genres (SciFi/Fantasy) and was a great adventure. Hoping this new author followed up with a sequel!
Phillip Joseph
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for torture. Maybe that's what attracted me to this book with its grim yet fantastical cover and premise. Maybe that's why I'm so bored with the typical fare in the Sci-fi and Fantasy genres. This book is a welcome breath of fresh air.


Firstly, the thematic and tonal consistency of this book is astounding. Everything, from the overarching plot to the characterization of each individual in it, informs themes buried in age-old questions: Can untested goodness actually be consi
Ari Fleeman
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! Beautiful world building and deep characters I cared about the whole way through. The main character is so well thought out I was constantly rooting for him even when he was being an ass! I can't wait to see more from this author and from this world.
Louis Charton
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Action, suspense, and Magic; what more could you want? Great descriptions, it keeps the mind reeling with magical possibilities. And you don't have to be a magic geek to love this book. I'm new to the fantasy genre, never read Harry Potter (I know, I know...), and was hooked from the start.
Alex Can Read
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Mage Against the Machine is a true Science Fantasy novel. Strong story threads of both science fiction dystopia and utopic fantasy are woven together to create a seamless blend of Science Fantasy.

The synopsis focuses on Nik but a good half of the book is from Jem’s perspective and I wish she’d have been more represented in the synopsis as she’s a much more compelling narrator to me than Nik. Nik, unfortunately, has a terrible case of the poor-me’s and I found him incredibly unlikeable, which res
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Practically devoured the book, only to find the meal was cut short at the end.

The core premise (runaway science vs magic) is hugely attractive, it has plenty of action passages (sometimes barely justified), it has a doubly imaginative world building (needs more spells, though), and many characters are intriguing, even if not all are well-rounded... Why did I give it only 3 stars?

1. Too slow. The pacing is quick, but the plot advances slowly. A daring escape takes page after page after page, wast
Dan Rowinski
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Intriguing premise with, mostly, direct and natural action. I found it fun and intriguing with the right hint of emotion, even if that emotion is most often angst and guilt. Even at its length (nearly 500 pages, quite long for a debut), I found it very easy to read.

There are some sticky points, especially at the end where you aren't quite sure what is going on. There is a penultimate scene where one of the two protagonists is fighting a "Moonwatch" and the mage/wizard character does something se
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really wouldn't say this was anything like Harry Potter, but it did remind me of the terminator.
I really don't think this book could've been over a four star. I found the sci-fi, human world so much more interesting then the Mage world. I also did not like Nikolai at all. I liked Jem better, but there were moments when I didn't like her either. But also I don't have to like the characters to enjoy the book. But I really don't care for Nik. I find him whinny, immature, selfish, self destructive
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
I love the title. And I wanted to love this book because of it. But it was, for the most part, just okay. Not great, and not terrible.

I will say, the third act is f*cking nuts. Just absolute bananas. But that's about the only thing that sparked any sort of engagement in me.

The protagonist reminds me of the kind of kid who winds up being a middle school active shooter. The kind of whiny loser who feels overly aggrieved at every little thing, especially the Chads who took his girl. Basically, he
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Judging from the publisher quote (and that beautiful cover) this is clearly meant to be a showdown between Harry Potter and the T-1000. The way I saw it, this is more like: Harry Potter and a muggle must team up to stop HAL (from 2001: A Space Odyssey) from destroying both their worlds – but first they’ll have to trust one another. And trust, like this impending war, goes both ways.

Genre fans will find subtle references to everything from Potter, to Children of Men, Ready Play
Kevin Bragg
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Single Song Soundtrack: "People of the Sun" by Rage Against the Machine

Mage Against the Machine by Shaun Barger has a lot going on. I would argue that it has too much going on, and because of that, the narrative suffers. Which is a shame. At times, Mage Against the Machine was difficult to put down. However, just as often, I struggled to get through parts of it. Mage Against the Machine works from an interesting premise but can’t quite deliver.

So what is that premise?

The novel is set on Earth a
Ann Frohoff
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Woah....& Wow. Shaun had a vision, a dream that Nikolai would be able to tell his story and a fantastical one it is. I'll admit it took me a third of the book to become ravenous, but then it was on. It's a strange thing to be a friend of the author...because I definitely see a little of Shaun in Nik. I love flawed characters, ones that you keep rooting for them no matter how lame they can be (I tend to write the same type). I absolutely loved the mash-up of magic and technology. Lot's going on, ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Mage Against the Machine has a fantastic title. And that may be the best thing I can say about this book.

If you know me, you know that I don't particularly enjoy writing bad reviews of anything. I do my best to find at least something that I liked about every book or show. When a review copy of Mage Against the Machine showed up on my doorstep, I was definitely intrigued. The premise is fascinating to say the least and there's a lot that could potentially have been done with it. It's the execut
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
What an adolescent crap fest. More than 300 pages for the protagonists to meet. Both are overpowered childish selfish assholes who only do stuff by accident or in reflexive response. The author seems to think that an abused/war background is enough to redeem their behavior, but there are other characters in the book that had the same experiences and still fucking grew up. Keep in mind that the leads do not appear to have any character growth at all through 500 pages; they are sorry like an abuse ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
The idea is great, but the actual product is less so. 500+ pages spent largely with a completely unlikable protagonist in a world that doesn't really hold up to close scrutiny was just way too much. It doesn't help that the author's influences are very present on the page and that this is apparently the first in a series. In so many ways this book had the potential to really excite me and become a favorite and instead it became a slog that I kept hoping would redeem itself. Sadly, for me, it jus ...more
Doug Mason
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
A bit much, Barger has a great grasp for dialogue, but he is trying to mix way too much in this and thus it never gels.
None of his main characters are very likable and the blend of magic and sf just never becomes believable. He stretches every situation too much, making only his main characters as flawed as they are the only ones who can save the world. Too many near misses and unexplained events.

Spoiler alert, how Nik's hand grows back makes little sense in the world Barger has set up to that p
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not going to lie, this was pretty amazing.
Most angrily-written reviews here are mainly revolving around, or at least pointing out, one of the two protagonists, Nikolai, so that is what this review is going to be about.
They seem to loathe him for being, what? Arrogant? Yes. Selfish? Yes. Jealous and bitter? Yes and yes. But the real reason most people dislike Nikolai is because of what all those little unpleasant traits add up to — the main character is flawed. Boo-hoo, you don't have your
Shelby M. (Read and Find Out)
I received a finished copy of this book in exchange for review from Wunderkind PR and Saga Press.

This one sat on my shelves for a long period of time, as the premise did not particularly appeal to me. This is a crossover of the post-apocalyptic and magic subgenres, which I think some people may really enjoy. I read about 20% of the book and realized that it would not be for me; both the writing style and the characters did not suit my particular reading preferences.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
In a post apocalyptic world, AI's and enhanced people have taken over, except for the kingdom of Mage's that have hidden themselves from the rest of the population. When a young Mage "knight" comes to down and helps out an enhanced woman scheduled for "termination", the two worlds collide and the battle ensues. A fun read, I'd like to see more from Barger in this world.
Brian McRae
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Characters were not very likeable. The main character doesn't deserve his status, and is constantly acting petulant. Some of the dialogue wasn't great either. Didn't get interesting until the 2nd half of the book, but even then, it was not enough to redeem it. Was a good idea, but just didn't like the way it was written.
Christine Walsh
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was hooked from the very start - such a cool idea and a meshing of a lot of my favorite things. Who wouldn’t like magic mixed with sci-fi thrills? I truly rooted for the characters. Super stoked for the next one!
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a book that suffered from not only trying to do too much, but also from having a thoroughly unlikable protagonist. Now, I didn’t hate this book by any means, and some parts of it were highly engaging, but I do also think it had the potential to be so much better and it’s a shame it didn’t live up to that.

First off, let’s explore the concept which I think was pretty fascinating. In this version of the world there have always been mages, living in secret. When humanity finally starts to de
Megan Lyons
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, scifi
This took me forever to read. I started it in June and just finished it now (it's the end of August). There were a few reasons this didn't work for me. First of all, there was just too much going on, what with the wizard society and a post apocalyptic, post nuclear human society that is at war with AIs. I like genre bending, and I don't mind going into a book a bit blind and learning about the world as I go. However, to make this work, you need to connect to some of the characters, otherwise, yo ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Okay, well, I got to the end. I honestly didn't think I would. The 1/2 to 3/4 Of the book was a struggle. I really had to push myself through the Nikolai Strauss chapters as just something about him I didn't like. Now the chapters including Jem, they were enjoyable. I think Nikolai and Jem should have met sooner rather than when they did in the book. I will say that the synth as the villain in the book was a good choice and how they were portrayed did make me as the reader hope that they did get ...more
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