The Plot Thickens by Oliver Meech - Book
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"10 out of 10...buy this now. You won't regret it."
87 large format pages. 86 photo illustrations. Perfect bound with a glossy cover.
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Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 2nd, 2010
Welcome back. Im here again with my latest review. This one is special. I was connected to a guy named Oliver Meech. Oliver is a VERY talented performer. He sent me a copy of his book and after reading the first few effects in it, I KNEW this was going to be a a great read. And I was correct! The advertisement reads as the audience sees it. There are absolutely NO pipe-dreams in this book. Everything CAN and WILL be performed at one time or another.
So what exactly is The Plot Thickens? It is a colaboration of extremely creative ideas from Oliver Meech. There certainly is nothing new in here, just ideas basically. Thickened plots. What I mean by that is, Oliver has taken a wide variety of plots from classic texts in magic, and revamped them to work for YOU in todays world. The tricks are all the same, but in each one there is something new, whether that be a simpler method, to a more visual effect. For example, do you remember that old bird cage trick? The one where you had a bird on one side of a paddle and a cage on the other and when you spin it around fast, it looked as if the bird was in the cage? Well in here, this is done with a fish and a fishbowl. Do you know The Quarter Through Soda can? That is mixed in with the paper balls over the head! Read ahead to find out more! ____________________________________________
LAYOUT: 5/5 : The layout, in my opinion, was genious. Everything was very modern and east to comprehend. There were introductions, forewards, brief information about the effects in the book, and then the chapters. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a little optical illusion, of a sort (which was annoying in the beginning but kind of grows on you), and then the tricks. He gives an introduction to each effect (similar to those of Coinsomnia [see review]) and also a simple effect description (which wasnt really described but of course these effects arnt too difficult to figure out what is supposed to happen). Then after each effect, Oliver gives credits and additional advice, plus a large blank space which can be used for notes.
QUALITY: 3/5 : I had higher expectations for the quality of this book. It was published and printed by Lulu.com and normally their products have very fine quality, but this was just disappointing. The spine of the book seemed like it was a little bit frayed, and through opening and closing the book, the spine was getting wrinkled sort of, and that has never happened to me before (except for Jerry Mentzers book, but that was just poor choice of paper). Also, the color tone of the book (purple or blue?), shows smudges and it looks terrible. When I first got this and started reading through it, I noticed that it was covered in finger prints and it looks bad. One final note, the printing of the book. The plot might be a little TOO thick. The word thickens on the front cover if the book was printed off center so it rides right off the cover of the book and the letters T and S are only half exposed. I guess I cant blame Oliver since he has no control over the printing, just letting you know. In each effect, there are photographs. These are VERY good quality! Although black and white, Oliver did the un-thinkable, and filmed in a simple setting. There were no elaborate posters or cages in the background. Just a table and Oliver. They wernt even fuzzy or hard to understand, like some books I have read. The only problem is that all of the pictures are reversed because Oliver is a left handed magician, so they were flipped to be righty compatable, which doesnt work out too well for another lefty, like myself.
I made the mistake in one of my previous reviews, to review EVERYTHING. That review took almost 3 weeks. I wont be doing that here. Im sorry, but there are 22 creations in this book, plus varriants, so doing so would be completely undesirable. So I have chosen to review each of my favorite effects from this book, not from a personal view, but from an objective point of view so YOU, the reader, gets to know exactly what is good about each effect.
STUFF WITH CARDS: 4/5 : This might be the only time you hear me rave about cards. I typically only perform a few card tricks, but enough about me. In this chapter, the effects are visual (or CAN be visual) and are all practical for the real world. One of the better effects here is the Invisible Man, which can be performed on stage or close-up without worry. But there are other ones that are visual stunners, such as Cardboard Birthday Cake, where a signed playing card with a birthday cake and a candle is shaken and the candle either visually extinguishes, or invisibly, depending on your style. Then the psychological killers, being Not Seeing The Wood For The Trees, an effect where a grid of cards is layed out, and failing to find the selected card, the remaining cards reveal a selected card.
INVISIBLE MAN: 5/5 : Is my absolute favorite effects from here. This is one of those effects that Gary Norsigian talks about on his DVD set, Tricks That Will Get You Paid (see review), where you can take it from close up, and with little change, make it play for a grand audience or 400. What happens is an audience member is braught up and selects a card, and two stickers are used to make the assistant believe he is invisible and annother assistant can see through the person and read the card against his chest. The method is one that has been around for a long time, yet widely over-looked until jsut recently, yet even THEN it was a little over looked! After reading this one, it will be ver clear how powerfull it could be. The best part is, the playing card doesnt even need to be read. If you did this on a large stage with just normal playing cards, sure the card cant be read by the people in the back, if the front row audience can see it and can REACT to it, then people will understand that the assistant has seen through the other assistants body and read the card. Even just the invisible assistant needs to react for everybody else to know that the card that was revealed is the one he held. And for the record, the assistant you choose to be turned invisible, might not be too good if it is a woman.
NOT SEEING THE WOOD FOR THE TREES: 4/5 : This is one of the other psycholigical killers presented in this book. What is awesome about it is, it takes a classic plot that isnt really performed anymore, and made it MUCH better. That is the old dealing down cards trick. The kind of trick that makes people go, yea, I know this one, uncle Roofus did it for me. But he DIDNT. Sure cards are delt down after one is chosen, but after eliminating a few to get to the chosen card, the audience notices that the remaining cards form the shape of their card, AND in the same color! The bad part about this one is that dealing down cards can be a hassle for you. If you work in a restaurant where the table top might be a little small, the cards might not fit and you will have to move to another effect. Also, if you do outdoor walkaround engagements, the wind will blow your cards away and then you are left revealing the sdfsdf of sdfsdf. But this one is certainly GREAT for parties when you are put on the spot.
STUFF WITH COINS: 4/5 : Phew, coins! I am so glad to see coins in here. It takes a lot to get coin guys thinking, but this chaper actually got me thinking and thinking hard! While only a few in here actually made me excited to perform, they all have something special. For example, like we mentioned earlier. Oliver does a Paper Balls Over The head type effect, and leads into A Coin In Soda Can effect. Possibly the most insane coin to impossibly location effects are in this chapter. One of them makes the coin go into an xray of your body, the other into a soda can, and the last one goes to a candy bar in a vending machine that you use the signed coin to buy. I wont be reviewing them all, but they all merit some consideration.
FISH BOWL COIN ILLUSION: 5/5 : This one is REALLY cool! Remember that old bird cage illusion? The one where there was a picture of a bird and a cage on different sides of a paddle and you could make it look like the bird was in the cage when twisted rapidly? Well this is pretty much that, but with a borrowed coin and a fish bowl is drawn on one side and a fish is drawn on the other. The coin is of course spun on the table and you get this really nice image of a fish being in the bowl when looked at the coin. When the coin stops spinning, ther can actually see that the fish is inside the circle representing a bowl and the coin could be kept. While this effect wont fool ever magician, it can be quite stunning to a lay audience. They KNOW the fish isnt really in the bowl and for somebody just seeing this for the first time, it will be very amusing to them. But when they discover that the fish is inside the bowl that was apparently a joke, it will generate a very nice reaction.
X-RAY COIN:3/5: This was a weird one. Let me tell ya. Firstly, this is probably one of the few, if not ONLY, coin effect that you can do on stage with a borrowed coin. Essentially, the spectators initials are written on their coin, THEY swallow their own coin, an x-ray image is brough up on stage of them, and on the x-ray appears their own borrowed coin WITH the initials! Of course you can make this more goory if you wish by swallowing it yourself and giving it a lot of drama. There IS quite an extensive setup but in time you will get good and fast at it. Also, you cant really re-use the props but it really isnt much of an issue at all. It will all be worth it in the end. I think youre going to like this one.
STUFF WITH THE MIND:3/5: I really didnt much care for this chapter. There were a few little peices that I enjoyed, but for the most part, a lot of it was quite impractical for me. A lot of gimmicks involved. These ARE pretty good for stage/parlor/stand up, but if you are working close up, not exactly the best. One plus side to many of these effects is, if you dont want to come off as an extreme mentalist (such as Darren Brown, Luke Jermay etc.), these effects have more of a magic aspect to them so Im sure some of you will get a good look at these. Just not exactly Up there for me.
BUBBLE IMAGE:4/5: This is one of those effects that can be done quite efficiantly on stage and could be seen. What happens is basically the spectator looks into one of many bubbles (yes, bubbles, as in childrens bubbles, made out of soap ) dancing around on stage and sees a number in one of them, almost like a crystal ball. A prediction you had from the start is brought out and on the piece of paper reads the number they saw in the bubble. It is a nice piece by means of theatrical magic. It could be played as serious, half serious, comedy, magic, whatever you want it to be really. This DOES use a prop that you might have if you are a magician, but Im sure the mentalists will know exactly what this is when they hear it and most likely have one.
I SPY:5/5: This one I actually wrote into my own show. It is by no stretch of imagination a fully original effect and the concept used here is old as the hills, but it is pretty good. It is pretty much a book test in its simplest form. A post-it note sticker is placed on the cover of a book and the audience member writes something down on it. That could be a page number, chapter title, work, number etc. Whatever. You are able to reveal it with pretty much no effort on your part at all. Again, how awesome is it that you could do this anywhere anytime if there is a book, paper, and a pen at your disposal, AND can play for small audiences in walkaround for 5 people or in an auditorium for 150 people.Again, the concept is old, but you can have a lot of fun with this one.
AND STUFF WITH, WELL, STUFF:2/5: Well, at least I got SOMETHING out of this chapter lol. DEFINETLY not the best stuff nor the most practical. Some of these have some pretty big setups and dont even play too well, but I DID get 2 really nice effects out of it so that deserves the 2 credits lol. Let me say that if you like to do anytime anywhere or seemingly impromtu effects with borrowed objects, dont get this book because of this one.
ON WITH HIS HEAD!:5/5: I liked this one. Im pretty sure you will like it as well. You can only do this in close up situations due to the method and without a method change, but it looks really nice. It is something that a lot of us can relate too, our heads getting cut off in photos. Dont you hate that? Well no worries to the cool guy in the group, not to be confused with the guy in the group nobody ^&*$% likes *cough* Karen, simply taps the stack of photographs on the table and the distorted photograph gets bumped down in the picture, restoring it to normal. Cmon, how cool does it get? It actually reminds me of one of Josjua Jays effects in his book, MAGIC: The Complete Course (See review) where the magician poses with his dog and the dog vanishes right from all the pictures. Well this one is similar, the method isnt as straight forward as Joshs, but no need to take away a point for that. Pretty much all you need is a camera and a stack of photographs, having one with the chopped off head and a rubberband to put over them all. It packs small, plays big (for a few people in the group).
SECRET SERVICE LOAD: 3/5: This is a REALLY strong effect if you play it right (and it doesnt get screwed up half way though), but the only problem is that it requires a LOT of pre-performance work and will be a pain to do. You need to follow people, see who orders from which register, get the timing right, memorize a serial number etc. And it cant really be done in a professional setting unless you work in a restaurant or bar and can have the bartender or waitress help you out. Its such an extensive setup just to read a serial number from a bill in somebodies wallet that you never touched. ALso, if you have a show, you could have somebody at the box office help you. But it is a cool effect.
OVERALL:4/5: In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very nice and refreshing read. If you like magic tricks or books, then this is a really nice read for you. The descriptions are clearly very well thought out as are the effects described here in this book. I will always be refering back to this book and hopefully learning something new each time I do. Oliver did the un-thinkable here and took old plots and revamped them to play for professional performers in the 21st Century. Enjoy!
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Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 2nd, 2010
"Can you convince someone that they've vanished? Paul Harris posed this intriguing question in 'Nowhere Man' in The Art of Astonishment Book 3 and it set me thinking. This is the routine that I came up with. I'm sure there are more tricks waiting to be developed using his novel plot."
How's that for the opening statement of a trick? Oliver Meech's book is a top quality production. The above quote is from his effect Invisible Man, the first effect in the book. The premise of the book is that Oliver wants to focus on new or largely untapped plots. His basic thesis is that we spend plenty of time on method and presentational ideas in the published works of today, so focus on new effects instead.
This is quite an ambitious goal. Whether he acheived that goal or not I'll leave up to you. And you should make a decision which means I think you should buy this book. The effects are great, and the methods are even better. On top of that Oliver really has fun with his readers.
Each effect, Oliver gives the "spectator" a different name. The name is somehow linked to the effect. Part of your job as the reader is to find the link. Don't fret. If you give up, the answers are in the back. He also takes the time to explain a few minor language differences between the UK and US... for example, in the U.K. what I would call a soda is called a "Fizzy Drink."
Also, Oliver is a lefty (no wonder he's brilliant). Knowing, however, that his main readership would likely be righties, he mirror-imaged all the photos to properly reflect a righty's perspective. The whole production is very thoughtful and thought provoking, and it's clear he took the time to devlop this properly. He also does an excellent job with credits.
So... let me give you a sense of what's going on in Oliver's head. He has an effect called "Touching Transposition." This effect is a transposition of two objects (a coin and a sugar cube). However, rather than using a visual illusion, he uses a tactile illusion. The audience actually feels the sugar cube in his hand as it's vanishing... It's very strange and very clever.
There are just a ton of great ideas in this book, and the writing style and thinking is just plain different from a lot of what we see today in the magic market. It's worth picking up just for that.
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Pro Privacy ON (login to see reviewer names) on April 2nd, 2010
I call this book a "firestarter". That's not because it should be burned; on the contrary, I think this is a fabulous investment. This is the kind of book that gets you thinking outside the box in a lot of ways. Once you see how some of the effects are done, it's very easy to take those principles and move them to other effects or create your own. Meech has come up with some very interesting ideas, and it's fairly safe to say you'll find at least a couple of things in here you can add to your set.
There are mentalism effects, card tricks, coin tricks, and other various goodies that will make you fly through this rather thin book quickly. There is an effect where you cause a fish drawn on one side of a quarter to jump into the fishbowl drawn on the other side as the coin is spinning on the table. Another effect has you making the spectator believe they must be invisible since another spectator can see the card they chose even though they are holding it close to their chest.
There are several things to enjoy here. Some of them you'll perform immediately, while others might just sit on the back burner for just the right occasion. And then, of course, there are those that will just be read over and forgotten. Meech is currently working on a second book to follow this one, and if it's as promising as this was I'll be buying it as well.
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