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Tesseract - Mike Powers

The Hype:
Mike Powers's long-awaited new book, TESSERACT, is now out! TESSERACT follows on the heels of Mike's last book, Power Plays, which was voted "Book of the Year" on the Magic Café and runner up "Book of the Year" in the prestigious "Magic Industry Awards." You may know Mike from his top-selling trick, Diminishing Returns - one of the great visual magic effects. It was recently featured on Masters of Illusion.

TESSERACT is a large format (8.5x11"), hardback book with a full color dustjacket. Inside are 55 gems of mostly close-up magic, although some items are suitable for a larger audience. Mike's teaching abilities have been honed over the last 40 years as both a professor of physics and a working magician. The book is graced with over 330 photos for ease of understanding. Furthermore, Mike provides free online access to video instruction on the moves needed to accomplish the magic.

There's plenty of great card magic in TESSERACT. But you'll also find mind-blowing tricks using coins, paper money, rubber bands and rings, envelopes, a business card and an iPhone. There are a couple of mentalism items and one killer memorized-deck effect that's stack independent and maintains stack order. And the "Pure Mathematics" section contains some self-workers that will fry magicians and lay persons alike.

The last trick in the book, Heisting Histed Heisted 3.0, is Mike's latest version of his wildly popular Heisting Histed Heisted series. It was a huge hit in his Penguin lecture. This is as close to real mindreading as you're going to get.

So, enter the world of TESSERACT. Beef up your repertoire. Share the magic.

My Take:
I will have to admit up front that I am not totally unbiased in this review. Although I have never met Mike, his presence has been felt in my magic for many years. Back in the 80's, the demonstrator at Hank Lee's totally fried me with a moving hole routine called Holey Terror II. I bought it at the time and still have it today. Then Mike was kind enough to publish two collaborations between myself and Paul Lelekis in his column. Last, and probably most important of all, for over ten years Mike has authored the Card Corner column in each and every issue of the Linking Ring.

The first thing I noticed when I took the book out of its packaging is the general appearance of the tome. This is one beautiful looking book and it seems that Mike put the whole thing together himself. From the writing to the photographs to the cover art. In this way, each photo is exactly as Mike wished. Before you even crack the book open, you know this will be a handsome addition to your bookshelf.

Mike is also a former college physics professor so it is no surprise to find a title like Tesseract, which is a four dimensional cube. It also tells you that any math based routine will be a gem.

A huge asset is the site Mike has set up with around 60 videos teaching any move you might need for an effect. If you are an IBM member, you may already be aware of this as it is referenced in every Card Corner column. Each video is password protected and the password has to be entered for each video. A small price to pay for a resource like this.

Throughout the book, you will notice Mike is meticulous in crediting absolutely everything that should be credited. A theme of a lot of the tricks is that there have been previous versions created by other magicians. Mike's contribution is that he either has found a simpler way to perform the effect (such as eliminating a palm) or he has added a strong kicker significantly improving the whole thing.

The book is divided into eight sections.

First up is Unprepared Card Mysteries. This is primarily FASDIU effects although some require an extra card or a crimp. If a small stack is required, you should be able to set it up on the fly. And, speaking of fly, one of my favorite routines in this section is based on the movie, The Fly. (I love old horror movies!) A signed card placed in one pile transports to another with its back changing color. Peter Kane's Jazz Aces has been a favorite of many as it is such a great routine. Mike has added a kicker ending that will definitely leave your audience talking.

Second is Prepared Card Mysteries. As you might suspect, this chapter features gaffed cards which you probably already own. Some of the handlings are a little more difficult but some are easy. I especially liked Twilight Zone Monte. It is a monte routine with a story line about the Twilight Zone. It is also a small packet trick that would fit nicely into your pocket. Open Prediction 999 is his take on the classic Paul Curry routine. This is very practical. At the end of the instructions, Mike says that a similar handling was created by Ed Marlo but Mike created his independently.

Faro Slough Off Ideas. Don't let the Faro in the title scare you off. You don't have to be Harry Riser to enjoy this chapter. Not one of the routines require a full Faro. The instructions show you how to set these up on the fly but I am sure you could preset the deck. I first learned of the Slough Off years ago in a Paul Gordon ace routine. Mike takes it further and shows an interesting property of the move.

Scripted Mysteries. Masque of the Red Death is a simplified version of Phil Goldstein's "Ascension". If you are an Edgar Allen Poe fan, if you do bizarre magic or if you just want a great routine for a Halloween party, this fills the bill. If you are a good storyteller, this could easily become a signature piece for you. Two other story routines are included. The first has a baseball theme for the sports fans and the second is a poem that tells a story. This one will take longer as you have a long poem to memorize and the lines have to sync with the actions.

Friends. Of the three contributing friends, I was only familiar with Cameron Francis, who is one of the more prolific packet trick inverters today. His effect "Impossible Versus Improbably" maintains his usual high quality. The other two seem to be friends he met through the Card corner column. All three are fairly easy to do and pack a punch.

Moves - Mike teaches six moves here that you probably have not heard of. Fr. Cyprian's Double Lift from Center, Mike Gallo's Finessed Gallo Shuffle, Powers Varies Kelly, the Centripetal Force and the Willis Kenney Deceptive Control. Instructions for each move are described in meticulous detail. In checking the Moves videos on Mike's site, only the Finessed Center Switch is taught so the only way to get the others is to purchase his book.

Pure Mathematics - Since he was a physics professor, you would expect some outstanding material in this chapter. The first thing in the chapter is not a trick. It is a discussion of the number of ways 52 cards can be shuffled. This article will blow your mind. Really. One of the real prizes of the book for me is 21 Again/21 Invisible. This version of the 21 card trick will not only fry other magicians but you will fool yourself. I played with it a long time trying to get it to fail and it never did. I still do not have a clue how this one works. There is a lot of great stuff in the book but this is worth the price of admission. You will add this immediately. He finishes this section of with a discussion of just what a Tesseract is. And if you take the time to read the whole piece, he has a very nice online gift for you.

Miscellaneous Mysteries - In this last section, Mike proves that he is not just a one trick pony. It begins with three strong coin routines. One uses a Star Trek theme to give a reason for the movement of the coins. It also makes it a lot more fun for your spectators. However, a gaff is needed that you might or might not have. This section of the book does require more skill than most of the rest but if you do coin magic, you should take a look at these. There is also a nice rising card routine using an app for the iPhone. If you don't have one, the routine can still be performed but the app does create a stronger magical impression. He teaches a ring and rubberband routine based on the work of Daniel Garcia. The Money Game Revisited effectively combines the Steinmeyer Nine Card Problem with a Bank Night-type routine. Max Maven has given permission for Mike to use his ideas in "Flipped Out", a perfect trick to use when you are out and have no magic with you.

Heisting Histed Heisted, the last item in the book, is a strong mentalism routine which was the highlight of Mike's Penguin lecture. No sleights involved and anyone could do it. Here is the effect. "Five people are each given a packet of 5 or 6 cards. They are to mentally select one of their cards and not tell anyone their choice. They each shuffle their packets and then assemble them into a single packet which is given a final shuffle by one of the spectators. Even though the selections are genuinely "thought of" the able to determine each person's card in progressively more mysterious ways." You are taught two versions, a self worker and one that requires a little more work but makes for a much stronger routine.

Conclusion: I have found that teachers actually write better descriptions and instructions than the average magician. (Take a look at the work of Barrie Richardson, Persi Diaconis or Harapan Ong). Mike is no exception to this. Plus, the fact that he has successfully authored a monthly column of card magic for well over ten years tells you that he can get the point across.

This is a beautifully printed book that is loaded with gems. I can not give it high enough praise and I will be learning and adding several of these routines very soon. This is very highly recommended.
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Great review of this book in Genii.
"If you ever write anything about me after I'm gone, I will come back and haunt you."
– Karl Germain
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