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BOOK REVIEW: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

| 6 July 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

June 2017
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Contemporary Fiction / Speculative Fiction


Meet Matthias Telemachus, Teddy Telemachus, Maureen Telemachus, Irene Telemachus, Frankie Telemachus and Buddy Telemachus!

They were the Amazing Telemachus Family, who in the mid-1970s achieved widespread fame for their magic and mind reading act. That is, until the magic decided to disappear one night, live on national television.

We encounter this long-forgotten family two decades on, when grandson Matty, born long after the public fall from grace, discovers powers in himself and realises his hugely deflated, heavily indebted family truly are amazing.

Spoonbenders is the legacy and legend of a dysfunctional, normal, entirely unique family across three generations of big personalities and socially inept recluses – each cursed with the potential of being something special.


It was true that he was unusually nostalgic for a kid, though what he pined for was a time before he was born. He was haunted by the feeling that he’d missed the big show. The circus had packed up and left town, and he’d shown up to find nothing but a field of trampled grass.

From the very first page, readers will know they’re in for an interesting, quirky, funny read, but it is only through journeying further into this book that they will discover what an amazing, fully-realised story Gregory has delivered.

Matty Telemachus discovers his special ability in an unusual way, and one which leads to many an uncomfortable discussion as he tries to develop his abilities further.

He closed his eyes. Took a breath.
Concentrate, Matt.
He clenched his fists, released them.
He knew he could slip outside his body. The hard part—which he’d been working on for a month with limited success—was to do so without touching himself. He’d never be able to go onstage if the only way to use his power was to jack off in front of the audience.

It’s been a long time since the Telemachus family was in the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean they’re back to normal now. It also doesn’t mean they get to escape the struggles “normal” families go through.

“They’re fine,” Teddy lied. Frankie kept borrowing his money, Irene was depressed, and Buddy—Jesus, Buddy got worse every year. A mute and a recluse. Then a few months ago he started taking apart the house like a man who knew only half a magic trick. Observe, ladies and gentlemen, while I smash this watch! Okay, now I’ll, damn it . . . what was it? “Buddy’s turned into quite the handyman,” Teddy said.

Through the points of view of Matty, Teddy, Irene, Frankie, and Buddy, readers are given the whole story, from the day Teddy first met Maureen McKinnon, the women who would be his wife and mother to his children, through to the culmination of events some twenty years later, when time begins running out.

Labor Day is circled in that same shade of pink. It drives a spike of fear into his heart every time he sees it.
September 4, 1995, 12:06 p.m. The moment the future ends. The day it all goes black.
He only became aware of the date a few months ago. He woke up to realize that the future had disappeared.

We’re told the story in truths, half-truths, snippets, and secondhand accounts, and we come to realise the full cost of these special abilities across the span of decades, travelling back and forwards through these memories to eventually uncover the full picture.

In Spoonbenders, Daryl Gregory once again shows his skill at weaving all these strands together, so that we readers find ourselves his willing marks and can’t help but believe what he’s selling, no matter how unlikely the events might be.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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