Review: Mythology Codex by Phill Smith

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Ning”][vc_column_text]WHAT IS IT

Mythology Codex is the remarkable new work from UK mentalist, author and artist Phill Smith. This powerful, vivid book is an updated collection of his notable works to date, along with a whole range of brand new, never before seen material. Within its pages are updated contents from his revolutionary books Mitox, Yokai and Mokele, including the full work on the amazing utility methods Quinta and Interl8ced, plus the smash hit effect Stegosaurus.

Mythology is a luxurious 372 page full colour hardbound book packed with colour illustrations and over 80 hard hitting real-world effects and in-depth essays exploring the art of mentalism.

REVIEW

If you’re not already familiar with Phill’s work (trust me, the first thing you’ll want to do is get yourself a few bricks of his amazing DMC Elite decks, especially since their devious secret workings are expounded in Mythology Codex), you’ll definitely enjoy his brand of humour. Besides all the clever thinking in this book on modern mentalism, of course. To check out the content page, click here.

First impressions once you have unwrapped this formidable 3kg tome (which has its own legit ISBN number by the way) from its secure UPS packaging, is that Phill’s professional pride as a graphic designer simply radiates. Flipping through the book’s thick art paper stock, it’s clear that no corners have been cut for this brilliant project. It’s evident for all to see that Mythology Codex is first class, quality stuff, the creator’s precious baby. But artistic merit aside, is the book worth its hefty £150 price tag?

The very first thing I appreciate when opening Mythology Codex’s gorgeous cover, is that it states right away that you receive the full performance rights for all the material published in there… unlike annoying magic creators (we all know who they are, no names needed) who don’t allow you to perform the effect you’ve just spent good money purchasing, for TV or even YouTube because they’ve sold the rights to someone.

So Phill’s generosity in this sense also clearly shows, when he openly shares thoughts and suggestions from other mentalists throughout the book, expanding on the various clever ideas shared in different routines and effects. This act strikes me as something only a very self-assured creator would do; it’s about the benefit for people at the end of the day, not the man’s ego 🙂

Clearly, Mythology Codex is a thing of beauty, its modern mentalism essays and routines meant to be slowly savoured and enjoyed like fine wine. There are many inspirational quotes in the book, like Game of Thoughts: Understanding Creativity Through Mind Games published in November 2016 by IBM Ring 115 president John Teo and yours truly (except that our book is not about mentalism).

As you can guess, this review took quite some time to write, considering the wealth of information within its pages. Speaking of which, how many books (obviously discounting fancy medieval antiquities found behind glass boxes in museums and library collections) can actually do this?!

I have to admit that I have smallish Asian lady hands and it would have been a much easier two-hand operation, but I needed to work the camera on my phone for the above snaps LOL

…Anyway, as mentioned, I was completely bowled over by the amazing wealth of material in the book, so I just had to do a mini interview with Phill. He’s such a trooper because this chat happened right after the very busy weekend of Magic Dealer Day in London, when he was nursing the man flu. Hopefully this provides more insight for you about Mythology Codex.

TETE-A-TETE

Ning: Phill, you know I’m a fan of your work, so no surprise here that I’m absolutely loving your new book right now. I’m curious though, why the name Mythology Codex? And geez, almost 400 pages of gold… Just how long exactly did it take for this labour of love to happen?

Phill: The first three books I wrote I called the mythology trilogy because they had the same approach to creating a kind of personal mythology – I used real world myths as a metaphor for exploring how to develop a unique performance style. When I decided to combine the books into one inconveniently large volume I always wanted to call it Mythology – codex is just the technical term for the type of book that is most common now and I quite like how it sounded.

Ning: Cool, I agree that Mythology Codex is a great title. What would you say is its special USP (unique selling point) that makes this book stand out from the other mentalism books currently in the market?

Phill: The book is a fun fairly easy read and the actual tricks and effects are interspersed with essays on the performance and development of mentalism, as well as short ‘premise’ pieces which explore different themes and narratives for reading minds that push way beyond the standard “I’m psychic” or “I can read body language”, into weird and exotic new spaces. Overall it covers my own approach to creating and performing mentalism, which is quite organic and pared back technically but leans heavily on narrative and the story of your character. I think it’s quite rare for books in mentalism to address your premise and the context for the material the way I do and it’s something that’s really important for me.

Ning: Yes, I definitely enjoyed the read! I love the personality in there. Often times, too many of us mentalists take ourselves way too seriously, and forget to be cheeky or fun. So I gotta ask… Which effect(s) in Mythology Codex in particular are you most proud of and why?

Phill: If I had to perform only one effect and forget the rest it would be The Biz, my universal peek method – it works with no gimmicks and no sleights and it regularly fools even seasoned mentalists. It’s super easy and lay people don’t stand a chance to catch it, which means I can focus entirely on building a powerful and engaging context in my performance. The method that I think is my most useful contribution to mentalism however, that is most likely to still be used by people in the future, is Quinta, a flexible powerful forcing method, which is fully explained and expanded in the book. I’m really proud of all of the work in the book and the things that had over the years got less enjoyable for me have actually been excised from the collection.

Ning: Yes, it’s hard to pick favourites amongst your babies, isn’t it. I think Mythology Codex is great and the mentalism material in there will definitely appeal to all segments. As creator, maybe you can point out which particular effects in the book are more suitable for beginners and those for the more intermediate performers?

Phill: Most of the book isn’t written specifically for beginners but because of my approach of trying to minimise and simplify method the actual techniques are often quite easy. The opening effect, Equifinque, is extremely simple and would be easy for any beginner but actually is one of my most performed pieces by even professional level mentalists worldwide – it’s also my most televised effect having been performed on national TV by people like Harry Lucas and Eric Dittleman. Most accessible to beginners would be Equifinque, Knowledge 3 (a close up prediction of items from your pocket), The Biz (my easy replacement for expensive peek wallets and difficult centre tears), Grandmaster Easy (my self working idiot proof ACAAN).

Ning: LOL yeah, I definitely enjoyed performing Equifinque for the first time at a dinner party just the other night! It got great reactions from everyone, and it’s definitely something quite different, in a fun and quirky way, from our usual serious mentalism spiel. Also, I love that all the routine needed was your own personality and a borrowed pen!

Phill: Additionally the book also includes the Passport to Marked Cards and Passport to ALPHAS, which are a dozen or so tricks that actually were intentionally written so beginners would be able to perform them with ease – these are pro-grade heavy hitters that I perform all the time but that are actually really easy to do. Very few things in the book would be technically out of reach of a confident intermediate performer – a few routines use memory techniques or simple maths but I always try to have an easier backup method in hand. I build routines around stories and strong presentations and as with most mentalism the challenge is not in doing the effect but in communicating and selling it to your audience. My approach is about having fun blowing minds, not getting bogged down with complicated difficult methods.

Ning: So what’s next on your plate after this, busy bee?

Phill: I’m back to designing books for other magicians, currently finishing the design and illustration of books for 3 well known performers as well as various decks with DMC and others. I’m working on an incredible magazine test that hopefully I’ll be able to release at Blackpool this year as well as a few other still secret pieces that are in development.

So coming back to the question: Is Phill Smith’s Mythology Codex really worth the 150 quid? My answer is a resounding YES ABSOLUTELY! A superb addition to your magic library, this beautiful tome on modern mentalism is a brilliant investment and comes highly recommended to the discerning connoisseur.

Also, from what I understand, the generous creator is throwing in a thoughtful freebie (check out the post-it pad above) while stocks last, with purchase of Mythology Codex. Its full coloured pages are way too pretty to be marked or dog-eared so I think this is a smart way of tagging your favourite bits in the book.

Highly recommended.

A FULL TEN STARS!

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ning
Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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