• Alex Hui

BOOK REVIEW - False Anchors by Ryan Schlutz

Updated: May 14



Here is my in-depth review of False Anchors by Ryan Schlutz.


REVIEW PHILOSOPHY


The philosophy is simple: to give you the truth.


When I review a product, I’d like to judge the product per se, but not putting past record or creator’s name/reputation into consideration. I will provide what is not said on the advertisement and details beyond the product itself.


I have no affiliation with any magicians or dealers, thus you will have everything good and bad about the product. Almost nothing is left out.


I believe by giving you the most transparent information, we can together elevate the quality of magic, and help creators to produce better products in long run.


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YOUTUBE REVIEW


If you want to watch the review, here is the YouTube version.



WHAT YOU GET


False Anchors is originally the three best-selling False Anchor books rolled into one giant copy. 

It is a 126-page hardbound book, measuring 15.2cm x 23cm. It comes with 108 full colour photographs. All items in this book is about cards.


Besides, you will get a specially made gimmick for one of the tricks in this book.

QUALITY OF THE BOOK


The design of the book is professional. Photos are beautiful and clearly illustrate the important points of the tricks. The format for each trick is generally consistent, which makes reading flow smoothly. But in some cases, editing is not perfect. For example, in many items the last section is about additional ideas, the titles of the section is not unified: ‘Further Look’, ‘Further Look:’, ‘Further Thoughts’, ‘Further Thoughts:’, ‘Conclusion’. As for photos, decks with four different back designs are used throughout the book. 



In addition, the font size of the book is rather small. It’s probably one of the smallest I’ve ever seen in similar-size magic books. Readability is not bad but readers with poor eyesight may struggle a bit. 


In general effects are made of ‘Discussion’, ’How’, Recap and ‘Further Thoughts’. The structure of description is good and written in good clarity. Credits are given but not in details.

The book layout is professionally made. However, the writing style is not linear sometimes, which makes it not the best easy-to-follow reading. Besides, it seems that attention to details is not enough in some cases which potential issues of tricks are not addressed. It may only be discovered by experience magicians and most of the issues are not too big.


Overall, this is a beautiful book that I enjoy reading. The issues I mentioned above are not critical and they are not something readers have to worry about.

HOW MANY TRICKS?

  • Number of Entries: 22

  • Number of Card Tricks: 15

  • Technique or Utility: 6

  • Number of Article: 1

  • In-hand tricks: 4


Some items can be adapted as in-hand effects. But generally, it’s better to have a performing surface for all effects. 


Types of effects mainly include: 


  • Revealing the selection 

  • Color separation

  • Cards transposition 

  • Revealing mental selection 

  • Prediction 

  • Location 

  • Card fusion


QUALITY OF THE TRICKS


'There are so much card materials on the market already, why more material?’ That’s the question I often ask when I encounter new card materials. One good thing about abundance of card tricks is that it makes judging new material easier. If there is surprise or interesting material, it can hardly escape reader’s attention. Therefore, to reviews the quality of card tricks, I would put more emphasis on the creativity and how clever the materials are put together. 


The book includes a good variety of tricks and techniques. Most of them needs a working surface. While some tricks only require minimal space of a pile of cards, other may require bigger space for ‘wash’ style shuffling or multiple piles. If you solely performed on street, you might find some tricks quite difficult to perform. But for professional close-up and parlour performers, most materials are easy to handle.


There is a good mix of impromptu and prepared effects. For effects which need preparations, degree varies. Some effects require very minimal setup which can be done on the fly. But four effects require reasonable amount of preparation which may take 15 minutes, but they are all done once only. These effects are: 

  • Forget to Remember (Updated)

  • Card At Any Sum

  • Before the Thought

  • The One With The Big Five (gimmick is provided for this effect)


One crucial point you need to remember during reading is, Ryan Schlutz wants to achieve a hands-off approach with these effects. He wanted to leave his audience with the impression that he did not do anything. Therefore, if you pay attention to this aspect, you will understand the structure of the tricks better. 


Most tricks are supremely constructed with truly clear goals at ending. Even though most effects comprise only one single moment of magic, the strength of magic justifies the procedures. And most procedures in this book are logical, thus not suspicious even to attentive audience. 

Most effects do not come with script or even presentational ideas. Thus, readers have to figure out how to present the effects. 

As for the effectiveness, I am delighted that most items have no feeling of cliché. Most of them don’t look like another card trick. They are practical and highly inspirational. When readers dig deep enough, they will find a lot of building blocks which are usable in other routines. For example, ‘Equifinality’ provides a way to control card in a chaotic shuffling sequence. The trick itself is good, but what’s bigger is the methodology underlining the trick. That’s the structure of this methodology will benefit readers more.


To conclude, many materials in this book are top-notch, though you may encounter a few hurdles in some areas of the tricks. Maybe some are lengthy, too chaotic to handle well, or not very usable due to presentation. But generally, this book is full of gems for serious card students. Simple and clever ideas are always the best. This book has many. 

QUALITY OF THE TECHNIQUES


Techniques focus on two aspects: control and switching. Three of them are quite good but not the other three. 'Secret Sauce Switch’ is a nice switch but you need to be able to do Stuart Gordon Double Lift (if you have not mastered it yet, I highly recommend learning it. You need it eventually if you are serious about card magic). 'Top Stock Control’ is an effortless way to control the top stack, but you need table to do it. ‘Counterpoint’ is very efficient to keep a card at certain location even though spectator shuffle the whole deck, though a small preparation is needed. These three techniques are something i will definitely adapted in my routines. They also provide good inspiration to creative minds.

'Bottom Stock Control’ may be fooling but it’s not a convincing way to mix the deck. ‘Box Switch’ sounds good on paper but presentation-wise it is not logical. 'Edge-Mark Pencil Dot’ makes shuffle much convincing, but it’s for magician audience. For laymen audience, it’s redundant to add this tool though it can be fun to play with. 


TOP 3 PICKS


There are many good effects that it is indeed hard to pick the Top 3. But I will try to pick three effects which can be done easily without resorting to lengthy preparation. 


I Love You

Effect: The spectator shuffles a deck, then cut off a portion of cards, then look at the bottom card and replace the portion. The deck was shuffled by the spectator again. All this happen when your back is turned. Despite this very fair condition, you are able to control the selection at will. 


My Take: 

This is the best surprise in this book. At first I did not think the method would work nicely at all. But in fact it works almost perfectly. The description is absolutely correct. If done correctly, it can be fooler even to knowledgable magicians. 


Though there is a condition to this effect, it won’t be a hurdle in most performances. It is also a tool which can be used in other effects.


Equifinality

Effect: A prediction is tabled. 12-14 piles are put of table. A spectator shuffles 2 piles together at a time until 2 piles are left on table. The top card of each pile is turned over and used to make a card. The prediction matches it perfectly. 


My Take: 

This trick requires a quite simple setup which can be done in 20 seconds. The procedure of the trick is extremely fair. In addition to shuffling done by spectators, they make all the decision. The randomness and hands-off approach also enhance the effect so much. The effect is good enough to be done in a formal act. 


Card At Any Sum

Effect: Five envelopes containing double-face number cards are shuffled and turned over randomly freely by spectators. Spectator takes out the cards and add the number. The selection is found at that number in the deck.  


My Take: 

This is a clever and versatile to force a number. Its use is only limited by your imagination. With alteration, it can be used in many other effects. It can also be done 100% hands off.  


HOW FOLING? 


Most effects in this book are very fooling. The principles are good, and spectators can hardly backtrack the routines. 

DIFFICULTY


Mechanical techniques are not demanding, but most tricks need practise to make them smooth. They are not for beginners for sure but advanced beginners who practise will have no issue.


RATING OF TRICKS

I usually rate a trick based on several factors: 

1. Practical of Effect

2. Effectiveness (how magical the effect is)

3. Creativity 


Sometimes, even I rate a trick (5/10), that doesn’t mean it is a bad trick. Maybe the method is not particularly new or interesting. The effect may still be ok.

And even if an effect was very magical and creative in execution, I wouldn’t give high rating if it involves a lot of procedures or easy to mess up.


As a general guideline, a trick rated 7 or above is good. A rating of 9-10 guarantees a great trick (even if you don’t do it, it contains a lot of new things you can learn). 

I will try to give a reason if I rate an effect low score. I hope this will give you a better idea of my reasoning. 


T = Technique or Utility 

P = Need Preparation  

  1. I Love You  9☆

  2. Secret Sauce Switch  8☆ T

  3. Strange Gift  9☆

  4. Flow vs Sequential  8☆ A

  5. In-Air Transpo Trick  8☆

  6. Bottom Stock Control  5☆ T

  7. Top Stock Control  8☆ T

  8. Equifinality  10☆

  9. Forget to Remember (Updated) 9☆ P

  10. Somewhat Touched 

  11. Counterpoint  8☆ T

  12. Card At Any Sum  9☆ P

  13. Sprung Location   8☆

  14. 6 Covers 6   8☆

  15. Boxy Waltz  8☆

  16. Before the Thought 8☆ P

  17. Box Switch 6☆T

  18. The One With The Big Five 8☆ P

  19. Edge-Mark Pencil Dot  6☆  T

  20. Clearly See-Through  9☆

  21. Other Ways To Use The GAP Principle  9☆

  22. Mind The GAP  9☆


PROS ABOUT THE BOOK

  1. The book is beautifully designed. 

  2. Good variety of materials with nice principles. 

  3. A very good metal gimmick is included. This alone wworthorths a lot.


CONS ABOUT THE BOOK

  1. Too much emphasis on hands off condition unnecessarily restricts the use of some efficient sleights in some effects. 


FINAL VERDICT


Before I read the book, I didn’t know what to expect. That’s why I am delighted when I saw the quality of the materials. 


There are many surprisingly good but simple principles. They are practical and fun to play with. 

As for the price tag of $75, it depends on what type of magic you are looking for. If you are looking for visual effects, there are none you will find in this book. But for those who love clever effects, this is definitely a good book to study. I love the book so much, and I believe the material will benefit serious card magicians in long run.  


  • Video Quality: 8/10

  • Effectiveness of Tricks: 10/10

  • Practical: 9/10

  • Creativity: 7/10

  • Cost Performance: 10/10

  • Final Score: 10/10

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