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Review of The Streets by John Archer:

Two well made map books, a 35 minute downloadable video, a 43 page booklet of instructions, 4 crib sheets, and John Archer for $120 bucks. Is it gem or is it rubble . . .

Effect

Basically, this is multiple book-test-ish effects using tourist guide maps. You can have them open to any map page and think of any street name on the page, and you can easily divine what street they're thinking of. You can have them look at any page in the index and think of the top word on that page, and you can divine it. You can have multiple people open to any page and think of any section of town on the page they're looking at. You can then (with no fishing) divine which part of town each person is in. There are a couple other effects that can be done, depending on the presentation you use and if you bring other map books into the presentation.

Method

The method is two very cleverly gimmicked books that do 95% of the work for you. The little "work" that you have to do is super simple and within the grasp of any technical skill level. The real skill needed here is the same with most mentalism; acting. One of the routines relies on a crib sheet that is supplied. However, they've made this crib sheet more user friendly than any crib sheet that has gone before. It's simple and elegant.

Ad Copy Integrity

The ad copy is accurate. However, oddly, they claim that the instruction booklet is 50 pages. It's 43, not 50. That's probably a typo, and certainly will have no impact on the final star rating. One thing, however, that I do take issue with is that the premise of this product is that regular book tests with "regular" novels are flawed because there is no justification for the book. Their argument is that if you wanted someone to think of a word, why bother using a book; just have them think of any word. They actually claim, in the book, that there is no justification of a book that will ever work.

However, I would argue that the presentational premise of "speed reading" a book on the spot and memorizing it or claiming that you've memorized it in advance is a legitimate and very good way to justify the use of a book. The presentation then becomes that you are proving that you have the whole book memorized. (Shameless plug: I just published a book, 793.8 where 15 of the 270 pages cover this very subject and give many legitimate justifications for using a book.) The reason I bring this up is because there is actually a presentation in the booklet that uses this very premise, so I found it a bit funny that they claim that there is nothing you can say to justify the use of a book. I think that line of thinking is flawed.

Product Quality

The product quality is excellent. The books (Boston and London street maps) look like the real deal. They're not "examinable." However, they are "handleable." The audience members will handle them and use them during the effect without the method being detected. The booklet and video quality are excellent. Really, the only thing that the video adds to the booklet, however, is the live performance. The instructional part is exactly the same as the booklet, and almost unnecessary. Not filming that might have made the cost a little better than it is.

The teaching is excellent, and there are many tips, pointers, ideas, etc. on how to use the props and how to blend the various effects into one routine.

Final Thoughts

This product is very usable and doable, and an excellent alternative to a book test that has a lot of room for presentational creativity. The question you have to ask yourself is if you like the effect. If you do, you'll be very happy with the method and practicality of everything. Is it worth $120? This particular product comes with both the Boston and London books. However, you can buy the set separately for $80 bucks each. So from that perspective, it almost seems reasonable. I also know that this type of prop typically does cost much more than your average effect. Mother of All Book Tests comes to mind. It's $300 - $350, and tons of pros own one. I bought one. My friend, Jim Spinnato, owns multiple copies.

I know of another pro who's bought multiple copies and he tears the pages out of the book and carries a few around with him at all times. Knowing that people spend this kind of money ($300 to $350) on a single (very well made and gimmicked) book with minimal instructions and no video instructions or performance footage, does $120 for two books with a video and 43 well written pages of instructions seem reasonable? I think so . . . unless, of course, you would never do this effect. Then why are you reading this review? This review is for people who like the effect and want to know if it really is as good as they say. It is.

Final Verdict:
4.5 Stars with a Stone Status of Gem.

4 Comments

  • Steven says:

    Awesome Jeff! Thanks for sharing.

  • Dan Waterman says:

    Interesting point at the start of the review regarding the illogical need for a book when asking someone to think of a word, yet a map is necessary in order for someone to think of a street. I can think of many street names as I write this and nowhere is a map within site. The true and most organic effect would be to reveal the thoughts of a spectator on stage sans books, maps, pads of paper, dictionaries, cards ,or menus.

    • Jeff Stone says:

      @Dan – thanks for the post. Keep in mind that the idea is that the presentation is more like a remote viewing type of thing and the map book is used to help the spectator visualize the street and its surroundings. It’s also to help the spectator think of a street that’s in a certain area. Remember also, that the justification (for the lay person) doesn’t have to be too detailed. Very little explanation is needed and it doesn’t have to be a super solid foolproof explanation. Just a quick thing that takes their minds away from wondering why you’re using a map book is enough.

  • Paul says:

    These books won’t pass by a native.So audience management required. Says abc
    of London but no well known streets in the index! Where’s trafalgar square? Should have been abc of outer London would be less conspicuous.

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