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Equilateral Review

Official Review

July 7th, 2014 12:56am
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
If there is anything I know better than coins, it is illusions and illusion building. I have designed my own illusions, I have helped several builders in building illusions for others and I spend quite a few years doing a full evening illusion show.

I was quite excited to read this book and for the most part, it did not disappoint.

The problem for most readers of this book (or any other illusion books like this) is that short of actually building or having them built for you, you have no way of ascertaining whether the designs as given would work. You simply have to take the word of the author (JC Sum, in this case) for what it is worth. To that end, JC is a very accomplished performer and illusion designer who has worked all over the globe and helped design and build many illusions for others, as well as his own. In my book, his word is good.

Now, what do you get for $125.00/USD of your cold hard-earned cash? We will explore that now.

The book is very well laid out and printed on great quality glossy paper with what looks to be laser printing. It is perfect bound (glued binding) which in my opinion for a $125 book could have at least been a hard cover, but I will let that slide a bit because in this case, you are also getting valuable ideas.

The ad copy is mostly accurate but it is not at all 100%. It says you get 'material lists' which you do not. It also says you get 'full illusion plans' which you do not. What you do get are some drawings that have the dimensions given for them - even rough dimensions where the size of the illusion depends on the people using the illusions. Others you get no dimensions at all. This will be a big problem when taking these plans to a non-illusion builder to have those props made.

In the descriptions you get a rough idea of the materials needed and in some cases where you have a slightly more unusual piece to get, he will list a source for them. There were only two instances where he missed that opportunity, but this was still a nice touch.

I will say that as a person who has designed, built and performed illusions that all of the illusions presented in this book can be performed, but there were a few plans that were not very well portrayed in the plans. Some were too confusing and not marked anywhere near as clearly as they could have been, which again would be a problem when taking these plans to a non-illusion builder for manufacture. If you have enough woodworking and metal working skills to build them yourself, you would have to re-imagine some of the drawings to clarify them. Even after re-reading the more confusing ones three or four times, I had to re-draw the schematics to have them make sense, or at the very least make them more accurate.

For the most the part the text is clear and well-written, but for $125 you would think they would have either used a spell-checker or hired a proofreader that knew what they were doing - there were a lot of spelling and grammatical errors throughout the entire book. For some of the illusions the grammar and spelling errors made the already confusing diagrams even more difficult to interpret.

For some reason JC seemed to leave out little things here and there one or two of the illusions that would make them easier to execute - nothing or critical but it just shocked me as to why those little things would have been left out. I am referring to a clasp/latch here and there, a different type of material in some spots or whatnot. I suppose if he makes them work without those things, who cares? Who would know? Personally I would like my life to be a tad bit easier.

All of the illusions will "pack flat" for easy transport as the instructions and ad copy say, or at least as close as some of them can get to flat when dealing with welded parts or parts that would be a pain to continually detach and reattach before and after each show.

For each illusion JC presents the set-up of the stage and gives you a rough idea of how to present each illusion, what the assistants should do and when and occasionally includes a few "patter" ideas - I hate the word "patter". But nonetheless, it is there. Just about every illusion starts with JC telling you where he got the idea or inspiration for it, which is nice if you would like to go and research the evolution of each illusion as presented.

Since most of these illusions seem to be an offshoot or an update on an old design, most of which he said he has performed, I would like to have seen some performance footage - even from old shows using the older versions. Again as an experienced illusion designer/builder/performer, I had no issue imagining how these would play out in my mind, but it would be nice for those with lesser or no experience, or those who would simply like to have confirmation that the ideas can and do work.

Some of the illusions include a story board as part of the plans, but again in one of them, the grammatical issues did nothing to help clarify the drawings, which were okay at best.

The illusions presented here will work in just about every situation and venue that you can think to use them in. JC gives pointers on each illusion where the venue/situation may be an issue and how to get around the issues if possible. Basically, he tells you which illusions work best in which venues and under which conditions.

Finally I want to say that for the majority of this book you will need the services of an illusion builder to make the illusions. You could take them to a well-rounded carpenter with metal working skills, but where the drawings lack measurements, you will have to work closely with them in obtaining the dimensions that you need for yourself or your assistant(s) to be able to perform them. An experienced illusion builder will be able to work with minimal information to an extent, but for the most part, nobody else will.

For what you are getting, I think the price of this book is too high. $100 would be more on the mark, but with the grammatical and spelling mistakes, lack of a concise set of plans including dimensions (even rough dimensions) and a materials list for each illusion and for some not-so-clear drawing schematics, even that might be a stretch.

If you have the skills to build your own illusions including working with various metals or have a good illusion builder to rely on for building them, these illusions are great. They will suit well on cruise ships and many other venues with small/restricted spaces. If you never even plan to have any of these built and just want to know how some of them work, this is a good book to look into for expanding your knowledge.

3 stars for a pretty good read, even if somewhat unclear at times.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Equilateral

Author: Sum, JC
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $125.00
Buy Now
Manufacturer's Description:

Are you looking for modern & practical illusions that play big and will impress in today's entertainment-saturated and competitive market?

This new book features cutting edge illusions with vehicles, steel plates & boxes! The illusions detailed in this book include innovative solutions for making cars appear, producing a motorcycle, making a cast of dancers appear instantly on stage as well as a variety of modern stage illusions.

All the illusions are contemporary in design & method and are designed for illusionists performing for cruise ships, corporate events, theatre shows, theme parks, showrooms and television.

"Equilateral" is the final book in the trilogy of professional-level illusion books by J C Sum, following the best-selling "Urban Illusions" and "Illusionary Departures". J C is one of Asia's most successful illusionists and represents a new generation of illusion thinkers.

What makes J C's thinking valuable in the field of illusion design is the fact that he is a working professional who performs internationally for television, corporate & special events and show rooms. He is also one of the most sought-after headline entertainers by international luxury cruise liners in Asia. His original designs and solutions are designed for real world performances with practical considerations in mind.

"Equilateral" details 13 illusions complete with full illusion plans (dimensions & material lists), descriptions and presentations; including:

The surrounded motorcycle production "perfected"! This new design makes the illusion very deceptive and all the sides of the prop fall down at the conclusion for a very clean finale.


A worker's car production for a launch! This is an inexpensive and practical new method to make a car appear for corporate & special events.

A "cheat" production of a car or large inanimate object that is a perfect solution for corporate launches and trade shows

An applied black art production system that does not require elaborate lighting or staging! Practical for cruise ship performers and touring shows with little set-up time required.

A modern design and modified method for Chuck Jones' "Mis-made Girl" illusion

The "classic" Substitution Trunk designed for speed and built from ATA case components

A unique appearance illusion of a girl

An interpretation of a Woodbury compressing illusion. A girl vanishes as she is pressed between two solid walls push together.

LIGHT & SPACE (2 Versions)
A modern reinvention, prop design and choreography for the 'Spiker' illusion but using LED 'strobing' light staffs

A comedy big cat illusion without the cat! This is the perfect illusion for the comedy illusionist or as a humorous prelude to a 'Lion's Bride' illusion.

A large illusion where the illusionist passes his body through a steel plate! The new design allows for the illusion to be performed with audiences on three sides.

A fresh new design for the time-tested "Sword Box" plot

Purchasing this book will entitle you access to J C's 'Backstage' section of

Pages: 115 - Softcover - Perfectbound - 8 1/2" x 11"

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