I have been remiss in that I should have been one of those 5 star reviews, but, like Penn, I've just made my way through the first volume, and I wanted to wait until I had read the whole thing.
However, what follows are some preliminary impressions. (I hope that if someone is on the fence on these, perhaps this might help decide if the project is for them.)
What has made the strongest impression on me thus far is how personal the book is--namely, it's markedly different from his previous works because Michael Close is a different person than when Workers and CGS were written. What I find fascinating is that as he has grown as a person and as his life circumstances have evolved, so has his magic to reflect where he is in life. As I write these words, they seem so obvious---why shouldn't our magic reflect ourselves? Easy, right?
However, we see so little of this self-realization either in performance or publication, that the work under discussion shines bright as an example and an inspiration in the darkness. That is, if I haven't put as much thought into my magic as Mr. Close has, I'm not doing my job for my audiences and myself.
The potential stumbling block in a situation like this is that in a work this personal, is any of the material applicable to me? Happily, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". As noted above, Mr. Close is a master teacher, consultant and is magic's equivalent of Marvel's Karnak of the inhumans (How's that for a geek reference?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnak_(comics
) ) Accordingly, the first volume consists contains many thoughtful and practical fixes to common "That looks fishy" procedures we see in 99% of sleight of hand these days. Blatant injogs, suspicious forces, furtively covered indices, etc. all get the Close treatment as he uses his refining powers to make things more natural and more deceptive. I've written before that what reallly turns me on are little bits of finesse that make my current routines stronger. If you are in the same boat, you're going to love volume one.
However, despite how good these pearls are, it would be a mistake not to mention that this is a book that comes with demands. Namely, if you are going to really study the volume, you've got to be willing to pay the price if you wish to extract it's full worth. The price in this case is homework. That is: you've gotta take the time to read, study, and think about how the theoretical concepts he discusses in essays early on and how they specifically apply to you and your magic. For instance, Mr. Close spends quite a bit of time on the non-magic book: "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow" https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Sl ... 0374533555
The pivotal concepts in this fascinating book, form the basis of a lot of the sleights and tricks presented. While the material in the book can be accessed without reading Dr. Kahneman's bestseller, I think the student would be remiss to not run out and start reading it prior to digging in to Mr. Close's book. IMHO, without Kahneman's background information, the real secrets of what Mr. Close is presenting won't be fully appreciated. Another early assignment is to write out your own definition of the magic you hope to perform, a key concept of the Close method that he's talked about before. I feel sorta bad about sounding uppity about this, but if the reader can't be bothered to put pen to paper to work this out, I wonder if this is really the book for that person. Too many publications these days are like a can of Pringles: bland, easily forgettable card trick variation after variation after variation--rinse, then repeat--put the book on the shelf. In contrast, this is a big, juicy ribeye which will put meat on your magic bones (and chops) if you let it.
In short, this is the kind of book that excites me: it's challenging, yet practical, and if the concepts spelled out are internalized, they have the potential to take my (and probably your) magic to the next level. One other thing: while the material can be technically challenging at times, I found most of it to be well within the grasp of the average serious hobbyist. It's certainly not a book for beginners, but intermediate all the way to expert cardpeople should benefit (although I believe any performer would benefit for the theoretical concepts presented therein).
I'll have more to say about Volume 2 once I finish digesting Volume 1 (might be a while!