Friday, July 3, 2009


Clearly I was on some sort of Neil Gaiman kick during June, because in addition to re-reading some of the stories from M is for Magic, I also read Interworld, by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves. It was one of the best of the YA titles we took with us on our trip to France. The idea was that we could read them and then trade them around, getting more (literal) mileage out of each book because as fellow travelers know, books get heavy fast when you try to pack them.

The one we all liked least was Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found. We weren't expecting to like it as much as her stellar Just Ella, but we did expect to like it as much as Running Out of Time, (which we read before the Shyamalan movie The Village came out) or Leaving Fishers. We thought it would be something like her Shadow Children series, which we all enjoyed. One of the main differences between the Shadow Children series and this new "The Missing" series, of which Found is the first one, is that Found is longer than Among the Hidden or any of its sequels. I think it's possible that Found would be better if it were more severely edited. But maybe it's partly that we're all older than Haddix's targeted sixth-grade audience.

The one we liked slightly better, mostly for the sake of its bad jokes, is Dale E. Basye's Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go. From the moment that "goodbye puppy" merchandise is mentioned, I was willing to give this book a chance. The jokes come at a good pace, accompanied by allusions like
"Where are we going?" Milton said with a motivating clap of his hands.
"The Surface!" Marlo and Virgil replied in unison.
"When are we getting there?"
"Real soon!"
For you non-Buckaroo Banzai fans, that's an allusion to some memorable dialogue and implicitly compares the "heroes" of the book to a bunch of really stupid aliens. But, in the end, we weren't pleased to find that this book is little more than an elaborate prologue to a second one, and our enjoyment of bad jokes goes only so far.

So when I got to Interworld, I was pleased that it had a plot and a main character I could sympathize with, even if the science is brought down to the young adult level by explanations like
"the thing to remember is that certain decisions--important ones, those that can create major ripples in the time stream--can cause alternate worlds to splinter off into divergent space-time continua. Remember this, or you'll wind up paralyzed every time you have to make a choice: The Altiverse is not going to create a brave new world based on your decision to wear green socks today instead of red ones. Or if it does, that world will only last a few femtoseconds before being recycled into the reality it split off from."
The plot is based on the idea that there is a power struggle between worlds where magic works and worlds where science works, and the hero has been recruited into an organization that attempts to keep a balance between the power of science and the power of magic:
"We of InterWorld have no problem with either ideology. Our problem is with HEX and with the Binary, who both seek to impose their belief systems and method of reality on other worlds--sometimes through war, sometimes more subtly."

Interworld has jokes; we all reacted to this one:
...I...looked at Jo, particularly at the two things that made her so different from me.
"Stop staring."
"I'm sorry," I said. "It's just, where I come from, nobody has wings."

And, finally Interworld has a satisfying hero-saves-the-universe ending, complete with a big explosion:
"And then she blew, and it was wonderful. It was like a light show and a fireworks show and the destruction of Sauron's tower...everything you could imagine it could be."

And now, it's about time for fireworks shows all across the U.S. You could do worse than take a couple of hours to read Interworld before (or after) your local fireworks display.


Unfocused Me said...

Thanks for the recommendation - Interworld sounds like fun.

Ron Griggs said...

The HEX vs. Binary is an example of the computer/technology/science jokes (good and bad) sprinkled liberally through this book. Not Neil Gaiman at his most serious...

Jeanne said...

Geez, what IS Neil Gaiman at his most serious? I can't think of anything I've read by him that I'd describe as entirely serious.