Interworld – Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

Yeah, so I picked up this book because I am a fan of Neil Gaiman, and I was slightly disappointed.  Which is both good and bad.

It’s good, because it means that being a fan hasn’t blinded my critical thinking.  Hurray!  I am not a sheep!  I can read something written by a person that I think is really really great, and still be rational!  I’m not all OH my GOSH this is AMAZING (brain turns off here) because it was written by the Great Gaiman and he is just [superlative], his books are [superlative], isn’t life [superlative].

It’s bad because, well, it’s disappointing to be excited about a book and then find that it just doesn’t live up to expectations.  The solution to this, of course, is to never have expectations or to have really low ones or, at the very least, not expect the moon the sun and the stars but maybe be willing to accept a bowl of cereal in the morning with coffee and, if very lucky, juice.  This is called realism, but optimists will call it “pessimism”.  They are wrong.

And now, I will get down from my soapbox and continue with the review.

Gaiman and Reaves explain that Interworld was meant to be a TV series, based on an inter-parallel-dimensional war of conquest between ultra-hi-techies on one side and magic-spewing spellweavers on the other.  In the middle (isn’t there always?) is a highly trained force of young men and women who are born with the rare ability to walk between parallel dimensions.  The kicker?  All of these highly trained men and women are also the same person – kind of.  In “our” world and dimension, we have Joseph Harker, high school student.  In other dimensions, there are also Joseph Harkers, sometimes with a different name, sometimes with a different gender, and sometimes (depending on the world) with a different genetic makeup altogether.  But always – strangely – with a name that starts with “J”.

It doesn’t make sense, so don’t bother trying to figure it out.  The basic points are: interdimensional warfare, magic versus science, army of semi-identical twin/siblings/clones pulled from different parallel universes poised in the middle trying to save all the known worlds.  This is great stuff!  I mean – you could make loads of seasons of shows based on this premise, and you wouldn’t have to stretch too much because when there are infinite possible dimensions…well, that’s pretty much stretched as far as you can get (has Lost incorporated multiple universes yet?  I just checked.  The answer is yes.)  We’re talking infinite seasons and a large rotating cast of characters.  Perfect TV material.  Just maybe not so great for a book.

And this is where the critical thinking comes in.  Interworld is interesting.  It’s well-written.  It moves quickly.  It has fun characters and good ideas.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t get to much of a start before it’s over and readers are left with the uncomfortable cheated feeling that the real story happens in the next episode…except that there is no next episode.  I don’t think I’m being too harsh when I say that Interworld feels incomplete.  It feels more like a trailer, or a sampler-pack that happens to be in book form, but isn’t really a book.  Which is disappointing if, when you pick up a book to read, you are expecting a book to read (in my mind, a perfectly reasonable expectation).

That said – if you are a person who doesn’t care if a book feels like a book and – in fact – maybe don’t like reading all that much, and are looking for a fast-paced, interesting, and idea-filled series of chapters strung together, in a story-like vehicle that is vaguely reminiscent of TV and MPGs…well, this could be the “book” you are looking for.

Reading Ages: 11-14

Favourite touch: I’ve said before that Gaiman is a master of quirky details.  My favourite thing is that the protagonist calls his baby brother “the squid”.  I don’t think we ever learn his real name.

Rating: B-.  The minus is for the incomplete feeling the book gives.  The non-C is because of the ideas, good organization, grammar, and use of real sentences and words, things that are sorely lacking in the many badly written books out there.  Don’t get me started.


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