30 July 2009

Review: Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

Like a lot of people, I'm a sucker for mostly anything with Neil Gaiman's name on it. (Not so much movie tie-ins or merchandise, but otherwise.) My latest bout of Gaiman-induced spending resulted in my owning M is for Magic and Interworld, a novel co-written with Michael Reaves.

Interworld is an adventure story for pre-teens (at least it read about that level to me) featuring Joey Harker, a rather average kid. Average except that one day he walked into a fog and out into another universe, one very much like his own, except that his parents gave birth to a daughter, Josephine, and not a son. Joey soon finds himself in another world still, but in this one Joey Harker has died by drowning. Joey's ability to walk between worlds puts him at risk to two opposing forces – Magic (called HEX) and Science (called Binary) – that each want control over all the worlds in the all possible universes. Joey learns that his double in each other world is also able to walk between worlds and that it is that duty to fight for balance between the forces of science and magic.

Once I got lost in my own house.
I guess it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. We had just built a new annex – added a hallway and a bedroom for the squid, aka Kevin, my really little brother – but still, the carpenters had left and the dust had settled over a month ago. Mom had just sounded the dinner call and I was on my way downstairs. I took a wrong turn on the second floor and found myself in a room wallpapered with clouds and bunnies. I realized I'd turned right instead of left, so I promptly made the same mistake again and blundered into the closet.

Wow, long intro. I'm distracted – got a computer virus, yay! Or, you know, 83 infiltrations – and it's showing. Right now I could use a little less binary and a little more hex-the-pants off whoever did this.

In the afterword, Gaiman and Reaves (who I want badly to call Greaves – "Gaiman and Greaves" sounds better) talk about how Interworld was originally an idea for an adventure series on television, with a group of Jo/e/y Harkers fighting continuously for balance, which really makes sense to me because the novel works better as an episode than as a complete world unto itself. A number of characters are introduced, but remain unused. (Binary, for example, have only a guest appearance; HEX takes the starring villain's role.) It feels undeveloped or not fleshed out in other ways too. There is more room, much more room, to explore the similarities and differences between the various Jo, Joey, Jakon, Jerzy, etc and the way they feel about one another. Also, how they make the decision to help rather than live in ignorance on their own worlds, and so on.

My first thought about this book was that it feels like the season finale of a tv show. Actually, thought, it feels like a season premiere smashed up against the season finale. It begins with the introduction to world and characters, but ends with the sort of action sequence that needed a season's worth of build up. Too much is accomplished by the Joeys too quickly.

It is a very interesting idea and I agree that it would probably make a compelling television series, but it doesn't make the best novel. It feels too bare-bones in many ways and (as mentioned) the story is a bit uneven with too much beginning, too much ending, and not enough in between. I'm not sure this novel needed to see the light of day, at least not as anything other than enticement to get some television executive interested in developing a new series.

Neil Gaiman has written all kinds of books, screenplays, comics, short stories, and poems, for adults, young adults and children. If you've not read his books, you should. He has a website that I'm too lazy to look up the link for at the moment. Google won't let you down.

Michael Reaves is a screenwriter who has written for a number of television shows including Star Trek. He's also written books, short stories, and comic books. His website can be found at www.michaelreaves.com.

Gaiman, Neil and Michael Reaves. Interworld. New York: Eos, 2008.
Finished: 27 July 2009
Rating: 3 of 5 laser-armed bionanotic entities
This was my 6th book in July and my 28th book of 2009.

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