Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unseen Worlds Connecting With Our Own

It's been a little while since I reviewed any books and seeing that I've been reading quite a bit lately, I figured it was time to amend that oversight. Over the past year, in my own writing, I've been focused on illustrating these inner worlds, or unseen worlds that swirl all around us but which very few of us ever take notice. My upcoming novel Life is But a Dream focuses on the main character's delusional world which is just as real to her as any of the things that actually surround her. In the manuscript I recently finished, the main characters are detached from our world, yet constantly tethered to it by their memories. The two novels below share a similar thread, dabbling either directly or indirectly in the mysteries of what remains invisible to naked eye. Enjoy.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

When sad sack Richard has an accidental encounter with a wounded young girl named Door, he suddenly finds his life vanishing before his eyes and becomes a citizen of an the intriguing world of London Below. In the tradition of Oz or Wonderland, this world is populated by curiouser and curiouser people. But unlike those two fantasy worlds, this one exists side-by-side with our own even as it goes unseen. Within its boundaries, Richard and Door set out on a quest that is the one part mystery and one part pure adventure.

Neil Gaiman recently wrote a wonderful episode of Doctor Who, and it wasn't a surprising pairing at all. In many ways, this story captures the same whimsical sense of the newest incarnation of the long-running series. The danger is always accompanied by a light-hearted humor that makes the book nearly impossible to stop reading. This is the first adult novel I've read by Gaimen and was sort of surprised to find more light-hearted touches here than in his books for children. A really enjoyable read.

Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue

As with Keith Donohue's first novel, The Stolen Child, the most intriguing aspect of this novel is his remarkable ability to blend supernatural elements into his stories without ever making the reader feel as though they are reading fantasy fiction. In The Stolen Child, he tackled goblins (or changlings) and here he introduces the reader to Norah, a peculiar kind of angel that feels original and genuine. Donohue knows how to highlight subtleties in order to create a larger portrait. His magical moments are not grande, and they are all the more beautiful and effective for it.

At it's core, this is a story about redemption, both personal and familial. The angel acts as a catalyst to bring estranged mother and daughter together after years of separation. However, I found the more interesting story to be that of Norah as an angel trying to fit in with her fellow third graders. Her struggles and her friendship with a boy named Sean are the most touching and emotional scenes in the book. On the other hand, the adult relationships in the book didn't resonate with me. They felt more surface level and contrived.

There's also an odd choice in the narrative structure in the book. Divided into three parts, the middle section is essentially a separate, connecting novel stuck between the two halves of another superior novel. It was surprising simply because Donohue's previous book did such a fantastic job of telling two stories in alternating chapters that made the book impossible to put down. I can certainly understand not wanting to construct the same type of narrative in your next book, but honestly I think Angels of Destruction would have benefitted from it. Still recommended, especially for the insights on childhood friendship.


  1. Love Neil Gaiman and that second one looks good - I wonder if he is the crime writer of the same name?

  2. According to the bio, it's not the same author. I highly recommend the Stolen Child, it was one of my favorite books that I read last year.