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9 / 30 books. 30% done!

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43 / 104 books. 41% done!

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35 / 52 books. 67% done!

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39 / 165 books. 24% done!
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Interworld Brings Us Another Ordinary Boy Who Really ... Isn't

Joe Harker - star of Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves - never set out to be a hero. All he wants to do is survive high school. If he somehow manages to earn a glance from pretty Rowena Danvers, well, that will pretty much take care of his life goals. Transforming from an average kid into an intergalactic warrior just plain isn't on his to-do list. But, here he is straddling all the dimensions of time and space to keep balance in the great, wide Alti-verse.

His adventure begins on an ordinary day that turns extraordinary pretty fast. Joe's Social Studies teacher, the eccentric Mr. Dimas, has dropped him and two others (the aforementioned Rowena and a jerk named Ted Russell) in an unknown section of town. Their assignment is to find their way back to the school within a certain time frame and without using a map. Oh yeah, and this is their final project. The test is not a good one for Joe, who gets lost in his own house. The challenge gets even more difficult when he discovers not only that he is lost - nothing new there - but more lost than just lost lost. In fact, he doesn't even seem to be in his own world anymore.

When Joe "cheats" and pays for a bus ride home, he stares out the window at the passing scenery. Everything has changed. Including his home and family. Then, a man in a mirrored mask steps out of the mist, creatures on flying disks appear out of nowhere, and Joe is running for his life from a seductive witch and her tattoo-covered henchman. It is only after Jay (the masked man) rescues Joe that Joe gets the truth: Joe is a Walker, a unique individual who can travel between worlds/dimensions. As such, he is hunted by enemies who want to harness his powers. His particular talents are also desired by the good guys of InterWorld Prime - the organization with which Jay works - who help maintain the balance between magic and science on all worlds.

Soon, Joe joins the good guys, landing in a sort of superhero training camp, where:

It was like being a new kid in a school you hated. Only worse.
It was like being a new kid in a school you hated that was run by the army on
vaguely sadistic principles, where everyone was from a different country and
they had just one thing in common.

They all hated you.

Once again, he's fighting for survival ... in school. And, once again, his "final" is taking him to places unknown. This time, it's a training mission in a (supposedly) controlled environment. When everything goes wrong, however, Joe is left to question his own heart, his own abilities, and his own courage. He must choose between a safe existence on his own Earth or a dangerous life Walking between worlds, a career path that is already paved with failure and death. For a guy who "had difficulty getting to the store on a two-dimensional grid life Earth's surface"(119), it's a decision that will change his life and those of all the various lifeforms on all of the Multiverse's various earths.

Although this book doesn't have the most original plot (an average kid learns he is anything but when his ordinary life goes all weird on him - even a sci-fi novice like me knows this one has been done before), but it has some really fun elements. The main character, for instance, is the kind of helpless underdog you can't help but love. He, and all the variations of himself he finds out in the Multiverse, are interesting although not always likeable. The book makes countless allusions to sci-fi classics like Star Trek (the retiarii's warning will sound familiar to anyone who's watched at least one episode), Lord of the Rings, and The Twilight Zone. Parts of it even reminded me of Stardust, my favorite Gaiman novel. For me, the most fun part was the character of Scarbarus - I love the idea of him being able to bring his tattoos to life.

Interworld offers a fun, if chaotic, mixture of magic, science and space exploration. It didn't wow me, but I enjoyed the story. If you like the Harry Potter books, The Lightning Thief and others, you will probably like this one about another ordinary boy who really ... isn't.

Grade: B

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