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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint

Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint. New York: Tor, 2003. ISBN: 0-312-87398-0

This is probably the most unique of de Lint's novels I've read yet. At times it's not clear if it's science fiction or fantasy. This novel has elements of both. Once again we have familiar characters we've encountered before: Christy Riddell, who acts as the author's alter ego, a writer who collects tales of the strange and unexplained, of magic and the "otherworld," the faerie dreamworld where so much of de Lint's action takes place. Also appearing are the familiar characters (to de Lint readers) Geordie and Holly, as well as some not so familiar folks.

Playing a key role is the Wordwood, an interactive literary web site which has also appeared before. The Wordwood was started by some of the Newford characters as a place to record and store literary information, definitions and other useful stuff, but fairly soon it seemed to take on a life of its own. It no longer resides on a known server anywhere, and seems independently intelligent, growing almost exponentially without any programmer behind it.

Now a disgruntled and bitter literary critic blackmails a co-worker into loosing a computer virus onto the Wordwood, and all havoc breaks loose. People disappear quite literally into their computers, or rather, their computers somehow become portals that—well, it amounts to the same thing, anyhow.

Anyone who reads fantasy has to be able to willingly suspend his or her sense of disbelief, and although these events seem to stretch even the most flexible of such senses, de Lint makes it almost believable in the context of his particular magical universe. It turns out that the Wordwood is a physical place over in otherland, and the people who disappear have been transported there. Now Christy and a group of assorted companions must go in search of them, and try to fix whatever has gone wrong.

As I've pointed out, this is perhaps not de Lint's most believable tale, but it is fantasy, after all. De Lint himself cites a review in which his work was described as fantasy for people who don't normally like fantasy. Essentially (as he himself says) he writes mainstream fiction that just happens to have elements of the fantastical mixed and merged in. Consequently, his work is recommended whether you're a bona fide fantasy lover or not.

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