by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
Recommended Ages: 12+
High school sophomore Joey Harker has such a poor sense of direction that he sometimes gets lost in his own house. One day, during a social studies exam in the form of a scavenger hunt around the downtown area, he walks into a patch of fog and comes out in another reality altogether. A world where McDonald's sports a single, green tartan arch, and where his parents have a daughter his age—but no son. While he is still reeling from this terrifying discovery, Joey is attacked by men on flying disks, and escapes capture only with the aid of a kid in a liquid-silver encounter suit. Joey runs for it, only to fall right into the clutches of another faction in a pan-dimensional war between the forces of science and magic. His awful captors plan to boil him down to his spiritual essence, inflicting unimaginable pain in the process, and then use his ability to walk between realities as fuel for their invasion fleet in the conquest of the multiverse.
Lucky for Joey, the silver-suit guy catches up before the agents of HEX have time to heat up their cauldron. Joey quickly learns about the multiverse—new universes branching off at every major decision-point in history—and more particularly, the altiverse—the arc of roughly earth-like worlds, each of which potentially has a version of Joey with the otherwise unique ability to "walk" from one dimension to another. The worlds at one end of the arc follow pure science, while those at the opposite end are ruled by magic. Both ends are trying to take over the middle, which is where InterWorld comes in—an organization made up of versions of Joey of all shapes, sizes, sexes, and biological classes: Joeys with wings, Joeys with fangs, Joeys with cybernetic implants, Joeys built extra tough for higher gravity, etc., etc., etc. And between the worlds is the psychedelic chaos of the In-Between, a place where sights, sounds, and smells swirl into one another and where creatures called mudluffs—short for Multi-Dimensional Life-Form—lie in wait for a chance to ooze into an unsuspecting world.
Jay (the silver suit guy) tries to lead Joey back to InterWorld Prime, but ends up sacrificing his life to save Joey when the latter runs to the rescue of a trapped mudluff. As a result, Joey starts his basic training as an InterWorld agent at a disadvantage, blamed for the death of a top operative. Worse, during a training exercise he inadvertently leads his team of six into a HEX trap. He manages to escape, only to realize that he can't get back to the dimension where his friends have been caught. It looks very bad when he gets back to base. With his memories wiped and his ability to walk taken away, Joey is sent back to his old life. The only good thing weighing against all this bad stuff is his unique friendship with a mudluff he calls Hue. And with all his InterWorld memories reduced to a three-week bout of amnesia, that doesn't give him much to work with. Not if he's going to save his team and stop an imminent invasion by a power so chilling, so evil, that an army of super-commandos couldn't beat them. But one disgraced, easily muddled, average-Joe kid just might have a chance.
This novel started life as a proposal for an unsold television series in the mid-1990s. One of its authors had created the U.K. cult series Neverwhere and the Vertigo comic series The Sandman; he has since gone on to write lots of excellent, bestselling and award-winning books. The other produced and co-wrote the U.S.-based programs Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series; he also wrote many of the key episodes of the American fantasy and sci-fi TV programs of the 1980s and -90s. So it's amazing that when these two creative powerhouses came together to pitch a TV project, it didn't take spark. A dozen years later they decided to publish it as a novel. And so today's young readers are the lucky beneficiaries not only of this thrilling adventure in time, space, and in-between, but also of a recently published sequel, titled The Silver Dream.