Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Silver Dream

The Silver Dream
story by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
written by Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
Recommended Ages: 12+

Joey Harker used to be just this kid, but now he's one of several hundred "paraincarnations" of pretty much the same exact kid, gathered from around the altiverse - which means the earthlike, inhabited part of the multiverse - which means... never mind. They all live, study, train, and travel between parallel dimensions on a ship/city/school called InterWorld, whose mission is to fight the evils encroaching from both ends of the spectrum of possible worlds - the HEX pirates trying to conquer everything from the magical end of the continuum, and the Binary clones encroaching from the technological end. And though some are boys and some are girls, and some have feathers and others have cybernetic implants, and some come from planets with super-high gravity, and so on, they all look and sound more or less exactly like Joey Harker. They all have names beginning with a J, too, so be sure to keep your list of characters handy.

A couple years into his tour of duty with InterWorld, Joey has started to feel like he belongs. He more or less leads a team (though he isn't the senior officer on it). He doesn't spend quite as many meals at his own table in the mess hall, writhing in social awkwardness, as he did when he first arrived and everyone was suspicious because he had accidentally gotten his recruiter killed. And though the Old Man (kind of a far-future version of Joey) never seems to approve of anything he does, he hasn't been suspected of selling out his team to the enemy, lately.

But now things start to go downhill. First, his team botches a mission to retrieve Binary data from a world called Earth FΔ986, and brings back an uninvited guest whose name doesn't begin with a J - a mysterious girl named Acacia Jones, widely and embarrassingly rumored to be Joey's girlfriend. Then they have to go back to FΔ986 to complete their original mission, plus rescue a Walker - someone like Joey and all his InterWorld friends, who can Walk (with a capital "w") between worlds - who turns out to be way cooler and more popular than Joey. Then a training exercise leads to an accident that injures Joey and kills one of his best friends in a way that leads many, Joey included, to suspect that he, Joey, is to blame. Every time Joey tries to make things better, things get worse, and before anything happens that you won't hate me for spoiling, the multiverse is on the verge of an almighty disaster called Frost Night, and Joey is marooned, hurt, and helpless to do anything to stop it. Or is he? (Cue scary music.)

As the second installment in a series of at least three books, it is perhaps understandable that the mood in this book hits a low note, and it has an unresolved ending. That just gives you more to look forward to in books to come, right? Meantime, there are loads of far-out fantasy ideas, weird images, exciting conflicts, and scary moments in this book, along with some tenderer emotions. While I would prefer to see a book take a story all the way to the end, there is good precedent for leaving us in suspense - so long as the pay-off is worth it.

This sequel to Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves's InterWorld is one of the few books I have reviewed whose author credits read like the writing credits of a screenplay. Gaiman is the Hugo, Nebula, Newbery Medal, and Carnegie Medal winning author of The Graveyard Book, Coraline, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, etc., etc. Michael Reaves is an Emmy-winning TV writer who has contributed to Batman: The Animated Series and Disney's Gargoyles, as well as Star Wars novels and more; increasingly, he has been working with co-authors while struggling with Parkinson's disease. Mallory Reaves is his daughter, who specializes in adapting manga series such as Afterschool Nightmare and Her Majesty's Dog. Their writing credits grow even more complicated in the third installment of this series, Eternity's Wheel, with the younger Reaves probably doing most of the writing but still getting last (if not least) billing. I hate getting in the middle of messes like this, but I still plan to enjoy this series while it lasts.

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