Interworld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

How would you feel about stepping into a parallel universe full of different versions of “you”?

Joey Harker is an average high school kid who literally and figuratively “walked” into an extraordinary dilemma. The lack of a sense of direction is his worst trait, and when he gets lost in a thick fog during a class field trip, he finds himself being chased by three futuristic-looking men and comes face to face with guess who…his adult, responsible and heroic self.

This book is an exciting fantasy & sci-fi read, and the scientific explanations of hyperspace, astrophysics, and mathematical quantum mechanics will make your brain bleed BUT, Gaiman and Reaves skillfully explains it in layman’s terms enough for you to grasp the situation Joey is in. His lack of direction on Earth is dismissible, because he finds out that he’s the most powerful “Walker” to ever exist. After much grueling training at the Base Town of the Interworld organization, he effortlessly steps into multiverses/multi-dimensions to try to keep the universe in a balance from two forces: the scientific (Binary) and the magical (Hex).  He’s sent on a mission with a team composed of his different “selves”: an angel, a cyborg, a wolf, and a Colossus-like man to stop the sinister forces from destabilizing the universe. His powerful mind uses this formula, {IW}:=Ω/∞ (Omega over infinity), to be able to go back to base. He can travel to any point in space, on any given plane, with just coordinates to locate their particular target. After all (mis) adventures, he manages to go back home,  a changed young man, and decides to say goodbye to his roots to save the universe.

It reads like an action-packed adventure movie, and I’m hoping Gaiman would give film rights to a company interested. Fun trivia: Michael Reaves has written for Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Get the feel of the book now? Good.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold presents an interesting perspective: it is a narrative of a young girl already dead, observing from limbo how her family, friends, and her murderer deal with life after her death. The tone is morbidly funny, Susie’s accounts eerily amusing. It makes me think how troubled souls, especially of those of violent deaths  could understandably possess that strong desire to fix the loose ends of what they left here on earth. Most ghost stories would recount how they’d refuse to go to the “light” until they see their loved ones get back the piece of mind from justice served to the criminal. The book delivers that message clearly. The Salmon family is torn apart by grief, each member having his own coping mechanism from the loss. Abigail emotionally breaks down to seek escape in another man’s arms. Revenge is greatest for Jack, for his unstoppable suspicion of Mr. Harvey brings him to danger. Lindsey withdraws from her social circle but develops into a strong woman who transcends all public shame. Buckley feels the loss of her eldest sister, but manifests this years after with his hatred for their mother for leaving. Susie looks down from her own version of heaven, trying so many ways to be felt on earth. The accounts don’t have a linear progression, so the reader has to guess which ones are flashbacks. The book is “heavier.” and is explicit enough to expose the brokenness of the family. The movie, however, tried to pull the loose ends together.

Critically-acclaimed director Peter Jackson (who lost weight when I saw movie interviews about this on cable tv) bought the film rights of the book and masterfully revised the story for the movie screenplay. The film is an “emotional thriller” (according to Jackson) with touches of fantasy. The digital effects depicting heaven were amazing, and Stanley Tucci’s malevolence is disturbing. He rightly deserved that Academy Award nomination for this role.  Saoirse is really good too as Susie, Rachel Weisz is silent intensity. I expected more from Mark Wahlberg, but his on-screen time didn’t quite give him enough justice to build-up on the crazy father angle.

It is a beautiful film. Those who’ve read the book will distinctly remember details lifted and transferred to a different scenario in the screenplay, but  whatever way these details were switched still makes this movie brilliant.  Jackson offered a “lighter” and happy ending. It’s a more uplifting take on grief and tragedy, but it still damn works to anchor the reality in the realm of the unreal (and undead).

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life.”