Jul 10, 2007

Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

I’m very glad I had the chance to read Chris and Carl’s thoughts on this book before reading it myself. This allowed me to readjust my expectations, and thus enjoy the book for what it is. If I had been expecting a typical Neil Gaiman book I’m sure I’d have been disappointed.

This, of course, raises the question of what is a “typical Neil Gaiman book”. He is a versatile author and that’s one of the things I love about him, but after a while, and regardless of how diverse his work is, you learn to detect a certain Neilness in his books that was mostly absent here. Every once in a while a Neil sentence would jump at me, but that was it. I think one of the main differences in Interworld was in the writing itself. I normally love Neil’s writing, but I can’t say I did in this book. Not that it was bad – it was simple and effective and it got the story told, and that’s the most important thing of all.

Interworld is the story of Joey Harker – or should I say, of several Joey Harkers. In what begins as a mostly normal day (except for a very unusual Social Studies exam), Joey discovers that he has the ability to Walk between worlds. This discovery is just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out that, for every important decision made, two alternate universes are created, and in each of them one of the paths is followed. This means that there are billions of Earths out there, and in each, a different Joey (or Jay or Jo or Josephine) Harker. What makes the Harkers special is exactly the ability to walk between worlds. Joey becomes familiar with the concept of the Altiverse (not to the confused with the Multiverse) which is, simply put, the collection of all the different Earths that exist. And the Altiverse is in danger. Two organizations want to dominate it, one using magic and the other using science, and what it takes to stop them and keep the balance is an army of Harkers.

I normally like stories based on the concept of alternate realities/universes. And while reading this one, I started thinking – the several Harkers we meet in the book are very different, and despite this, Joey knows that at some level they all are him. One of them is a half-wolf girl, another is part robot. Some come from worlds in which humans are not exactly what we normally think of as human. Now, in worlds so completely different from ours, what are the chances of Joey’s parents still meeting and of him (or a version of him) still being born? But of course, even thought there are billions of worlds in which that did not happen, there is bond to be one in which it did. This brings me to the author’s note, which put a smile on my face:
This is a work of fiction. Still, given an infinite number of possible worlds, it must be true in one of them. And if a story set in an infinite number of possible universes is true in one of them, then it must be true in all of them. So maybe it’s not as fictional as we think.
This story, as you must have gathered, is much more science-fiction than anything else by Neil I’d read before. If I were to pair it with anything, it would be with his Books of Magic, perhaps, which isn’t necessarily to say that they are smilar.

This book is very fast-paced and action-packed, and it’s a very quick read. That is yet another big difference – Neil’s books, even the ones in which a lot of things happen, like Stardust or Neverwhere, are generally more introspective. At the core of the action there are people figuring themselves out, and people connecting with one another. That is another one of the reasons why he is my favourite author. But one must keep in mind that Interworld was originally meant to be a TV series, and in a way it reads like one. I think it will make a very good action/adventure movie.

This was an enjoyable book, even if it is my least favourite Neil Gaiman. It’s not something I’d have picked up if it wasn’t for his name attached, but I’m glad I did, because reading it was fun. It is also not something I’d ever recommend as an introduction to Neil Gaiman, but it is a book I’d think of instantly if I had, say, a younger cousin whose taste for reading I wanted to stimulate. Which isn’t to say, of course, that this story can’t be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Other Blog Reviews:
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On
Estella's Revenge (Carl)
Twisted Kingdom (Kailana)
Melody's Reading Corner
Becky's Book Reviews
Back to Books


  1. Very nice review. I think your point about this book not having a great deal of the "introspective" quality of other Gaiman books is spot on. This book just doesn't have the layers and nuances of meaning and wordplay that I am used to in a Neil Gaiman book. The cynical part of me sees the timing so close to the release of Stardust as more than coincidental as I just don't see this work generating enough positive buzz for it to sell on its own. That may not be true, of course, but it feels a bit odd.

    As I pointed out in my review, this is certainly not a Neil book that I will read again, and I believe that is a first for me as Neil's books are the ones that I reread most frequently

  2. Great review Nymeth. I think you sum up this book very nicely here. I agree with you that the intricacies of a typical Neil Gaiman book just aren't here. His lush quality of words are missing. I'd really like to hear more about the writing process of this book and more about the collaboration process with Reaves and how that worked. The only character in the book that really seemed like a Gaiman character to me was Hue :) And he didn't even talk!

    I agree with Carl too...I don't think that this book would sell very well on it's own and I still don't know that it will do all that well even with it being released close to the Stardust film.

    Definitely a fun read, just not much substance there.

  3. Okay, I didn't want to say this, but I am starting to wonder if I even like Neil Gaiman that much... *hides* I never seem to get the "experience" as everyone else seems to with him. His books are just okay with me. Not to say I will not continue to read him, just that there are better fantasy authors. For me anyways. I will post my review on Interworld hopefully tomorrow to elaborate.

    I have to say, though, I did really like Stardust and Good Omens. Neverwhere was good, but I didn't like it as much as others. As for this book, it was good. Not great, just good, and, well, I loved Hue. I don't know if I would have liked this book without Hue...

  4. Carl: Yeah, it definitely lacks the depth and subtlety I've come to expect from a Neil Gaiman book. I see what you mean about the timing. But I think people who pick this one up expecting more of the magic of Stardust will be sorely disappointed. I honestly don't know who will rush to buy this one, other than big Neil Gaiman fans. Perhaps it will appeal to some of the Harry Potter "orphans". I know that I wouldn't have picked it up for the plot synopsis alone. Like you said in your review, it's an interesting but highly unoriginal premise, and that's another thing - Neil normally gives a brand-new treatment even to old story structures, and that wasn't really the case here.

    Chris: I also wonder how the writing process was. Somehow I think it must have been different from Good Omens. I don't know Michael Reaves, but like you said in your review, I also suspect it's more his book. Hue was definitely my favourite too! And yeah, in general the book was fun, but that's all.

    Kailana: Don't feel bad for saying it! He is my favourite but I know not everyone will like him as much as I do. This book was definitely not amazing or anything. But Hue certainly did improve it.

  5. Kaliana I know what you mean (I am the same with Terry Pratchett as well despite having read most of his books!). I really liked Neverwhere and The Sandman, but wasn't too keen on a lot of the stories in Smoke and Mirrors. I do plan on reading more though.

    I am not sure this is my thing, I have picked it up in shops and put it down again a few times.

  6. Rhinoa, to be honest I don't think this one is worth bothering with. It won't do much to improve anyone's opinion of Neil Gaiman, that's for sure :P It's a fun book, but there are other things out there that are much more worth reading. American Gods and Stardust, for example. From what I know of your taste, and considering that you really like Sandman, I think you'll like American Gods.

  7. Rhinoa, I second Nymeth's suggestion of American God's ;) It's my favorite book by Neil Gaiman.

    Ooh, and Nymeth, I'm just seeing on your LibraryThing that you own The Good Fairies of New York! Have you read it? I've been wanting to pick that one up for awhile. I saw it on the bookshelf awhile back and loved the title and then lo and behold, it had an intro by Neil Gaiman! But I didn't buy it for some reason. I've been curious to hear about it from someone who's read it.

  8. Great review, as always!! I've been on a big Neil Gaiman kick every since I read American Gods in March. I think I may put this one on hold a bit. I'm defintely going to read it, but it may take me a bit to get to it!

  9. Chris: I read that book a few weeks before I got my blog, and it was such a shame, because if there's a book I want to tell everyone to read, it's this one. I loved it. It was one of my favourite reads of the year.

    You probably know this, but Neil says in the introduction that he stayed away from it while writing American Gods because he was afraid it covered similar grounds. This book is also about Faeries in America - Scottish, Chinese, Italian faeries - but it's completely different from American Gods.

    It's one of those books that leave you with a big smile and a warm feeling once you finish reading it. It's such a human, tender, sad and funny story. Some people had lukewarm reactions to it because the story follows different characters and you have a lot going on at the same time, but personally I didn't have a problem with that.

    The book mostly follows two faeries, Morag and Heather, who run away to New York after causing havoc in their native land, and the humans they end up living with. The writing is great - very funny in a sort of subtle way. And there's a human touch to the story I just love.

    You can actually read Neil's full intro here. He writes about it very eloquently and I fully agree with everything he says. So... read it! I think you'll love it.

    Stephanie: Thanks! And yeah, the other Neil Gaiman books are definitely a bigger priority.

  10. Having only read one Gaiman book so far, I don't really have much to compare him too. Yet. Thanks for the review of this one Nymeth. :-)

    I think that it helps to have a little "warning" about what to expect--or not to expect when it comes to certain books. It can impact my enjoyment of a book considerably. I'll have to keep in mind your review when I get to this one. :-)

  11. Oh yay! I'm so glad you liked it. I read one review awhile ago that it was horrible and that's all they said about it...so I pretty much ignored that. But if Neil loved it and it's one of your favs of the year, I'm sure I'll be a fan as well. Plus it seemed to call out to me in the bookstore. Great! I'll be picking this one up next time I'm at the bookstore.

  12. I'm planning on picking up The Good Faeries of New York sometime soon. Its one I keep forgetting about and have meant to pick up before now.

    Sorry that you don't have the same experience with Gaiman that we do, Kailana, but it is okay. For me Neil is one of the most amazing authors I have ever read. At his best I find few who compare to his ability to craft stories and the places he gets inspiration for stories is just amazing. I love reading the intros to Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, listening to the various inspirations for the stories.

  13. This post and the conversation have inspired me to go pull all the Gaiman books off my husband's bookshelves and put them onto TBR Mountain. Who knows when I'll get to them, but I will eventually! Which should I start with first?

  14. Great review. I'm a big Gaiman fan but I've been real hesitant about picking up this book though. After Carl's, Chris's, and your reviews I think I'm just going to wait awhile and pick it some time down the road. I think I just have so much other stuff I want to get that so many people have recommended that they really liked I want to get to those books first. I really enjoyed Neil's story recently in the Wizards anthology and think that is just going to be my Neil fix for right now plus I plan on reading Good Omens for the RIP challenge.

    Thanks for the thoughts on Good Faires, too. I also think it's ok to put up reviews of books you've read in the past. I'd and I think others would love to read them, too.

  15. Literary Feline: It really does help to know what to expect. My reaction to this book would have been completely different otherwise.

    Chris: I hate reviews that do that... of course people are allowed to dislike books I like, but I like to at least know why :P

    Carl: Do pick it up! I think you'd like it too.

    Dewey: I would say "Stardust" or "Coraline". "Stardust" is such a charming story; I think I've never encountered anyone who didn't like it. "Coraline" is for younger readers, but it's the kind of book adults can read on a whole other level. Also, it's a very quick read and it will give you a very accurate idea of what his writing style is like.

    Jeff: Thanks! And yeah, there are definitely bigger priorities than this book. I wouldn't mind doing a belated review of "Good Faeries", but I am afraid that, because it's been a few months now, I've forgotten some details, and this would affect the review. Perhaps this means a re-reading is in order :P

  16. Nymetn - Since I was out the afternoon and had a Borders coupon I deceided to pick The Good Fairies Of New York this afternoon. Between your comments and Neil's introduction I was hooked. As soon as I finish The Game I'm diving into it next.

  17. yay Jeff! Make sure you let me know what you think of it when you're done (and of The Game too - a DWJ I have not yet read). I really hope you like it.

  18. I have this on my shelf waiting for me to get to it along with M is for Magic. Will be interesting to see how I react to it!

  19. cool review! a nice summary and impression of how you experienced it.

    hmm... its got me thinking. i sometimes struggle with alternate reality books, so i'm interested to see neil's take on it.

    i'm also downright curious to see how different this is, 'cause as you say, there is that definite neilness in all his others.

  20. Quixotic: It will indeed! I look forward to your review.

    Jean Pierre: I think the absence of Neilness is pretty impossible not to notice. Which doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad book. I didn't think it was a particularly original take on the alternate realities concept, but it was still fun to read.

  21. hmmm... that is very weird indeed. i wonder where neil was?


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.