InterWorld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
Considering that I like Neil Gaiman a lot, this book had really flown under my radar and I wasn’t really aware of its existence until I received it as a gift. I’m glad I did though; InterWorld is a good example of what YA fiction should be; compelling, but unpatronising.
InterWorld is the first person story of Joey Harker, a slightly useless young man who discovers an ability to Walk between parallel universes. All the countless parallel Earths are known as the Altiverse and on each end of the Altiverse there is a faction. Each end of the Altiverse contains worlds more dominated by science or magic, with ones in between made up of a mix. Science and magic both have forces which seek to dominate the Altiverse and destroy the other force. On one end is Binary, the force of science and on the other the HEX, the force of magic. InterWorld is an guerrilla organisation made up of Walkers like Joey who seek to keep balance between science and magic, not allowing one force to take complete control. Joey is an exceptional Walker and recruited into InterWorld, having to leave the life on his Earth behind.
So…yeah, pretty high concept stuff. The actual narrative is pretty simple though, following fairly standard YA beats of ‘young person discovers hidden talent, messes up, redeems themselves.’ The story is certainly enjoyable and I raced through it, but after finishing it I couldn’t help but feel like a lot more could have been done with this setting. I mean, this is a setting with pretty much limitless potential, but we don’t really see that much. It’s rare that I suggest that a book should be longer, but this is a rare case. It’s a fairly standard story in an amazing setting. Hopefully the sequel does more here and I’m certainly along for the ride. The prose is good, with the best bits being the psychedelic descriptions of ‘In-Between’ the nether realm between universes which the Walkers navigate.
Joey is a likable protagonist with a supporting cast which is painted in very broad strokes but are memorable nonetheless. The villains are suitably menacing and creepy, although the main antagonist is introduced a little late in the game for my liking. As with much of this book, there’s potential that feels underdeveloped. Again, I look forward to seeing more of this lot in the sequel.
InterWorld is a supremely entertaining novel but one which doesn’t quite live up to it’s potential. It’s frustrating and I can’t whole heartedly recommend it until I read the sequel, but I’m certainly interested and thoroughly sold on the setting.