I’m always a bit shocked when a Neil Gaiman book manages to make a public release without me knowing about it. I wonder if I’m paying close enough attention to the blogs and journals that let me know about new releases. I mean, it’s Gaiman, and I didn’t know about it? What network did I miss?
InterWorld is a juvenile novel, not even a YA novel, though, and that might be how I missed it. I almost missed out on M Is for Magic, and I remember the first time I saw Coraline was long after it had been originally released. At least, that’s the story I’m telling.
InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a young boy who discovers his ability to walk between similar worlds. There’s a theory in quantum physics that predicts that any time a serious enough decision is made, the world splits at that point, and creates one world that goes off in the direction where the decision goes one way, and one world where the decision goes off in another direction. Both worlds exist independently of each other, and each is equally valid and true. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a world splits off whenever you decide to eat cereal for breakfast instead of eggs, but it could mean that The Man in the High Castle may exist as nonfiction in another dimension.
Joey is a Walker, and can move between all those worlds. He’s also the most powerful Walker in existence, so he suddenly becomes the most popular guy in the InterWorlds, since the good guys, the bad guys, and the bad bad guys all want him for different reasons. It’s all a bit hokey and convoluted, and also a bit contrived and forced. It’s also awfully convenient in points, and shallow, and two-dimensional (ironically), and….
Well, if you’re a Neil Gaiman fanboy, nothing I can say will stop you from reading this book, except maybe this: This is not a Neil Gaiman book. I say this partly because this simply doesn’t read like a Neil Gaiman novel. I haven’t read much by Michael Reaves, but I’ve read a lot of Neil Gaiman, and think I can say with certainty that this is much more a Michael Reaves book than it is a Neil Gaiman book. I think a certain part of me wants to say that it’s a Reaves novel because it’s just so bland, but that’s really not why I say that. The book lacks a certain charm that Gaiman puts into his writing, and the language used doesn’t seem to be similar to that which Gaiman uses. A footnote at the end of the book details that the story is over 10 years old, and was put together as a novel over a long weekend after existing first as a television proposal. It doesn’t specify who served as the idea man, and who did all the grunt work, but it’s pretty obvious after finishing the book.
Look, remember Lady Justice? Teknophage? Mr. Hero the Newmatic Man? They all served to prove that a Neil Gaiman idea could not turn into a Neil Gaiman story unless Gaiman himself wrote the words. Unfortunately, InterWorld proves the same point. The book isn’t a complete disaster (for the target age group, the story probably works quite well), but if you’re looking for good Gaiman fiction for kids, look for M Is for Magic or Coraline, instead.