A few pages into this book by the author of “The Tears of the Salamander”, I decided that Peter Dickinson is probably the best writer living today. Given that I have only read these two of his fifty-odd books, that may come across as a hasty judgment. But I haven’t forgotten that “Tears” was the best book I read in 2005, and I don’t plan to forget that this was the best book I have read so far this year.
Oliver Finch is an all-American boy who likes wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt, and a New York Yankees baseball cap. But thanks to his father’s career as a journalist and his mother’s interest in archaeology, he finds himself living so far from Yankee Stadium that, in his time zone, the night games start at 5:00 the next morning.
Pratchett specializes in examining the nature of our civilization through the lens of a silly, off-bubble fantasy world. Baxter, I take it, likes to play with ideas related to time travel, alternate history, and parallel worlds. Put these two creative minds together, and you get a fascinating world-building experiment that shows what might happen to mankind if (or maybe when) we suddenly figure out how to “step” from one possible Earth to another.
The kingdom of Carthya is in trouble. Its king and queen, together with their eldest son, have been poisoned. The younger of the two princes was lost at sea four years ago, presumed dead. Its borders are lined with the armies of neighboring countries, hungry for the land’s rich resources.
At age eight, Mike Higgins was playing Captain Kirk in his backyard when he spotted a tiny, green-skinned man with pointy ears, leaning against a head of lettuce and smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. “‘Mummy, mummy,’ I yelled out as I ran back into the house. Guess what! There are Vulcans at the bottom of our garden!'”
Thirteen-year-old Toby Vandevelde falls asleep in bed one full-moonlit night, and wakes up the next day in an MRI machine. Nobody, least of all Toby himself, can explain how or why he turned up naked in the dingo pen at a suburban Sydney zoo. His mother suspects epilepsy, until a pediatrician rules that out. The only explanation anybody has to offer is one that Toby’s mum considers crazy. Toby doesn’t quite believe it either… but he’s afraid it might be true.
And now, in Book 3 of the “Norumbegan” Quartet, Brian, Gregory, and a clockwork troll named Kalgrash travel to the new homeworld of the fey Norumbegans, seeking their help to save Earth. Instead of a nice, straightforward planet, however, the boys find themselves somewhere in the innards of a world-sized creature—the Great Body, as its inhabitants call it.
In Book 3 of the “Bartimaeus” trilogy, a seventeen-year-old magician named Nathaniel, though he calls himself John Mandrake, has clawed his way nearly to the top of a world of (sometimes literally) backstabbing ambition. It’s an alternate-history version of present-day Britain, where magicians are the ruling class and the non-magical “commoners” toil in conditions not far above slavery.
Book 14 of “The Dresden Files” follows up on Chicago-based wizard/detective Harry Dresden’s apparent death in “Changes” and post-death experiences in “Ghost Story”. If you haven’t read those books yet, I’ve already spoiled that much; to say anything about this book, I’ll have to spoil a lot more.
In the first book of the series, best friends Gregory and Brian got caught up in a weird sort of game with monsters and magical creatures and spooky, gothic-novel atmospherics, amid the woods of the present-day Vermont mountains.