Spirits in the Wires
Reviewed: July 6, 2007
By: Charles de Lint
Publisher: TOR Books
448 pages, $21.95
Lint writes about the intersections between the world as it is, what one of his
characters likes to call “consensual reality”, and the world as it might be/may
have been/probably was once upon a time.
Riddell writes and collects fantasy stories about strange events, things that
shouldn’t have happened but did, about mixtures of myth, mystery and the modern
world that seem impossible but also
seem to happen for those people who can see them.
lives in de Lint’s generically North American city of Newford, which used to
resemble Ottawa a lot more than it seem to now. In fact, there’s one scene in
this book that is right out of the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto - at least the
swans are - so I think de Lint’s patchwork metropolis is made of of bits and
pieces that he likes.
with me. Newford is a fantastic place to visit, but the walls between the
worlds are so thin there that it would scare me to live in the town. You never
know who you might meet or where they might have come from.
story is told from at least half a dozen different viewpoints and voices,
including Christy’s, I’d have to name Christiana Tree and Saskia Madding as the
central characters. Neither of them are exactly human and the first two
sections of the book “First Meeting” and “How we were Born” explains as much of
that as can be explained as well as setting up the intersection of mythical and
digital realities that is certainly implied in the title.
is a living Jungian archetype, a person who originated in all the traits that
Christy didn’t like about himself when he was seven years old. She’s his
shadow, and she lives in both our world and the Borderland between us and
Faerie. She’s not his opposite and she’s not evil, but she’s female to his
male, impetuous to his deliberateness, etc.
appeared in our world one day with a full set of memories and a complete
background, but a clear realization that she hadn’t actually lived any of this.
As far as she can figure, she is a manifestation of the world wide web, which
created and equipped her to live in the consensual world for reasons of its
own. When she was “new” she was like a living search engine in many ways, full
of knowledge but with no experience. That has faded over the years.
Christy’s lover, which means that he is connected to the central characters in
the book is a very personal way.
that created Saskia is called the Wordwood, and it was created by a group of
literature lovers who decided to outdo Project Guggenheim and put a lot of
material online. At some point the site achieved sentience and took control of
itself, governing its own interaction with the non-digital world. It is still a
thing of zeroes and ones, however, and when a book reviewer who was once
slighted by Saskia and some of the other in her circle blackmails a programmer
into hacking a virus into the website, it crashes and becomes very outrŽ,
physically downloading everyone who was logged on to it at the time is went
down. They vanished from our world.
several other people, Christy figures out what must have happened to the
thousands of abductees and sets out to rescue them, as well as Saskia and
Christiana, who have been “taken” as well. Along the way they pick up Aaron,
the journalist who unwittingly caused this disaster, and a black guitarist
named Robert who is hiding from the Legba spirit who helped make him such a
fine blues musician.
seldom any actual villains in a de Lint novel, and the thoroughly nasty Aaron,
who is transformed by his love for a street urchin named Suzi (you’ll like her
story), finds redemption while assisting his former enemies in their quest to
save the friends of the Wordwood.
I came away from a de Lint novel
wondering if I shouldn’t look deeper in the shadows, and whether I should be
inspired or struck dumb by what I might find there. But then, it’s all just a