Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

My brain is spinning, cycling endlessly, much like the spiral symbolism throughout Sedgwick's latest book, The Ghosts of Heaven.

This was not the light, easy, I-need-a-break-from-my-desperately-sad-chunkster-bio, YA read that I thought it was going to be. The Ghosts of Heaven was intense reading. Absorbing, intriguing, frustrating, compelling, disturbing, thought-provoking....but what does it all mean?
The main (the only?) flaw with this book is its lack of a solid ah-ha moment. That point when all the amazing stuff that you've read before comes together and the authors purpose is revealed.

Normally, a book that lacked such a major component, would be a dud for me. But curiously, the lack of (apparent) meaning or higher purpose is a very minor detail.

Sedgwick takes us on a journey through time, to places & people tinged with madness, magic & mystery. The book is divided into four parts that can be read in any order. Each quarter is a stand alone story (well, almost. The final story, The Song of Destiny does connect some of the dots that only makes sense (I think) if you've read the previous three quarters).

I could barely put this book down. Like many of the characters, my dreams were disturbed by these stories. Each quarter was a quick read. But they were so dense with symbolism, murky with half-formed ideas & barely contained from spinning out of control, that it felt like a lifetime in each story.

The first quarter was written in verse.
Having read several verse novels now, I wasn't phased by the style and upon reflection, Whispers in the Dark, was probably my favourite of the four sections. Set in forest dweller times, we followed a tribal community preparing the magic required for a successful hunt.

The Witch in the Water brings us into the era of witch hunts & another strong female protagonist fascinated by spirals, desperately trying to find their meaning, & tap into their power, before it's too late.

The third quarter, The Easiest Room in Hell, takes us into a Victorian lunatic asylum where spirals spark madness and the line between sanity and lunacy is a very fine one indeed.

You've probably already worked out that the fourth quarter is set in the future, in space. High-tech space craft & a mission to find a new planet habitable for humans, The Song of Destiny has a very 2001: A Space Odyssey-ish tone. Solitude, dreams & deceit mess with our heads as Sedgwick tackles parallel universes and light-year travel sickness.

Truly incredible story-telling.
With a more convincing, satisfying ah-ha moment, this book could have been a masterpiece. Although, perhaps that will be revealed in future re-reads.

Part fantasy, part historical fiction, part science fiction. Where to shelve this book will become a librarians nightmare!

5 comments:

  1. I've read his Floodland earlier this year and really want to read more of his books. This sounds pretty amazing. Midwinterblood - which I haven't read yet - also has several stories that form a whole. I really want to read this.

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    1. I read (& surprised myself by how much I loved) Midwinterblood a few years ago. I've been meaning to read more Sedgwick ever since! He certainly didn't disappoint, although he did confound :-)

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  2. I read your review this morning ( Dutch time) and have been thinking about it all day.
    Symbols: I love to discover them in stories but have yet to read about ' a spiral' .
    This book has left it's impact on you and the review on me.....
    I see it is for young adults...is the story something they can grasp?

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    1. I have no idea who this book is marketed for Nancy. As I was reading I thought - this is not YA! But I have since checked goodreads, & lots of YA reviewers have read & loved it too.

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  3. Thanks for your post. This sure sounds like a good read, and maybe something much deeper than it looks. "a very 2001: A Space Odyssey-ish tone" is a most interesting description. ;) -- Arti of Ripple Effects (I have to identify myself because for some reasons the comment box says I'm 'Anonymous'.)

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