Three months ago I saw that a new book by Neil Gaiman titled The Silver Dream was out and being the fangirl that I am, I ordered it without a second glance. When I held my copy in my hands a few days later, a closer look at the cover revealed that it was “A sequel to …”. A sequel? A sequel to what?!? Interworld? Hang on, that sounded familiar. And I realised that I’ve been given this for a birthday or Christmas a couple of years ago and it had been sitting on my shelves unread since, because I hadn’t been in the mood and hadn’t immediately liked it when I got it. Now that I had bought the sequel, it was time to set this right and give Interworld another try. So I started reading it hoping that the book and I would have a better chance to connect this time around.
My reading went all right, but I had to be strict with myself and tell me to finish the book and not abandon it for the sake of any of the books beckoning from the to-read pile. So, I read it quickly and was mildly entertained and dissatisfied in equal parts. Something appeared to be missing. It’s hard to put the finger on what annoyed me exactly, but there was the nagging feeling that Interworld and I didn’t click, or rather, that the hero, Joey Harker, and me were not on the best of terms. Mostly, Joey’s “specialness”.
I certainly missed the self-deprecating humour I’ve come to love in Gaiman’s characters and despite all of Joey’s proclamations to feeling guilty and his dogged acceptance of being an outsider, his steady climb to the top and establishing himself as a leader was rather counterproductive to any endearing underdog image he was trying to maintain. And it grated on my nerves. He goes on about the superiority of the knowledge he acquires at this special InterWorld academy and how much more sophisticated the education he receives is as compared to the one provided in his homeworld’s schools, where he had trouble to keep up – because he’s so special and his brain works in special ways far above the average teenager’s. Yeah, I know, I’m reading things into it that were neither said nor intended, but he came across as rather self-important and trying to hide it to keep the readers' sympathies. He also seems to be THE CHOSEN ONE, responsible for protecting and saving the multiverse from all kinds of threats and evils. He certainly isn’t alone in this enterprise, but the fact that his companions are one and all different incarnations of himself and that he’s the most-coveted Super Walker, for reasons that seem rather forced and phony, doesn’t really help in making him less self-important. Also: He continually sets himself above those other Joseph Harker versions.
The concept of parallel universes, where magic fights with science to gain the upper hand in controlling worlds was quite intriguing but the execution, sadly, rather bland. The world building was okay, but not compelling or convincing. The villains were a bit clichéd, to say it euphemistically. The ease with which Joey shed all his ties to his former life and his family made him seem shallow, superficial, and even a bit cold-hearted.
I think I light the mudluff, Hue, best of all. Joey treats it like a pet even though it saved his life on more than one occasion. Given the secrecy of the organisation/ Walker school, their laxity in determining Hues’ purpose is disappointing. I understand that there are “more pressing issues” to attend to, but the authorities’ proclivity to eliminate the things they don’t understand and perceive as a potential threat seems at odds with their acquiescence of Hue’s presence.
At times it felt like the authors were trying to cater to the geeks by generously including references to all kinds of geeky popular culture. I have to admit that this usually works for me, but it wasn’t enough to win me over this time.
I will give The Silver Dream a fair chance, hoping that questions will be answered, characters will be given a little bit more distinction than the simple description of their physique and particular skill set, and that Joey will become less of a special snowflake and more of a valuable , well-rounded, member of a team. But it will have to wait. First, I’ll read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because I’m convinced that in this, Gaiman will confirm once again why I love his writing.