Showing posts with label BOOK Game. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BOOK Game. Show all posts

13 July 2007

Once More Into the Wild

Tomorrow at 3:30 Sarah Beth Durst will read at the Worcester Barnes & Noble, so this posting about her book, Into the Wild (previously highlighted back here), is more timely than I'd planned.

Both that novel and Diana Wynne Jones's The Game (discussed this week) take their heroines into supernatural landscapes where they witness, and are caught up in, the endless playing out of traditional stories. In Into the Wild those tales are Europe's fairy tales. In The Game they're Greek myths.

In both cases, the books highlight the beauty and the cruelty of those stories, and their implacable, cyclic unstoppability. Jones doesn't delve into the mechanics of her "mythosphere," and her characters defeat its governor quickly, without much planning. Durst's story, on the other hand, is all about trying to figure out the workings of the Wild and bringing it under control, which means Durst spends more time explaining just how those stories play out over and over again.

Does the difference reflect British versus American sensibilities? The acceptance of age versus the eagerness of youth? Or just the two authors' visions? These parallel tales were in the works at the same time, so there's no direct inspiration, just two storytellers exploring similar ideas.

Two of Durst's choices in Into the Wild struck me as particularly bold. Her second chapter and later passages of the book shift the point of view from the young heroine, Julie, to hairdresser Zel. What makes this so bold is that Zel is Julie's mother. Yes, a book for young teen girls asking them almost immediately to sympathize with the heroine's mother. Not that Zel's a typical mother, but still.

The second bold choice involves the character who lets the Wild loose in underhanded fashion, thus endangering our heroine, her mother, and all of central Massachusetts. This fact isn't deeply hidden, it doesn't drive the plot or the heroine's emotional journey, so it's only a small ***spoiler*** that I feel comfortable highlighting.

That character is the town's librarian. She wants the Wild to spin more traditional tales for the world, and her library. How's that for a gutsy move by a first-time author? Make the closest thing your novel has to a villain someone from your most important constituency!

12 July 2007

Slimming Down in The Game

Last October I wrote about how HarperCollins had expanded the heft of Diana Wynne Jones's The Pinhoe Egg with larger than usual type and generous leading. The result was a 500-page brick, the way we fantasy readers are supposed to want our books these days. Even Publishers Weekly has noticed how thick such books had become.

Now Jones has a new US publisher in Firebird, a Penguin imprint led by Sharyn November. Penguin brought out a new edition of her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and it's the publisher of her latest fiction, The Game. (Presumably the firm will soon correct the spelling of Jones's middle name on its webpage for that book.)

Harper commissioned new cover art for its US edition of The Pinhoe Egg, and dropped the interior art. In contrast, the two Penguin editions of The Game are the same size--and a small size it is, too. This book represents a complete turnaround from Jones's last novel.

The typeface is small, the leading proportional, the margins slim. The Game comes in at well under 200 pages, even with a small trim.

The result looks like a young adult fantasy, not a middle-grade one, particularly with the cover art. The girl's face and neck are long, the light falling on her chest shows the start of breasts, and the image of a female holding out an apple in western culture carries connotations of Eve, the first fallen woman. Yet I think that's supposed to be Hayley, the protagonist. Although we never learn exactly how old Hayley is (which turns out to be significant), she behaves like a middle-grade child, and she's definitely one of the two smallest cousins in her family.

Of course, even with a different design, The Game couldn't be large. It's a small story, though full of magic. It doesn't have the two (or more) protagonists of The Pinhoe Egg. The plot is brief, without many turns. Hayley doesn't set out on a mission or accomplish much; her story mainly involves discovering who she is and where she belongs. In Jones's oeuvre, The Game seems like a minor work, fun and clever while it lasts but over awfully quick.

Indeed, in this story Jones *****SPOILERS IN SO MANY WAYS***** seems to be trying variations on a number of themes that she's explored before. Celestial objects embodied on Earth (Dogsbody). A pantheon of gods stomping around modern Europe (Eight Days of Luke). An immensely magical family that turns out to include the protagonist (Archer's Goon). A competition across multiple realities soured with a frightening glimpse of eternal punishment (The Homeward Bounders). And no doubt there are echoes of other books as well.

10 July 2007

What Has She Got in Her Pocketses?

And the Oz and Ends Award for Best Use of an Inexplicable Trend in Kids' Clothing goes to...

The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones.

This brief novel is yet another of Jones's magical explorations of sibling relationships. At the start young Hayley, an only child who's been raised by strict, old-fashioned grandparents in the city, is suddenly sent off to a country house in Ireland that's buzzing with cousins.

To symbolize Hayley's initial isolation, Jones highlights the contrast between her clothing and how her cousins dress. On page 3 Hayley is wearing "her neat floral dress and her shiny patent leather shoes." Her cousins, she notes bitterly, wear "long baggy trousers with lots of pockets down the sides." But in chapter six we know Hayley can fit in with her family when an aunt supplies her with "shorts with pockets, trousers with pockets,...jackets with pockets, sweatshirts with both hoods and pockets..."

Yes, Jones manages to find meaning in what has struck me (and what I suspect has struck her) as an inexplicable fashion trend: cargo pants. Shorts and trousers with spacious pockets hanging off them like popped blisters. Given all the electronic devices we carry around these days, there may be a practical purpose for all those pockets. But how many kids actually use them all? Why are they there?

Leave it to Diana Wynne Jones to supply a masterly answer. The game in The Game is a cousinly competition to collect things in the mythosphere (I'll discuss later). Hayley has pockets to store golden apples so she can pull them out later. In other words, her pants with lots of pockets down the sides turn out to be significant both to revealing character and furthering the plot.