Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Ghosts of Heaven


It's appropriate that a book about the infinite spiral of life completely changed my opinion of Marcus Sedgwick.  Mind, I didn't have an opinion about him as a person, because that's often quite problematic when attempting to review a book objectively.  I just ... really hated Midwinterblood.  I almost want to apologize to Sedgwick for that, but I won't (I've quoted Ranganathan enough here to make your ears bleed, so I won't do it this time).  The story of a love throughout the ages over and over and over and over again just doesn't work for me.  I may have wanted to throw something when it won the Printz--but then again, I almost never agree with Big Awards (the Oscars, the Grammys, the Newbery).  I missed grabbing She Is Not Invisible but now it's totally shot up my to-be-read list.  Do you know why?

The Ghosts of Heaven bowled me over.  When I finished the book, I had to breathe slowly and deeply--reminding myself to breathe.  Sedgwick took my mind and my heart and mashed them all up and threw them back at me in the most elegant and masterful way.  No doubt about it--this has made my top 10 young adult books list.  Of all time.


And really, for The Ghosts of Heaven to burrow that deeply into my psyche proves how powerful it is, because I fully admit that I fought it every step of the way.  The book is actually four related stories that the author says can be read in any order.  I had an e-ARC, so I read it in order.  In my ardent desire to dislike this book, I said to myself, "Well, that's just a gimmick."  After I finished, I said, "Ahhh.  It totally makes sense with the themes of the book."  Every time I started one of the stories, I said, "Well, that's been done before."  Just to be snotty, I suppose.  I fought it even through the final story, which is quite space opera-y and I was so ready to just dismiss it as an Alastair Reynolds-wannabe.  I literally told myself over and over again in my head, "You need to hate this."  And I loved it.  I loved every single part of it.  

Even now, I cannot quite explain what exactly it is that makes this book so exquisite.  The writing is spare but beautiful.  The characters are somehow both simple and yet deeply layered.  The plot seems basic but it's not, because it's the story of us.  You know, life, the universe, and everything.  Perhaps it is the restraint of the plot in comparison with the depth of the material--Sedgwick could have pulled a Neal Stephenson and written a doorstop tome with footnotes and geometric proofs.  Instead, he allowed the reader to draw her own line, spiraling from story to story in a glorious helix.

Read this.  Just do it.  When it comes out, you have to read it.  You may love it or you may hate it, but you cannot deny that it will grab your brain and stir it up so that you feel lightheaded with wonder.

I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley.



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