The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
|The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: If anyone ever suggests to you that science and art (or philosophy) don't go together, give them this book! Four fabulous stories from different time frames linked by the natural constant of the spiral. From pre-history to the distant future there are spirals, and humans longing to make sense of them. This really does have to be the book of the year.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: October 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2014
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2015
If anyone ever suggests to you that science and art (or philosophy) don't go together, give them this book! The Ghosts of Heaven presents four fabulous stories from different time frames linked by the natural constant of the spiral. The introduction provides a lyrical explanation of the birth of the universe, the Solar System and us and of the dimensional spiral we call the helix. It also explains that we can read the stories in any of the twenty-four possible orders we please.
The first (as the book runs) is a tale from pre-history as a young girl from the tribe reaches the cusp of inventing writing. Her caves are dark but her flame is bright. The second tells of witch-hunting and petty jealousies in Early Modern times and follows Anna, a girl who will touch your heart in her sorrows. The third is set in a Victorian insane asylum and the central character is a doctor easily as creepy as any of his inmates. And the fourth is set in a distant future, following a man aboard a space vessel headed for a new home on an Earth-like planet. It bent my mind. Spirals, and the search to understand them, connects all four protagonists.
I broke ranks on the reading order! I couldn't tell you why, but I wanted to save the pre-history and the verse until last. I felt, stupidly, quite rebellious about my choice, and now I feel silly telling you this. Sedgwick's recommended order is chronological and I do think perhaps it would be best to read story four last, as it does the best job of tying the other three stories together but it really does depend what you're looking for - I can imagine different meanings emerging from different orders of reading and I think I shall wait a few months, then re-read all the stories in a different order to see if my response is any different. That I can't imagine not re-reading The Ghosts of Heaven says a great deal, right? I'm entirely sure this is a book I'll still be reading in five, ten, even twenty years. It really is that super. Honestly, it is.
It's about who we are, what we are. It's about constants and curiosity and human longings that both define and transcend us. And it's varied, too. From verse to prose. From history through Gothic creepiness to the hard sci-fi of multiple realities, there's something for every reader and also something to remind every reader of all the other readers out there. The stories are challenging and poetic but they're also easy to read and this, in itself, is a very sexy balance, isn't it?
I'm going to be thinking about spirals for a long time. And I'm calling it now: The Ghosts of Heaven is the book of the year for me.
Well. Um. There aren't any other books like this one, unless perhaps it's Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, so what should I suggest you read next? Let's look at the quarters. If pre-history interests you, Sally Prue has written about one of the encounters between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens that we now know took place. The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird is a fabulous story of witch-hunting and the persecution of the Covenanters in 1700s Scotland. The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley is a creepy, Gothic retelling of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. And for some hardish sci-fi, you don't get better than WE by John Dickinson.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon.com.
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