Review: InterWorld

Review: InterWorldInterWorld by Michael Reaves, Neil Gaiman
Series: InterWorld #1
Published by HarperCollins on April 29, 2008
Genres: Alternate Universe, Science Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novelInterWorld.

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted byInterWorld and its sequel, The Silver Dream.

First Sentence: “Once I got lost in my own house.”

Neil Gaiman’s name, along with the superhero-looking cover, brought me to InterWorld. I didn’t know much about it, and I don’t think I’d even heard of it the first time I checked it out of the library, though I didn’t actually get around to reading it that time, since I’m pretty notorious for checking out an impossible pile of books. As has been the case with my prior experiences with Gaiman, InterWorld proved an imperfect read for me, being primarily focused on world building rather than character.

In an ideal world, all books would be heavily into both world building and character, but accomplishing even one is a feat. The world building in InterWorld is well done, and will appeal to those who enjoy So You Want to Be a Wizard and A Wrinkle in Time. Gaiman and Reaves put their own twist on the multiverse, adding the fascinating concept that some earths are magic-based and some science-based, and then running the gamut between those two. Also awesome are the scenes in the InBetween, which is sort of like Flatland but more fiction, less math.

Joey Harker, the novel’s protagonist, does not start out as a particularly impressive specimen. He gets lost easily, so much so that he’s gotten lost in his own house. His grades are unexceptional. In no way does he seem like a hero. One day, though, he walks through some mist and into a whole new world, one where his mother doesn’t recognize him and he meets the female version of himself. Soon, he finds himself instrumental in a war between the different factions in the multiverse.

Readers who really love world building and science fiction will eat this up like I eat chips, but, for more character-focused readers InterWorld is a bit challenging. For one thing, in some ways, there is almost just one character. In a sort of twist I saw coming from the beginning, most of the characters in the book are alternate universe versions of Joey, which is cool, but a bit limiting at the same time.

Joey does grow a bit as a character, receiving better education, developing a skill (Walking between universes), and becoming braver generally. Still, there’s not much of an arc to his development. Reave and Gaiman skip some time, like most of Joey’s training. He goes from untrained to more trained without any transition, so it’s hard to feel convinced or proud of his development. In fact, I never really had a sense of who Joey was, or of any of his alternate universe incarnations. The character I bonded with most, Hue, never said a word, mostly because he/she/it is a bubble of color. Hue had much more vibrancy and personality than I ever felt from the other characters.

Science fiction fans a bit more hardcore than I am will want to check this out. If you like the concept but want more characterization, try E.C. Myers’ Fair Coin.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Why not start at the beginning?’ I suggested.
‘Two reasons. Imprimus: There is no real beginning to this little tale and probably no end either. Secondus: It’s my story and I’ll start wherever I darn well please.'”

16 responses to “Review: InterWorld”

  1. I usually like to have both nicely developed characters and world building in my books (I’m spoiled bookworm, what can I say) but I am still going to give chance to this one simply because I love Neil Gaiman’s writing. Although when I think about it, I only like his adult novels, his ya fiction like Stardust and Coraline felt too children-y for my taste.

    • Christina says:

      Hahaha, yeah, that is the ideal for sure, but can be somewhat tricky for my taste. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the writing in this one. For example, the quote up there is the only one I wrote down as a potential favorite. Le sigh.

  2. Amy says:

    I am a big character reader, but sometimes as long as the plot is fabulous it won’t bother me too much if they aren’t as great as I normally want. This sounds like a really cool book. And OMG I love your line about checking out impossible piles of library books. I do that all the time!!! I think I have only read one that I checked out this year haha! Anyways, I am getting more into sci-fi and this intrigues me, but I don’t have time for it so I will probably forget that I was even interested in reading it at all in a week. Thought, it is on sale right now for $1.99 for the ebook….

    • Christina says:

      Bahahaha, I’ve read a few, but they were all Sadie Hawkins books or precursors to review copies. Seriously, I used to go to the library, and walk out with a pile from my hands as low as they could go to my chin. Opening the car door was always tricky. Haha.

      Oh wow, that’s a pretty decent sale! The concept’s pretty cool. I’ve read a few alternate universe and dimensional things, so most of it was pretty familiar, but it could be mindblowing if you’re not me!

  3. I always have the lack of character development problem with Gaiman too! I’m glad I’m not alone in that >.>. The concept does sound interesting, but I have so many books to read that have great characters and a great world 🙁

    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    • Christina says:

      Ah, it’s not just me then. His ideas are so great, but the characters just tend to be so one-dimensional. To be fair, I’ve not read any of his adult works, though, so maybe they’re different. Sandman, the graphic novel series, has been the only exception to that for me.

  4. Bonnie R says:

    I’m a big fan of the few books I’ve read by Gaiman but have inevitably stayed away from his serious sci-fi books (like this one.) It’s just not my favored genre. I’ve noticed the same thing in his other books though… the crazy, intricate world-building but lack of character development. I think I’ll be skipping this one.
    Bonnie @ Sweet Tidbits

    • Christina says:

      I wouldn’t quite call this serious sci fi, but it’s definitely high concept, which is what I was trying to convey with the allusion to Flatland. Not nearly as complex, but also not for someone with completely no familiarity with such things perhaps.

  5. This one sort of slipped under my radar as well. I’ve only just come across it – and I think that was only because I saw something about the upcoming sequel – I have definitely been curious. Maybe some of the character issues will fill out with the second installment.

    • Christina says:

      The fact that there’s a sequel so much later, and with another author substituted in for Gaiman is puzzling. I’m reading it now, and, so far, I think I like it better. Hopefully the internet won’t hate me. Haha.

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    You said A Wrinkle in Time and Neil Gaiman. That’s all I need to read this book. 😀 I am also a bigger fan of world-building than characters in most cases because I’ll wander around in that world in my head after the idiots in whatever story are gone.

    • Christina says:

      Woo! I think you will probably like it more than I did! I am ALL about character, as you probably know, which I think is why I’m all over the place in my likes and dislikes. Also, that is SUPER awesome that you can just wander around in the world!

    • Kayla Beck says:

      It is, but I have an incredible number of nightmares. For example, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is going to break me.

  7. Huh, I am totally willing to try this book out (the fact that The Silver Dream is on my pile helps). ALSO. It’s Gaiman, and I really like his stuff.

    AND AND, I like things like worldbuilding and can go without character I guess, if the world is well done.

    • Christina says:

      I think you will probably like it, but not love it, though we are not always the same, so who knows. You might like it more than I do, so there’s that.

  8. Patirck says:

    A warning about The Silver Dream (the sequel):

    I enjoyed Interworld quite a bit and looked for the sequel. The Silver Dream was fine, not as good, but unlike Interworld, which is almost freestanding, it just ends, no wrap up, no resolution. I was hit totally off guard by it. Just my two cents.

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