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Book Reviews

Spirits in the Wires

by Charles de Lint

Ottawa writer Charles de Lint writes mythic fiction, bringing magical elements into the world we know and taking our world into fantastic realms – the borderlands, the places in between, the otherworlds. In his Newford novels and stories, he skilfully weaves urban life with Celtic and native lore to create fully immersive tales. His latest novel, Spirits in the Wires, returns to the world and characters of Newford. Using a sometimes refreshing, sometimes confusing blend of character voices in the first and third person, de Lint explores a world he has often touched upon – the World Wide Web.

Saskia believes she was created within wordwood.com, an online library that contains an extensive collection of stories and folklore, and which appears to be expanding its collection without the aid of human input. She appears in Newford as a fully formed adult, making a life there as a poet and partner to writer Christy Riddle. A scorned former lover takes revenge upon her by commissioning a virus to be released upon wordwood, little realizing that the site has a consciousness, and defences, of its own.

As users begin to disappear as a result of the virus, a ragtag group of characters – from Christy’s shadow self, Christiana Tree, to a computer whiz who hacks into wordwood – join together to save the Web, and the world itself.

Longtime de Lint readers will delight in the familiarity of his characters and settings. Each new book tightens and expands the world, with references to characters from other stories who may never appear within the current tale. Unfortunately, this creates an insular feel to the Newford books. By developing his world so thoroughly, de Lint may be writing himself into a niche more common to mainstream fantasy and science fiction – not quite a series, but with enough continuity that readers need to go back to his earlier works in order to truly appreciate the more recent.

The number of Newford stories, collections and novels has grown to such a size that those not truly committed may give up before they start. That would be a pity; as any Charles de Lint reader can tell you, once you have visited Newford, you never really leave.