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Spirits in the Wires (Newford) Paperback – August 12, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Canadian author De Lint follows up 2001's triumphant The Onion Girl with another fine novel dually based in the fictitious city of Newford and a magical otherworld, where spirits of faerie and folklore occupy modern technology and cyberspace is a fantasy realm in which imagination fuels artificial intelligence. When a virus crashes Wordwood, a Web site existing in an "impossible limbo in between computers," a lot of people disappear, including Saskia Madding, girlfriend of perennial Newfordian character Christy Riddell. Saskia literally sprang full-grown from a computer and was already suffering an identity crisis when sucked into oblivion. She escapes by taking up residence in the same body as Christiana Tree. The heroic Christiana, Christy's "shadow," must restore Saskia to her own body, sort out what happened to Wordwood, and figure out what can be done to save it and the rest of the spirit world from chaos. Meanwhile, Christy and a band of companions leave consensual reality and enter the Internet spirit world, seeking to save Wordwood and those who have gone missing. De Lint makes the binary tangible and handles his concept of technological voodoo with intelligence, verve and wit while introducing fascinating new characters and expanding on old ones. Not surprisingly, everyone eventually discovers that it doesn't matter where we come from but who we are that counts-but their journeys to that conclusion will please previous fans and find new ones for this master of the modern fantastic.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

With great enthusiasm, de Lint spins another tale of Newford, a twenty-first-century city that has access--sometimes very disturbing access--to what lies beyond the lands we know. The story is told by several narrators, including Saskia, who isn't sure where she came from but thinks she was born in a Web site, and Christiana Tree. Those two are linked to writer and Newport resident Christy Riddell, who has appeared in previous Newford books. Indeed, Christiana is Christy's shadow self, made up of personality traits he discarded at age seven. A strange crash occurs on the popular research site Wordwood, and everyone visiting the site at that moment disappears from in front of their screens. Christy and his comrades must then enter Newford's otherworld, in which Wordwood is physical, to rescue their friends and defeat the culpable virus. De Lint explores the notion that erstwhile spirits of forests and fields now inhabit the cables and other links of modern technology without slighting his customary superb characterization and plot development skills. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Newford
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312869711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312869717
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In his latest novel featuring an ensemble cast of Newford-ites, Charles DeLint attempts to explore the idea that Cyberspace is the modern equivalent of the Hollow Hills -- an otherworld that can be physically accessed -- and that some of the older denizens of the spirit world may have already become interested in this psychic real estate. Or, at least, that's what he says he's doing in his introduction.
When a virus disrupts the Wordwood site and a whole lot of people disappear into virtual reality, a disparate group of magic users and mundanes must use whatever means they can come up with to go to the rescue. Christy Riddell is one of the central characters, as his partner Saskia is one of the ones who has disappeared. We also get to see Holly Rue, Robert Lonnie, Geordie and a supporting cast of Newford's literary citizens (as opposed to Newford's painting citizens) as well as the usual faeries, sprites and elemental spirits.
And that's what kind of bothered me about this book. We had the usual suspects doing the usual things in pretty much the usual way; only the setting was somewhat altered, and that not by much. I think the question of spirits in cyberspace, so much a part of a lot of cyberpunk fiction, is a really interesting one. But I didn't find it addressed here in any interesting way. Rather, the idea seemed taken for granted and from there the novel read like a Michael Crichton action piece, with lots of fireworks and explosions, told from so many points of view that it was hard to care about any of them.
I'm also disappointed that DeLint's books seem to have lost the edginess that grabbed me in many of his earlier works. There aren't any great villains here, so the conflict is a little pale. There isn't any real sense of danger.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't generally read fantasy, as most of it tends to fall under the "sword and sorcery" style that does nothing for me. Then I read a few stories Charles de Lint wrote in Tapping the Dream Tree. Two of them in particular struck a chord with me. "Pixel Pixies" and "Embracing the Mystery" both concern magic and computers. This was the kind of "urban fantasy" I was looking for. Not Emma Bull's War for the Oaks that spends half its time in Fairy Land, but de Lint's vision that brings the magic into the modern world, even to the internet.
When I could tell that de Lint's new novel Spirits in the Wires was going to build on these two stories, I got excited. Was I finally going to get to immerse myself in a fantasy world that I could enjoy?
Spirits in the Wires concerns a Web site called the Wordwood, which is like a search engine but you can ask it any question and it will answer you in a style familiar to you, such as a beloved family member. It also concerns two of the women in the life of writer Christy Riddell: his girlfriend Saskia Madding, who believes she was born from the Wordwood; and his "shadow self," whom he calls "Mystery" but who has given herself the name Christiana Tree (Miss Tree=Mystery). Christiana is made up of aspects of Christy that he threw off himself when he was seven years old, but she has made herself over the years into her own person.
When a man spurned by Saskia wants revenge, he has a virus sent into the Wordwood, which causes everyone logged on to the site at that moment to disappear--including Saskia, who disappears right in front of Christy, who is helpless to do anything about it.
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Format: Hardcover
The strongest point of de Lint's writing is not the fantasy elements that appeal to so many of his readers. His true strength is in the characters he creates, characters that come alive the reader until we feel we know them like we know a close friend. And unlike some characters in book collections, de Lint is not afraid to take his characters through changem but allows his characters to develop without destroying their basic personas.

Spirits in the Wires Revolves around Saskia Madding, the poet born on the Internet, who is sucked back in along with hundreds of other victims who were online when a computer virus struck down the WordWood, an online library with an independent mind (it also happens to be where Saskia came from) The group who travel to save Saskia find that the problem with the Wordwood is much bigger than one handicapped site, while Saskia struggles to stay alive and puzzle out her own origins.

Besides devloping Saskia more fully as a character, de Lint also takes this opportunity to explore the character of Christiana Tree, Christie Ridell's shadow person, created from all the parts of himself that he cast off. De Linta has the fantastic ability to create a realistic character out of such a fantastical setting. But perhaps the character development I appreciated most was for what one might consider a Newford "villain"-Aaron, the snooty book editor who hates Saskia and is the ultimate cause of her current misfortune. De Lint shows that even bad people can be fully devloped, human characters, a hard feat for writers to accomplish.

I must confess, Saskia's true nature still aludes me. I only borrowed this book from the library, so I didn't have a chance to reread it and really discover what the things Saskia saw meant.
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