Book 23 of 2015: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

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A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.
Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

I recieved this First Reads Goodreads Giveaway book for an honest review.

Let me just start and say that I’m possibly one of the few people who got this book. At least, I understand it in the way it was written. The author did make a comment in the introduction stating that depending on the order of the stories read, the meaning can change. Like a spiral changes, but doesn’t at the same time, you can get a different meaning.

That said, I did find this book clever. I was confused as to where this book was going until I read the third story “The Easiest Room in Hell”. Honestly, I feel that that should be the first story read. You understand what the author intended for the spiral better and can find the links of the other stories in just this one. This is the linchpin story that helps you make your own decision as a book.

There are two ways I’m going to look at this book. There is the book as a whole and then there are the individual stories. Each thought is different because though I find the book clever and I actually understand where the author was going, I didn’t care for the book as much as I wanted to. Some of the stories were odd, heavy thinking, and/or predictable. I couldn’t see them as a single entity being all that good, but together, it works.

The book is comprised of four different stories spanning from four different time periods. However, I question that last bit. If it is four different time periods, then the last chapter of the book wouldn’t be written like the first book and hint at something greater. I’m not sure if I want to say time travel or that being human our stories will always be the same. Both are equally appealing and would work for this book.

The writing styles are also different:

Story one is written in free verse poetry. It is a poem without dialogue and can get you confused as to who are the characters. This is the caveman era story.

Story two is written in third person. It is about an England town in the 1700s. Drama, drama, drama, and witchcraft. You can probably guess the ending with just that.

Story three (my favorite) is in first person like a diary. The narrator is an assistant superintendant of an insane asylum some time in the 20s or 30s. You will meet Charles Dexter in this story. Awesome dude. Listen to what he has to say. It may declutter your brain in trying to find a connection to the stories.

Story four is a third person science fiction. Probably the most boring for me because it’s a single person running around a space ship looking for a new planet to colonize. My suggestion is to pay attention to his ghost (you’ve met him before) and the astronaut’s take on what the spiral means (p.355 in the hardcover, great quote).

The last chapter. This has its own thing because it is written in the same free verse as the first story.

And as you can see, I’ve probably confused you. I’m sorry for that. I say this is a good library book, but it takes time and it will take a little bit of thought. Don’t let the thinking get in the way of you reading though. The concept will hit you, but it will be around halfway and if you don’t get it, I’ll gladly tell you what I think the book is saying and maybe both of us would understand it better. Maybe not.

I’m not sure if I have given anything really away or just confused myself in this blog post. Well, if you do plan on reading this book, take what you can, but don’t stress it. I hope I didn’t give too much away to deter you from trying it out. This is a book worth trying.

But, yeah, I don’t think I would buy this book personally, but I would go for it in the library or used bookstore where credit can be used. It is an interesting concept, clever, and does give me the “aha” moment. However, like I said above, you may want to think a bit, but not too much.

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