Thursday, October 29, 2009
Random Magic by Sasha Soren may be the quirkiest novel I have ever read -- in a good way! It is definitely random, and I couldn't help thinking while I read this that it definitely fit the title of the blog and it did "Take Me Away"!
The basic storyline is that Professor Random has misplaced the character Alice from Alice in Wonderland. He then gets (tricks?) Henry Witherspoon to help him find her. His explanation is that Henry needs to find Alice by tomorrow's tea time in order to prevent Chaos Theory -- you may know this as "The Butterfly Effect -- where basically one small action affects a whole bunch of other events and hugely changes the future. Yes, losing the main character from Alice in Wonderland will have this enormously large effect. After all, it is a well-loved and oft-read children's novel. If those children didn't have the opportunity to get to know Alice... well, just imagine. ;)
The opening scene of the book involves a gathering at a castle where all are informed that the Lord and Lady Witherspoon's son, Henry, has gone missing. (Of course, he's off to find Alice). This scene was amusing and, this is sort of random, but it reminded me of the movie Clue (1985)... at the beginning of this movie, a cast of eccentric individuals gather for reasons they are unaware of. They're all confused and peculiar, and the drollery of this scene was similar to that of this novel. In fact, the same whimsical humor is found throughout this novel causing me to smirk at times or giggle out loud. And at times it made me stop and think to myself -- "what??" These moments throughout the book sometimes reminded me of my first experience reading A Wrinkle in Time back in the 5th grade. I knew the book was good, but that first foray of mine into "science-fiction" had me confused. I appreciated this new type of story but it made me stop and think, and it was something I had to get used to.
In the beginning of his pursuit of Alice, Henry runs across Winnie Flapjack. He and Winnie proceed to experience adventures together and build a bond. Winnie is a funny character, but she is also a strong and independent female (a great role model!). The author, Sasha Soren, certainly has an interesting and vivid imagination. She possesses wonderful story-telling skills full of plot movement and conversation. I'd like to quote a random conversation between Winnie and Henry that I found oddly humorous. It's from page 76 near the beginning of Winnie and Henry's journey together:
"Why's it called the Grey Forest?" he asked, his voice echoing back at them as they picked their way through a massive fallen oak.
"Well," Winnie said, her face eerily luminescent in the half-dark, "it's halfway between the White and the Black."
"Black," she explained, as they emerged from the tunnel, and onto the other side of a low valley, "is for, oh, vampires and hobgoblins and things that go bump in the night--"
She stopped to sniff the wind again. "That way."
"But they all go bump in the night."
"Winnie snorted. "They don't all go bump in the night. Only Things That Go Bump in the Night go 'Bump' in the night. The ghosties go 'Whoo,' the long-leggedy beasties go 'Blugha Blugha Blug.' It's all very specialized."
And just so you know, Winnie is a "doodle witch", but you'll have to read the book to figure out what that is. And while we're on the topic of colors, check out the essay at the end of this post regarding the color Black. It's one of many essays regarding the different colors that are used in this book.
I did want to point out the interesting manner in which the author set up her chapters. If you think of each chapter as a scene in a movie, then the "title" of the chapter is a quick narrator summation of that chapter. It's then followed by a random preview quote from the chapter. For instance, each chapter title starts out with "in which" and then goes on to quickly summarize the main point. I did find myself wanting to read further after each chapter, but I do recommend reading and savoring one chapter at a time to truly digest and understand everthing read. As I mentioned, it's quirky and random and may take some getting used to. But if you do, you'll find a fun and interesting adventure story.
Before moving on to the short essay on the color Black, take this fun quiz to learn which character in the book you are! (I'm one of the nine muses)
The Colors of Random Magic: Black
Everyone who’s read the book says that the world of Random Magic is so colorful and vivid that they can actually almost see the world right in front of them, as if it were a movie.
It was definitely written that way, since that world actually is a lot more magical and overwhelming than our own world. Everything would be more powerful and startling, including something as basic as the colors surrounding Henry and Winnie as they search for Alice.
But a lot of the colors in Random Magic aren’t just there for decoration, but actually have some particular significance.
Here are some quick reader notes about the more symbolic uses of color in Random Magic. This post is about the use of the color black:
The color of black is the color of night. It’s the color of secrets, mystery, mourning and power.
But it’s also the color of renunciation of the world, as is the case with priests or other religious figures, even including modern-day Wiccans.
So, although the color black is often associated with evil, or with ill luck -- as in the saying “don’t let a black cat cross your path” -- it’s also a deeply spiritual color, the color of people who have turned their back on the world, or those who are outcasts through no fault of their own.
Or it might just be in their own particular nature. Night creatures might not necessarily be evil, so much as much of what they are is hidden from plain view.
The Dark Queen, for example, wears black. She may or may not necessarily be evil, but she favors black because night is her natural environment. The De Morgues, as well, are isolated in their castle, in a gloomy, dark nest of spooky places.
These characters feel comfortable with their secrets and mysterious ways, isolation and connection to their inner and outer darkness. So, they might not necessarily do you any harm. On the other hand, it’s never a good idea to push your luck.
The Black Forest, on the other hand, is an unabashedly unpleasant, vicious and dastardly place to visit. The curt and unfriendly signpost to the entrance to the Black Forest says it all.
The Black Forest, well, it embodies all of those non-friendly aspects of night, darkness, and things that go bump in the night, and is best approached with just one point of view: If you don’t have to go there -- don’t.
Of course, this doesn’t stop Winnie. She knows her way through the Black Forest…but only because she’s already made it out alive.
Enjoy the rest of the tour! The other stops can be found here