Book Review: Ghosts of Heaven

Posted April 11, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in book review, Lyn / 9 Comments

Book Review: Ghosts of HeavenThe Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Published by Roaring Brook Press on January 6th, 2015
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 360
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

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.

When I opened this ARC from the padded envelope, I screamed and scared half of the patrons in the Dallas Post Office half to death. Not only is Sedgwick one of my favorite authors, he wins the top of the list for favorite male author. Midwinterblood is my all-time favorite book. I have a sight fan-girl relationship with the man.

Before I start my review, I think it is important to point out that I have a very difficult time reviewing this author’s work. His novels are not so much about the story, but the experience. It is the equivalent to trying to script your thoughts and feelings after attending a great concert, or trying to describe in a one dimensional medium what your favorite movie pulled out of you during viewing. It is hard.

The beauty of this book is that each story can be read in any order while bringing a new meaning to the set. Each story doesn’t reply on one another, but they provide more details of the other events within the book.

At the end of it all, I’m relieved and estatic that the British author delivers another knock-out novel. Expect for your mind to stretch, resist, and know that you’re, once again, going to get the Sedgwick Brain Scramble.

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Whispers in the Dark

The book starts off it an undisclosed prehistoric period, written in free verse. Right off, I am impressed from the start. The style of the writing already started to set the stage for the time period and culture of the seemingly cavemen-like people. This fourth of the novel focused on the theme of shapes,  dissecting the origion of symbols and, eventually, writing. While the symbolism is constructed, the author also slowly integrates the culture and dangers of the unnamed female main character’s world. Due to the nature of the setting, this portion slowly develops into a terrifying, violent tale, and really has a way of setting one’s nerves on the edge. It feeds into the idea how language was first conceived, and why our way-back-when ancestors started using signals and signs for messages, which will one day form into the language we now have today. If I were to take a stab at the intentions of this short story, I believe it would underline how writing and stories, how language and communication is a hardwired trait of people, as the free-form poetry delves into the reasoning behind the theme of the novel – the spiral, and how shapes and pictorials can speak to a person. Absolutely smashing!

The Witch in the Water

While this short story sucks me in right from the first page, this story was depressing and infuriating, all at once. The imagery and the story approaches the use of shapes in everyday life of people, and the consequences of ignorance and the depths of the darker part of the human soul. The witch-themed story features a cast of characters spiraling downward into their own ignorance and greed, their intolerance and their hate. While the first story prompted the notion that the lack of a written language was detrimental to society, the story now focuses on the evils that people release onto one another, and how such a language of symbols and signs can work against a group of people, twirling truth and secret wishes into what one would believe is the truth, in the end. The spiral shape is taken out of context, and used as a weapon. Sad and bleak, the story carries a heavy, emotional toll as the events spiral out of control in this piece.

The Easiest Room in Hell

I know this is popular opinion, but I have to concur – this one was the strongest quarter of the book. First of all, the entire use of physiology wasn’t villainized – just a person’s true motives. Also, it is well know fact that the world of mental facilities and resources did not have the best of intentions in the not-to-far history, while today, many in the field are doing what they can to clear the name of mental health facilities. In this story, the spiral shape has now become a danger to people, signaling that, while some things have good intentions and meanings, nothing is 100% safe. Where The Witch in the Water uses the spiral as an indicator of fellowship and comfort while exposing the evils of people, but unintentionally used for harm, the theme has swapped, with certain people stepping up to be the hero while the thematic symbol adopts a more sinister role. The shape is now a symbol of gleeful hatred, and highlights the needs for all of us to use caution and care when we wield our knowledge – ideas in the wrong hands can hurt more than help. The characters in this novel were wonderfully executed and the story was compelling and attention grabbing.

The Song of Destiny

By far, the oddest story inside the book. This one is placed in the far future, where the spiral is now an ever-lasting symbol of forever, the lone figure that the beginning is the end, and vise versa.

If you are looking for something in the creepy-zone, jump to this one right away. The spooky, mysterious plot of this one put one final touch on a book that was, at first, just odd.

This portion was fascinating, trippy, and downright mind blowing. The final (if you read them in order) brought the novel nicely back in full circle.

 

Overall

Different, thought-provoking and wonderfully structured, Ghosts of Heaven is going to have you thinking for a long time. You might need a while to contemplate and allow this one to sink in before you reach a conclusion. For those looking to add something more intellectual to your book diet, this one is going to provide your daily total of brain nutrients.

lyn

Thank you, Macmillan, for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 

9 responses to “Book Review: Ghosts of Heaven

  1. This book left me feeling… dumb. I enjoyed it, and I thought it was beautifully written, but I felt like I wasn’t quite smart enough for it. I did really like it, I just didn’t really know how to explain it or what to really think when I finished. I felt like my brain had been squished and wrung out, but in a good way. His writing is always very thought provoking and gorgeous. Glad that you enjoyed this one!
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