Something frightening is happening with time. One moment, a time tornado rages through the streets of London, and those caught up in its path vanish without a trace. The next moment a woolly mammoth is seen lumbering along the banks of the River Thames. At the center of these bizarre time warps is a house called Tanglewreck, which is home to eleven-year-old Silver, her bony and bad-tempered aunt, Mrs Rokabye, and a mysterious clock known as the Timekeeper. Silver doesn't understand exactly what the Timekeeper does, but when two sinister figures come looking for it, she knows instinctively that she must guard it with her life.
Alright, I admit it. The shiny text on the spine lured me into borrowing this from the library. Well, the shiny text and the supremely interesting title– and once again I have been lucky in that this was actually, happily, a really good book!
There’s a lot I love about Tanglewreck, but the biggest thing is how weird it is. It’s hard to pick out specific things because the whole thing is just a little off-center, like how Alice in Wonderland is just a little different from what our own world is like. It all starts off very normally, but then quickly proceeds to throw out these strange little facts and people and events, and it’s all a lot of fun.
Take, for instance, the people who live below ground, deep within London’s sewers and lower. Or the fact that Silver’s house talks to her of the future and that it sets up traps for burglars to fall into. Or what about Bigamy the rabbit, who spies on Silver and reports her doings to his owner (and Silver’s caretaker), Mrs. Rokabye? Strange, and fun.
The plot is terribly exciting, but it doesn’t go in a straight line from start to finish. It meanders, goes a little slow in parts, and when the end comes it was as much a surprise to me as it was to the characters. It’s a good plot, though, and worth following to the end.
Tanglewreck is a little confusing in the way that I’m still not entirely sure what happens in A Wrinkle In Time, but there’s much less science (no tesseracts at all) and I’m pretty sure I figured everything out. I do think the emphasis is more on the characters and their relationships with each other than the science/magic bits, and surprisingly those relationships aren’t complicated at all.
When science isn’t being discussed the prose can be a bit sappy (love moves faster than the speed of light? O-kay.), but I didn’t mind most of the time. It wasn’t too sappy, and some sweetness is a nice thing, I think.
The only real issue I had with Tanglewreck is that I had a hard time connecting emotionally to the characters. I liked them, and I was interested in reading about them, but I never felt close to them. I was always slightly distanced from them, and that’s a tough thing to have to read with, a lot of times. Also I think the characters came off sometimes like cardboard props waiting to say their lines– Mrs Rokabye, especially, comes off as a prop character. If Tanglewreck had characters with more depth, I think it would have been even more enjoyable than it is now. And also I think sometimes the explanations of what a black hole is, or describing something Einstein said, etc., can come off as rather teach-y, but not in an entirely annoying way. Sometimes it was pretty useful– like how fast exactly the speed of light is. All I remembered before was “really, really fast.”
Despite those problems, I had a really good time reading Tanglewreck. It’s a little surreal, a little strange, and a lot of fun.
Read: August 2009