Skip to main content

The Chamber in the Sky

Review

The Chamber in the Sky

I confess that I was probably a third of the way through THE CHAMBER IN THE SKY when I realized that this was the fourth book in the series that began with THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES. And that the name of M. T. Anderson's series is The Norumbegan Quartet. "Quartet" means four, of course. Wait, does that mean this is the last one? It's just not possible!

Wrapping up the series seemed, at that point, impossible, not only because the action was still flowing (as it were) so fast and furiously, but also because it seems impossible to comprehend that this rich, crazily imaginative world that Anderson has concocted in three previous books should just cease to exist.

"Chances are that readers, upon reaching the conclusion of this thoroughly enjoyable cycle, will feel much as Brian does at the end of the novel, as he laments all that is gone, all that has changed, and looks forward only reluctantly to what might come next."

THE CHAMBER IN THE SKY opens at a moment of crisis. Brian and Gregory's parents, back in Vermont and surrounded by the evil Thusser Horde intent on taking over the world (or at least New England), are convinced their sons are kidnapped or dead. It turns out they may be in an even worse place --- deep in the bowels (literally) of the Great Body, the monumental realm that the Norumbegans (the Thussers' opponents in the out-of-control game that Brian and Gregory have been playing) created to control and channel reality.

This time, they're accompanied by Gwynyfer, future Duchess of the Great Body's Globular Colon. She is attractive, to be sure --- and has certainly caught Gregory's eye --- but is also incredibly tiresome, and she seems all too willing to chuck the whole crisis in favor of a few days of skiing or spa pampering: "Wouldn't it be delish to relax for a few days?" she asks as certain disaster approaches. "I, for one, would be glad for a dip in the reflecting pool and a maidservant to rub my feet with pumice stone."

The trio is in search of an elusive machine called the Umpire, the only mechanism that might possibly reset the rules of the Game, impose order on chaos, and allow Brian and Gregory to return to something approaching normal life. But will they ever be satisfied with "normal" life again after their adventures with the wee elf Sniggleping and the dwarf Kargash, among others?

As absurd as it sounds, M. T. Anderson's quartet also offers genuine meditations on the nature of play, the state of change, and the process of growing up and on. Chances are that readers, upon reaching the conclusion of this thoroughly enjoyable cycle, will feel much as Brian does at the end of the novel, as he laments all that is gone, all that has changed, and looks forward only reluctantly to what might come next.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 28, 2012

The Chamber in the Sky
by M. T. Anderson