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The Ghosts of Heaven

Review

The Ghosts of Heaven

Infinity is a fascinating concept, and it can connect to a great deal of topics, including science and the limits of the universe, death and what faces us in whatever afterlife there may be and the dreams and possibilities of the human mind. This is the basis of Marcus Sedgwick’s unique new novel THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN. He opens with an introduction that immediately sets in place his main symbol --- the spiral --- and brings forth a basic rundown of cosmological fact. He tells the reader that the four sections of the book, which have no connection in terms of plot or character, can be read in any order the reader wishes, which I found intriguing because it invites the reader to re-read the book in a new way and perhaps make new discoveries.

The first quarter takes place in prehistory, the second in medieval England, the third in a hospital at the beginning of the 20th century and the fourth in the future with the first astronaut colonist. The most consistent thing about this novel was its inconsistency --- not only were the stories inconsistent in their strength, depth and originality, but so were the language and the characters.

The first story was easily my favorite --- it was something I had never seen before, and Sedgwick handled it beautifully. The simple yet vivid language helped portray the thoughts and feelings of the early humans masterfully, and I was completely invested in the tribe’s survival. You could sense the desperation and the need of these characters, and I could not help but root for them in their moments of victory and despair in their time of death. Despite little to no dialogue, I felt that these characters had the best connections between them. It was visceral, there were no facades and I completely believed that this was how early humans interacted with one another. I also found the commentary on primal religion and mysticism was enthralling. Every sentence in this section had meaning and purpose, and each scene gripped my attention.

 

If you enjoy an exploration of the human soul and experience throughout the ages and something of a trip through the cosmos, then pick up THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN.

The following section takes place in medieval England, but I felt that the story relied heavily on stereotypes and clichés, from the general idea of the Church being an oppressive force seeking out evil and sin, to the caricature of the vicious priest coming in to cleanse everyone to the plot about accusing the protagonist of witchcraft. The most interesting part was the scheming nursemaid --- it was heavily implied that she killed her child to help accuse the main character, Anna, of witchcraft. I also felt that the language was inconsistent --- sometimes it was beautiful, but other times the metaphors were forced, the images unclear and the dialogue awkward and unbelievable. I felt that the story had the ingredients that would make it new and groundbreaking, but they did not combine to create that outcome.

 

The third section had the same issues. There were strange and beautiful moments interspersed throughout, and some of the images were haunting indeed, but it wasn’t enough to make me love the section as a whole. However, some readers are sure to find the turn-of-the-century vibe and the mental hospital setting riveting.

The fourth section was the second strongest, and it successfully tapped into the many thoughts humanity has had about the future, both the dreams and the terrors. It also was successful in connecting the other sections and bringing sense and solidity to places where there wasn’t before. Sedgwick did a fine job creating a realistic future --- I definitely believed the concerns and technologies felt plausible. The characters were also fleshed out, and I stood behind Sentinel Bowman as he faced each conflict.

I know it was made very clear from the start that the spiral would be the key symbol in this book, but because it had been expounded upon so many times, it lost its value by the second section. I agree with Sedgwick that it is an important symbol with many vast meanings and is something worth analyzing, but I personally found that it lost its punch and meaning after the fifth time it was examined and glorified.

There were times that this book read almost more like a meditation than a novel, and I actually enjoyed when that happened. The poetic passages, along with the poem-like structure of the first section, gave me a sense of peace and made me ponder. For readers looking for a story with more depth and substance and less loftiness and abstraction, this is not the book for you. However, if you do enjoy an exploration of the human soul and experience throughout the ages and something of a trip through the cosmos, then pick up THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN. You’ll feel like you’ve seen everything but also just one thing, you will think and you will find yourself unsure of how you felt about what you read. While I would have liked more consistency in the strength of the language and the depth of the characters, I think THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN is a methodical text that will intrigue you, delight you and probably surprise you. I invite you to pick it up and make of it what you will.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on April 29, 2015

The Ghosts of Heaven
by Marcus Sedgwick

  • Publication Date: October 25, 2016
  • Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult 13+
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • ISBN-10: 1250073677
  • ISBN-13: 9781250073679