The Underwood See

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Michael Lawrence
Orchard Books
Oct 2006
�As the eye mirrors the soul, the sky quite often reflects the health of the reality. It certainly does here. This is a �fast� reality, evolving many times more rapidly than most. It would take several millennia for a standard reality to age as much as this one has in seven years.�

Hurrah for Micahel Lawrence! Reading �The Aldous Lexicon� has been the literary equivalent of sinking one�s teeth into a juicy orange on the most parched of days and finding oneself overwhelmed by the complex flavours of sweet and piquant that simultaneously stimulate the tastebuds�

Strength and quality of writing delivered throughout this trilogy has been consistently high as too have the heady injections of musings on philosophy and personal history that make these books so far-reaching and exceptional.

Picking up the intrigue and creative space inhabited by his first novel, �When Snow Falls" (Andersen Press, 1995), �The Aldous Lexicon� is a rich, vibrant novel pieced together from the multiplicity of lives we each of us lead. The series lures readers into its ideas-base before guttering into manifest worlds, time-lines and portrayals of identity and self.

The first book, �A Crack in the Line� introduces the cast and promotes the idea of an alternative reality by positing the question, what would happen if the capricious chance leading to the occurrence of a seminal event in one�s life was altered� In it, dual protagonists Alaric and Naia are brought into uneasy alignment as the realisation dawns that they inhabit the same familial space in their respective worlds.

�Small Eternities� the second book takes place four months following the events of the first. Alaric and Naia have switched places. With flood waters high they become caught in a timeslip to 1945 where they witness the premature death of their great uncle, Aldous Underwood and realise the background and impact of this point in their shared history.

In this, the third novel,The Underwood See�, the potential for change to character, setting and history is fully unleashed. The butterfly wings of caprice that have beaten in previous novels now mean the winds of change blow with an invigorating hurricane force through this impressive third novel.

The book is necessarily discursive, tracking different reality strands and the characters that have formed within these. Lawrence outlines some of the mechanics of these alternate realities and goes on to explore the impact and attempted rationalisation of these phenomenon.

As a whole, the series is demanding and challenging, but readers are amply rewarded with a legacy of expanding conceptual understanding and awareness. It is refreshing to read a series that operates wholly between its constituent parts, devoting little space towards constraining recapitulation. The books are taut, wholly engaging and, when read together move with an exhilarating, almost break-neck pace.

At once incisive and insightful, this criminally under-rated sequence represents some the strongest and most influential contributions to teenage fiction in recent years.

[Star rating is for the series as well as this individual book]

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on April 18, 2007 5:12 PM.

The Tortoise and the Dare was the previous entry in this blog.

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