Like Isabell Allende, Jonathan Carroll, and Alice Hoffman, Charles de Lint brings myth and magic out of faraway Middle-earth or fairyland and makes it live and breathe in the modern world. The result is no less wonderful, but somehow even more immediate and relevant.
In his novel, Spirits in the Wires, Charles de Lint once again returns to Newford, the fictional North America city that has been the setting for his recent novels and stories. Newford is more than a city; like the forest in fairy tales, it is a place where magic waits, hidden and subtle, just around the next corner, or one step sideways.
Spirits in the Wires gives surprising and fascinating life to the emerging new mythologies of the modern world, the spirits of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and even computer viruses. This isn’t really a new idea; Neil Gainman addressed similar ideas in his American Gods.
But where Gaiman relies primarily on cleverness, de Lint draws on heart, insight, and characters that we can help caring about. And that is what makes de Lint’s book succeed. He shows us exactly how myth surrounds us, even in a wired world of instant messages, PDAs, and computer viruses, and how it continues to touch and change us. It’s also a lovely reminder of how we all live stories, and our stories touch others in such wonderful and unexpected ways.
Spirits in the Wires is fun and entertaining. As a thriller, it’s a page-turner. But the myth and the poetry of the writing make it lovely, and the characters make it come alive. Our compassion for de Lint’s beautifully-drawn characters moves us, and makes the novel linger long after the last page is turned.
Speaking of the characters, some of them, especially the folklorist/author Christy Riddell, are familiar to those who have read de Lint’s earlier Newford novels and stories. It’s not necessary to read the previous works to enjoy Spirits in the Wires. However, it’s a much richer experience if you have. The four Newford story collections make a great place to start — epecially the stories Saskia, The Fields Beyond the Fields, and Pixel Pixies.