I remember occasionally coming across this in my father’s book collection when I was young. I nearly picked it up to read a dozen times, but I always chose something else. It has a really pulpy cover, so I just assumed it was an old generic fantasy novel. I mean, there’s a Zardoz-esque floating head and a winged centaur on the front, what was I supposed to think? It wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I discovered this is a young adult science fiction classic and is apparently beloved by many.
It’s a shame actually, because I think I would have really liked this growing up. Its protagonists are essentially genius children, which is something I always dug as a kid. One of the characters is a five year-old who speaks as if he’s thirty. The adventure begins as two siblings and a friend are whisked away in the night by three angel-hobo-witches in order to find their father. He went away years prior for a secretive government job and had lost contact with the family. They discover that he was experimenting with interstellar travel by way of tesseract, which in this novel is a phenomenon that allows the space-time continuum to be bent in a way that allows instantaneous transportation across the universe, known more popularly as a wormhole in our world, and is described to be structured like the mathematical tesseract (which I’ll pretend I totally knew about already).
It’s interesting reading young adult novels from this era. Have Space Suit—Will Travel was written a few years before this, and it had similarly advanced concepts and science in it. Maybe I just haven’t read recent young adult science fiction, but it feels like they expected more out of kids back then. A kid could read this without understanding the concepts and still enjoy it for the adventure, but would they even attempting to describe the science these days? Would that be removed if it was deemed to be a risk to sales? When I initially considered this, I was comparing these novels with the likes of Twilight, but maybe that’s not fair. I’m sure there were young adult novels similar to Twilight back then, and there are probably novels similar to this now, but they don’t seem to be what’s popular.
L’Engle shoehorned a lot of religion in this little book. It’s not just in there allegorically, characters are sharing bible quotes and asking to have the Book of Genesis read as a bedtime story. She doesn’t hide it in the text as some might. It’s just kind of peppered in, and the characters don’t tend to harp on about it too much. I’m curious if she starts to preach more in the later books, though.
She does start the novel with “it was a dark and stormy night”, which I was pretty excited to see. It’s one of those clichés that you don’t actually come across in the wild very often. I enjoyed her style of writing, and the plot and concepts were fun, but I’m not sure if I’d read the whole series. I have the next one on the shelf, so I might read that and see from there.