Pros: Fantastic storyline and characters
Cons: A few small holes
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ben Pienaar’s Book of Worlds is a surprisingly good book. Parallel worlds stories tend to fall into specific tropes, but he managed to put together a lovely horrific tale for us. Teenagers get their hands on a little dusty book called “Book of Worlds,” by an Arthur T. Zindel. Using it, they learn how to travel between our world and others by creating doorways. They find a quiet, seemingly empty world that has an accelerated time rate–they could spend, say, 30 days there, only to come back and find out that one day has passed in their world. This is perfect for a few teens looking to have some fun but also spend the time it takes to pass their classes. They build a small shack and load the place up with booze and other enjoyments and spend plenty of time there. Unfortunately, they also bring something back with them, and it won’t end well.
There are a few small details that don’t add up right, but they’re little things that didn’t particularly detract. The physical changes in Brian sounded as though they should have been more obvious to people like his parents. Also at one point it seems like his bedroom should have been drenched in blood, and again, they should have noticed something wrong. Elyse at some point makes an appointment for a blood test to see what’s going on with her. You don’t just go ‘get a blood test’–they have to test for specific things. There’s also a spot where the teens go to a world they know will be pitch dark and riddled with tunnels, but I don’t remember seeing them even try a flashlight before they go blindly stumbling about. Nor did it occur to them to bring a few skeins of yarn or whatever in order to help them find their way back. Without those it’s hard to believe they could find anything.
That might seem like a lot, but each of those is pretty small, and there weren’t many other holes. There was also a lot of great material. I liked that the teens decided to only open one world at a time–they were actually trying to be careful. I also liked that they found a nice party world (a place where they could build a little clubhouse and come to hang out, lie on the beach, and drink booze) and then didn’t feel an immediate urge to move on. This isn’t a sci-fi tale of skipping from world to world, and it isn’t a fantasy tale of going to some medieval D&D-like or Tolkien-like world. It’s a horror tale about the dangers of messing with things you don’t understand.
With respect to the horror, Book of Worlds really delivers. It gets very gory and depicts torture scenes, but it makes a twisted sense and didn’t feel shoehorned in. It’s also psychologically more interesting than that makes it sound. I admit I could have done without the scene with the dog. It may be weird to have a problem with that and not with the rest; I think it’s because harming animals seems more… real, and thus is something I don’t want to deal with in my fiction.
I really got into this book, and I’d like to read more tales set in this world, with or without these characters. It’s been a while since I’ve read a really good horror tale, and this hit that spot perfectly!