The Homeward Bounders
by Diana Wynne Jones
This 1981 book is a far-out fantasy tale, but also an achingly sad, lonely story. The hero is a boy named Jamie, who inadvertently discovers that mysterious beings called Them
are playing the ultimate war game, using earth (or rather, all the different parallel worlds it has divided into, by the various crises of history) as their game board, and real people as their pawns. When They
catch Jamie making this discovery, They
"discard" him to the Boundaries, where he moves from world to world in hope of someday finding his way back home.
Once again it is a plot that would require a lot of explanation to give you a fair idea of it, and if I did so, I would give away too much. But what it finally comes to, is that Jamie and a number of other "wild cards" join forces in trying to turn the tables on Them. The result is scary, exciting, strange, and sad, with some nicely portrayed friendships and a bit of romance.
It's a pretty ingenious idea, too, and more than a little chilling. Imagine that you are a pawn in a cosmic game of Risk, and that your whole world is just a little bit unreal. Not a pleasant thing to think about, eh? Hollywood has been playing with concepts like this, lately. (See The Truman Show, Pleasantville, and The Matrix, for example.)
So Jamie goes homeward-bounding with Helen-a religious initiate with a "gift" that some call a "deformity;" Joris-the enthusiastically loyal slave of Konstam Khan, the demon hunter; Adam-a bit of a nerd who wants to sell his sister Vanessa for sixty thousand pounds; and a number of other characters from myth and legend, such as the crew of the Flying Dutchman, the fabled Wandering Jew, and an unnamed figure who could be described as vaguely Promethean.
The idea crossed my mind, as I read this book, that you could turn the plot of it into a really sick, but awesome, practical joke. You could totally screw someone's mind up, if you could find two or three good actors who could improvise pretty well & were totally committed to their material. It would be soooo cruel. But funny!
Recommended Age: 14+
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