tek's rating:
(rating for the series overall)

The Time Quartet (series), by Madeleine L'Engle
Amazon; Goodreads; Madeleine L'Engle; Wikipedia

Caution: spoilers!

This review was originally written for The Templeton Gate.

I don't even remember anymore how long ago I started reading this 4-in-1 volume, which includes "A Wrinkle in Time," "A Wind in the Door," "A Swiftly Tilting Planet," and "Many Waters." It's certainly more than a year ago (this review was written in June 2006), and perhaps up to two years ago. All I know is, I'm very slow, and there are long stretches of time when I don't seem to find the time to read at all, somehow. I need to work on that. None of this, however, is germane to the purposes of this review ("Or is it?," he asked in an abstracted philosophical way), so it's a good thing I'm not paid to write things like this. In any event, I hope you won't take my sporadic reading habits as evidence of disinterest in the books, for that's not the case at all. They're actually rather good, if odd. In any event, of course I'll be skimming through the volume as I write this, and stopping for extended periods over various passages, refreshing my memory....

Anyway, I've been wanting to read "A Wrinkle in Time" for as long as I can remember, so I'm glad to have finally done so, as well as three of its sequels. L'Engle has written plenty of other books, of course, and there is a complicated family tree diagrammed in this omnibus... well, perhaps not complicated so much as confusing. They give the sense that various other books are set in this series, or at least somehow connected to it, some more directly than others. But I can't quite figure out... well, anything, really. I'd like to read more someday, but I've no idea where to start. I suppose that will bear further investigation in the future, but I really need to work on reading other stuff for awhile. If I ever get back to L'Engle, I'll be sure to let you all know.

Meanwhile, I wanted to say that I found it interesting looking at the original publishing dates of each of these books. The first is 1962, and I found it a bit surprising that a book I'd always had a sense of being, well, if not specifically targeted towards children, at least...well, it's for anyone, really. But I still sort of think of it as a children's book. And it talks about tesseracts. Which I'm pretty sure even now aren't understood all that well, though I'm no student of theoretical physics. I've barely heard of them at all, in a few modern works of fiction. So to be reading about them in an ostensible children's book written some forty years ago... like I said, a bit surprising, and impressive. The second book was published in 1973. Yes, eleven years after the first. The next in 1978, and the fourth in 1986. Seems quite a stretch of time, I think. The first two came out before I was born, and the last when I was 11. I suppose I'm still rambling on about utterly unimportant details, and not even managing to make any kind of point. Sorry. I think I might've had a point in mind when I started reading a couple years ago or whenever it was, so I should've started the review back then. I've never been good at foresight. But I do think I wanted to say that I have no clear idea of when the stories are set, except that I think it must be some time after the first one was written.

Now I suppose I should start actually talking a bit about the books themselves. So from here on, there may be quite a few spoilers. I'm afraid these stories are the sort that you can either say too much about, or not enough. At least, if there's a way to say just enough, it's beyond my skill, I'm afraid. So continue at your own peril, my friends! You've been warned. I'm sure, however, that it will still be well worth your time to read the books, even if you already know most of the important plot points....

A Wrinkle in Time (pub. 1962)
TV Tropes; Wikipedia

The first character we meet in "A Wrinkle in Time" is 13-year-old Meg Murry. She has two brilliant scientists for parents (her father is a physicist and her mother a biologist, but they both work mainly in theoretical ideas), twin 10-year-old brothers, Sandy and Dennys, and a 5-year-old brother named Charles Wallace. Meg isn't very good in school, except for mathematics, and often gets into fights, usually to defend Charles Wallace, who many people think of as dumb. In fact, he is very intelligent (probably the most intelligent person in the Murry family), and special in other ways; he just doesn't know how to interact with most people. Well, the whole family is special, though everyone just sees them as strange - except for Sandy and Dennys, who do a good job of acting normal: perhaps of above average intelligence, but not seemingly special; they are also more sociable and athletic than their kin.

One dark and stormy night, Meg, Charles Wallace, and their mother are downstairs having some cocoa and sandwiches, along with their dog Fortinbras, when a strange woman named Mrs Whatsit (who Charles has met before) arrives unexpectedly at their door. She stops in for a bit to rest, and to get the water out of her boots, and she has a bit of an odd conversation with the Murrys. Before she leaves, she says "there is such a thing as a tesseract," which is especially odd, because tesseracts are a concept Mrs. Murry had been working on with her husband, when he disappeared about a year ago. Actually, he hadn't been around much, because his work took him away a great deal of the time, and alot of it was for the government, and classified. It was about a year ago that his letters stopped coming, and no one would (or could) tell the Murrys what had become of him.

The day after the storm, after Meg gets home from school, Charles Wallace convinces her to go with him to see Mrs Whatsit. On the way, the two of them and Fortinbras meet up with a 14-year-old boy from Meg's school, named Calvin O'Keefe. He's also very bright, but popular because he plays sports. People don't know it, but he's rather special, too. Sometimes he gets feelings about things, and such a feeling is what compelled him to show up at this particular place at this particular time. He was destined to meet Meg and Charles Wallace. They're going to be good friends, that's another feeling Calvin has. It's a good thing, because he doesn't really get on well with the rest of his family, who aren't as smart nor as kind as he is. Anyway, Meg, Charles, and Calvin end up meeting one of Mrs Whatsit's two friends, Mrs Who. Later they again meet up with Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which. The three of them tesser (or wrinkle, as Mrs Whatsit says) the children to other worlds. The three women, it turns out, are not human at all, these are just forms they have assumed. They're actually beings billions of years old.

There is a darkness slowly spreading across the Universe, and Mr. Murry's work poses a potential threat to the darkness. Of course, people and beings from many worlds have been fighting the darkness for a very long time. Which leads to a point about all these books, something I've always liked in various works of fiction: the intermingling of spirituality, magic, and science. This same point may also be conceived by some as rather controversial. People who have fought the darkness throughout history include all the great artists, scientists, and religious figures. Everyone who sheds some kind of light on the world. At times these books can seem rather Christian-based, but they can also seem rather New Age-y. I, for one, appreciate the concept that all religions can bring light to the world; that they could work hand in hand with one another, and with science. Though I don't suppose most of the people involved in the fight have been actually aware of it as such, at all.... And I can certainly see that some deeply religious people would take offense at such ideas.

Eventually, the children must go off on their own to find Mr. Murry, who is being held on a world controlled by the darkness. The children manage to rescue Mr. Murry from a mind-controlling entity called "IT," but not before IT takes control of Charles Wallace. After Dr. Murry, Calvin, and Meg escape the planet, they are helped by some aliens who fight the darkness, and also by Mrs Whatsit, Who, and Which. Meg (who has always been the closest to Charles Wallace, on an almost psychic level) has to return by herself to rescue her brother, and finally they all return to Earth. Mrs Whatsit hasn't time to say goodbye, before the three Mrs W's vanish, and the book ends, quite abruptly.

A Wind in the Door (pub 1973)
TV Tropes; Wikipedia

I thought we might learn in a later book what Mrs Whatsit was going to say, but the Mrs W's never reappeared, at least not in any of the books I've read. "A Wind in the Door" takes place perhaps a year after "Wrinkle." It begins with Charles Wallace telling Meg he's seen dragons outside their house. He takes her out to find them, though she doesn't believe he really saw dragons. Why this should be so hard for her to believe after the events of the first book, I'm sure I don't know. Meanwhile, she's more concerned to learn that there's something wrong with his health, and that their mother had had a friend, Dr. Louise Colubra, examine him earlier that day. Charles, of course, was more interested in the dragons. Besides all this, he was having trouble at school, both with the other first grade students, and his teacher, because he was smarter than all of them. So he got beat up a lot. Meg went to see Mr. Jenkins about it, who had until this fall been the principal of Meg's high school, but was now the principal of Charles Wallace's grade school. She'd had plenty of troubles with him in the past herself, and he clearly wouldn't be of any help to Charles Wallace, now.

While waiting outside by a stone wall - wait, let me talk about something else first. In this stone wall there lived a snake who the twins had named Louise the Larger, after Dr. Colubra. We hear a conversation at one point as to why they called the snake "the Larger." Let me quote Dennys here: "Louise the Larger is very large for a snake who lives in a garden wall, and Dr. Louise is a very small doctor - I mean, she's a tiny person. I suppose as a doctor she's pretty mammoth." I mention this merely because, reading the line now as I skim back through the whole volume to write this review, I find it amusing, after having read the last book in the volume.

Anyway, back to what I was going to say. While waiting by the stone wall, Charles Wallace talks to Meg about mitochondria, which live within human cells, independently of humans, but upon which we depend. If our mitochondria get sick, we could die. Mitochondria could get sick if something happens to the farandolae which live independently within them, as the mitochondria do within us. Of course, all this is sort of speculation, because at this point, no microscopes are powerful enough to detect farandolae. But Mrs. Murry has been researching them, and may be on the brink of a breakthrough. Charles suspects that she suspects the reason he's been unwell of late is because there's something wrong with his mitochondria. Meanwhile, Mr. Murry is off somewhere researching a problem that has been observed in a distant part of the galaxy, and in other galaxies. Stars seem to be disappearing without a trace.

Later that night, Meg goes out alone, and is confronted by Mr. Jenkins. Then Louise the snake hisses at him, and he screams and vanishes into thin air. This, needless to say, confused and frightened Meg. But Calvin O'Keefe shows up and comforts her. Then Charles Wallace joins them. Then the dragons show up. They aren't alone, however, and they aren't a "they." It is a single creature, even though it looks rather like a whole drive of dragons. He is, in fact, a cherubim named Proginoskes. Which is odd, because "cherubim," as Calvin points out, is plural for "cherub," but nevertheless, he is a single cherubim. He is accompanied by a Teacher; a tall, dark man called Blajeny. Proginoskes (or "Progo," as the children take to calling him) is to be one of his students, along with Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin. Blajeny wants their help, and in the course of their lessons, they should learn what is wrong with Charles, and how his illness might be cured.

Assignments are given them: Charles Wallace will have to learn to adapt while remaining wholly himself, Meg will have to pass three trials, and Calvin...will have to wait, for now. Oh, and it turns out that Louise the Larger is also a Teacher. Blajeny also says that someday Sandy and Dennys will be Teachers (again, I find this somewhat interesting after the fourth book, and suspect it might well become more interesting if I ever read further in the series).

I also want to mention that that evening, Dr. Colubra mentioned that it was a great many years ago that Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. (This book, you'll recall, came out in 1973.) Mrs. Murry, who's 10 years younger than Dr. Colubra, was young at the time, but also remembers the moon landing. Obviously, that hadn't happened when the first book was written, more than a decade earlier, even though this book isn't set more than a year after the first. And I've no idea what was meant by "a great many years," though personally, I wouldn't call four years (from 1969 to 1973) a great many, even though she may have been exaggerating for the sake of the children's perceptions. Charles Wallace, of course, was only 6 years old at this point. Of course, there are new concepts in the book, which even teachers didn't know about or believe in... which I can't help thinking of as vaguely common knowledge for any schoolchild, so it can't be set too far after the book was written, even if we're talking about a small, rural community grade school... Anyway... I find it a bit amazing that a book could give a clear temporal touchstone like the first moon landing to help point to the book's setting, and yet simultaneously manage to use it to make that setting even more confusing and uncertain.

The next morning before Meg goes to school, she talks with Progo. He is a Namer, and thinks she may be as well. Naming is... well, it's hard to say what it is, but somehow it helps things to be more particularly what they are. Anyway, Meg and Progo try to figure out what their first trial is to be, as part of the trial is figuring out what it actually is. When she told him about her experience of the previous night with the fake Mr. Jenkins, he told her it sounded like she'd seen an Echthros. So, to explain to her what Echthroi are, he takes her yesterday to some other world to observe what they do. They X (annihilate, negate, extinguish, un-Name). They're like fallen angels, they cause war and hate, they can be responsible for the deaths of stars, people, farandolae, whatever. And they are after Charles Wallace, who is a threat to them. Progo also helped her remember a conversation she'd overheard some time ago between her parents, about a possible connection between his studies of the rips in space and her studies of ailing farandolae... and that there is yet hope. Progo also tells her she's beginning to learn to kythe, which is how cherubim communicate, without words. Telepathy might be called the very beginning of learning to kythe, which can be done not only with people, or beings like cherubim, but also with stars and... well, I don't want to get into too much exact quoting, so... with lots of things, large and small.

Anyway, Progo feels that their trial must have something to do with Mr. Jenkins, so they go down to the grade school. There are three Mr. Jenkinses there, and Meg has to Name one of them as the real one. The others, of course, are Echthroi. This will be difficult for her, because her experience with Mr. Jenkins over the years has made it her natural inclination to hate him; but to Name him, she has to love him. After much fretting, she manages to Name him, and Blajeny shows up, and transports Meg, Progo, and Mr. Jenkins to another world, where size is irrelevant, along with Calvin, and Louise the Larger. And then another student shows up, a farandola named Sporos.

Later, Progo, Meg, Mr. Jenkins, Calvin, and Sporos all go into Yadah - one of Charles Wallace's mitochondria, the one Sporos comes from. It seems their second trial is to help convince Sporos (and all the farandoale of his generation) to Deepen. That is, to mature, and take root, instead of moving around. Which isn't limiting, because they can kythe with other farandolae in all the mitochondria in their human host, and some can do so even with those in other hosts. They can sing with the stars. And Meg can kythe, too. In a way, she and Charles Wallace have always done it with each other. And she can do it with Calvin, as well. In the past, none of them really realized it, but now Meg has to learn to do it intentionally, and more fully. And she has to do so with Mr. Jenkins, as well, who isn't so open to any of this stuff that's going on, being so far outside his rigid concepts of reality. And Sporos doesn't want to kythe with any humans, who he considers unworthy. And what's worse, an Echthos has followed them into Yadah. But... Calvin kythes to Meg, helps her figure out how to kythe things to Mr. Jenkins that might help him understand all these strange things. And they all kythe to Sporos, along with Senex, the fara (Deepened farandola) who had spawned him. They had to convince him to leave the mad dance of the farandolae, who were being influenced by Echthroi, and killing farae, thus Yadah, and thus Charles Wallace, who was their galaxy. It's all about... the connectedness of all things, the irrelevance of size or distance or such matters. That's pretty much what the book is about, and it really comes into focus during the second trial.

The third and final trial comes about as a direct result of the second trial having been passed. I haven't anything really to say about it, however. All I can really think to say is that the book's ending is mostly quite happy, but with one... sort of ambiguously sad note, possibly quite sad... but still not as sad as it might have been. *shrug* Sorry, can't say any more....

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (pub. 1978)
TV Tropes; Wikipedia

Well, I'll start by saying that Charles Wallace Murry is now 15 years old, which I guess makes Meg Murry O'Keefe about 23. Oh, my, did I just say "Meg O'Keefe"? Well, I should rather hope so, considering she's pregnant. Heh. (Edit: just a little joke to explain that Meg and Calvin are now married, not meant as a dig against unwed mothers, okay?) Meanwhile, Calvin is speaking at a conference in London, about immunology. But the other Murrys are all home for Thanksgiving. Sandy has been away at law school, and Dennys at medical school. Even Mr. Murry is home, for a change. Joining the Murrys for the occasion is Meg's mother-in-law, Branwen O'Keefe. Sadly, Fortinbras has at some point died of old age. But they suppose a new dog will find them, sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the generally pleasant atmosphere of the holiday is interrupted by a phone call from the President of the United States, who often consults with Mr. Murry on scientific matters, and has become close to him. It's not good news, today. The dictator of a small South American country called Vespugia, Mad Dog Branzillo, has acquired nuclear missiles and is threatening war. There is perhaps a 24 hour period in which war might be averted, but no one seems particularly hopeful. Rather, they're beginning to worry that it could mean the end of the world, or at least the human race. Sandy says that might not be so bad. Which, in retrospect, reminds me again of the fourth book. Incidentally, Mrs. Murry at one point mentions her mother having told her about one Spring, many years ago, when there were tense relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and nuclear war had been predicted. Again, this book came out in 1978. I'm not at all certain what particular crisis this refers to, so of course it's no help in determining the book's setting. I'd have guessed the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, except that that was in October. I'm afraid I don't know enough history, so my only other guess would be the early 1980s, but it's impossible for that to have been many years before this book is set, even if it is set sometime after it was published. Sigh.

Mrs. O'Keefe is in bad condition, physically, seems far older than her years. She isn't sociable, rarely speaks, isn't really happy, and doesn't seem to want to be here, claims not to understand what anyone's talking about. It's really quite surprising that she accepted the Murrys' invitation at all. However, it's very important that she's here today. Out of nowhere, she begins to recall a rune her grandmother had taught her, many years ago. The rune holds great power, reciting it can ward off danger. Charles Wallace becomes quite interested in it. Mrs. O'Keefe somehow believes Charles Wallace, who she calls Chuck, will be able to stop Mad Dog Branzillo. And then, before dinner has even begun, she says she wants to go home, so Dennys drives her.

Later that night, a dog shows up, and so becomes the Murry family's new pet. Charles Wallace declares that her name is Ananda, which is Sanskrit for "that joy in existence without which the universe will fall apart and collapse." Meanwhile, Charles Wallace has become interested in learning more about Mrs. O'Keefe's ancestors. Her maiden name was Maddox, and Charles thinks there may be some connection to Branzillo, perhaps going back thousands of years. He goes outside to think, and Meg takes Ananda up to bed, and kythes with Charles Wallace. She tells Ananda to help her kythe.

Out at the star-watching rock, Charles Wallace begins to call out part of the rune, and I'm sure you will not be in the slightest surprised to learn that a unicorn appears. He is called Gaudior, which is Latin for "more joyful." He will carry Charles Wallace, but they must watch out for Echthroi, which will frequently cause them trouble. And Charles Wallace shall have to move in and out of Time, as well as people. From this point on, the book is pretty much one long episode of Quantum Leap. Except that while he is Within other people in other times, he doesn't really control them, he mostly just experiences what they experience. This can help him learn things that will prove useful, though he may also cause some changes in events. And Meg got a sense of what he was experiencing, through her kything with him. Though Charles Wallace himself would not know himself while he was Within someone, it would be as if he was that person. And he must keep his own thoughts and knowledge from that person. It's rather complicated.

Charles Wallace will go Within a few people in different times, and it's all about establishing connections. He keeps trying to remember some book he'd read at some point, but for some reason he couldn't remember anything clearly about it. The people he became, however, and things he experienced, would help him piece everything together, and ultimately learn the connection between Branwen Maddox O'Keefe's family, and Mad Dog Branzillo. Meg's kything, meanwhile, would inspire her to try to figure things out, back home. And she could kythe information to him, to help him on his journey. Some of the people he went Within would be far back in time, but finally, he ended up within Chuck Maddox, the little brother of Branwen (nicknamed Beezie), when they were children. Then, Mrs. O'Keefe returns to the Murrys' home, to show them a letter she found in her attic, from 1865, which was written by someone related to someone Charles had been Within, earlier. Meanwhile, Beezie and Chuck's grandmother had often told them stories from a book about the past, and from old letters.... Eventually, Charles Wallace goes within Matthew Maddox, who had lived during the Civil War, and written a book, and exchanged letters with his brother, Bran.

It's all very complicated, and I can't recall it all clearly - heaven knows mere skimming's of little use, I'd have to reread the whole thing. Even so, I recall that even as I originally read it, it was confusing. Perhaps in part because of my inconsistent reading habits, but that's certainly not the only reason. But hey, we all know that time and space are of little importance, because everything's connected. And eventually, the book shows us all the connections... even if they are more twisted than a season of Lost. Anyway, Charles Wallace finally returns to his own body, in his own When. And Mr. Murry rereads the letter Mrs. O'Keefe had brought, though somehow it seems different. And then the President calls, about Madog Branzillo. And... well, Meg and Charles Wallace's memories, and perhaps Mrs. O'Keefe's, are different from those of everyone else. Which is all I want to say. No doubt I've already said too much, but the important thing about this book is not so much the result, as what led to it. And I've left out anything truly important about that, so... have fun reading it for yourself, and try not to let any Echthroi or plot twists knock you loose in the wind.

Many Waters (pub. 1986)
TV Tropes; Wikipedia

This book came out in 1986, and as such, it is the last in the volume. However, you may well find other omnibus editions which place it third, as that fits the order in which the story is set, chronologically. But to my way of thinking, reading it in that order would be about as bad as reading "The Magician's Nephew" before "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." And if you don't see what would be wrong with that, then you and I have nothing to talk about, brother.

Well, Sandy and Dennys Murry are fifteen, Meg is away at college, and everyone else is out of the house when the twins come home one Winter day after hockey practice. They go into their mother's lab to look for some Dutch cocoa, and come across one of their father's experiments. They mess with the computer, before seeing a sign on the door that says "Experiment in progress. Please keep out." And then they find themselves in the middle of a desert, their house nowhere to be seen. They soon meet a small, dark young man, perhaps four feet tall, who thinks they're giants. His name is Japheth. He's confused by the fact that there are two of them who look just the same, because no one's ever seen twins before. He also has an animal named Higgaion, a mammoth which is about the size of a small dog. Anyway, the only other beings of the twins' size are the seraphim and nephilim, though Sandy and Dennys clearly aren't either of those, because they don't have wings. Japheth decides to take them to his Grandfather Lamech's tent at the oasis, because the twins really aren't cut out for the heat.

On the way, they see a partially materialized unicorn, though the twins can't really manage to believe in it. But when it becomes clear that they're both starting to suffer from sun-sickness, Japheth thinks they should get Higgaion to call a couple of unicorns to carry the twins. Dennys begins to think unicorns are something like the virtual particles their mother theorizes about. In any event, unicorns are called, and each twin climbs onto one. For some reason, these unicorns, unlike Gaudior, don't talk... but then, I suppose Gaudior probably didn't talk, either. Perhaps the problem is simply that Sandy and Dennys don't kythe. Anyway, unicorns have to be believed in to be real. During the ride, Dennys slips into unconsciousness, and so being in no position to believe in anything, he vanishes along with his unicorn. Sandy makes it to the oasis, and slides off his unicorn, before he too falls into unconsciousness. Sandy later awakes in a tent, with Japheth and Lamech looking after him. He wants to go look for Dennys, but he has to remain in the tent, to recover from his sun-sickness. So Japheth goes out to look for him, alone. Meanwhile, Japheth's sister, Yalith, came to the tent to bring Lamech a night-light (a bowl containing oil and a wick). And Sandy likes Yalith.

Later, he meets a couple of seraphim; Adnarel, who is sometimes within a scarab beetle, and Alarid, who is sometimes within a pelican. All seraphim and nephilim are sometimes within an animal. But in their proper forms, well, I think they must be more or less what we'd think of as angels, and fallen angels, respectively. The nephilim put me somewhat in mind of Echthroi, of course, but I'm really not sure about that. Perhaps it's different, so early in the history of the world... though I get ahead of myself. Very well, Sandy and Dennys will eventually figure out they're in Earth's distant past, after some time spent worrying that they might be anywhere in the universe. Anyway, there was a scene in the third book, near the start of Charles Wallace's journey, that makes me think Echthroi were as they now are, since the dawn of time, so it makes me wonder if I'm wrong to think of the nephilim as such. Most likely I am wrong. But surely, if they aren't the same, they ultimately work toward the same ends. Meanwhile, the seraphim seem to understand a bit about the future, so Sandy and Dennys, while still something of a mystery to them, aren't quite as strange to them as to the humans of this time. Of course, the nephilim find them to be a great and disturbing mystery.

Dennys awakes in a dirty, foul-smelling tent, the inhabitants of which had gotten their own mammoth to call a unicorn, which happened to be the one Dennys had gone out with. When Dennys appears, they roughly throw him out of their tent, down into a slimy, filthy, feces-filled pit. He climbs out, and uses sand to try to scrub himself clean. The mammoth of the people who had thrown him out then comes to him, and calls a unicorn to carry him away. Later, in Yalith and Japheth's father, Noah's tent, another of their brothers, Ham, asks their mammoth, Selah, to call him a unicorn. And one appears, carrying Dennys. There are many people living in Noah's tent (or in others near it); his wife Matred, their sons and daughters, most of whom have spouses. I don't think I ever learned about all of them. But there's Japheth and his wife, Oholibamah (who is rumored to be half nephil, though she's a very nice person), Ham and his wife Anah, Shem and his wife Elisheba, and the youngest, Yalith, and probably some others. Anyway, Dennys will stay there until he recovers, which will take longer than his brother, for he's in much worse shape than Sandy, after his experiences.

Well, it is some time before either twin can leave their repsective tents. So Sandy gets to know Lamech. He learns people in this time live to be hundreds of years old. Lamech is 777. Yalith, though she appears to be about the twins' age, is I think nearly 100. Lamech also talks about his father, Methuselah, and his grandfather, Enoch. And about El, which Sandy and Dennys will eventually realize is these people's name for God. (Interesting side note, while Sandy and Dennys speak English, and everyone else speaks, I dunno, some ancient language... they all understand each other, because without meaning to, it's like they also speak the Old Language - from before the Tower of Babel, which precedes this time. They have an "under-hearing." Which reminds me of Charles Wallace previously having been called "of the Old Music." These sorts of ideas run throughout the books, actually, and such things are one of the ways all the Murrys seem to be special. Under-hearing also reminds me of my own idea of subwords, from a book I've been writing for years now. Which is of no consequence here and now, just thought I'd mention it. Great minds think alike...)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Lamech and his son Noah both talk to El. But they don't talk to each other, because of an old dispute involving Lamech's wells. But Japheth or some of the women go between the tents sometimes, so the twins will hear how one another is doing. Meanwhile, Dennys gets to know Noah and his family. And by the way, Dennys also likes Yalith. And she likes both the twins, which is confusing for her. Meanwhile, a nephil named Eblis wants her, though she's more interested in a seraph named Aariel. And there's also a girl named Tiglah who is interested in the twins. She is the younger sister of Ham's wife, Anah, and it was her family's tent in which Dennys was mistreated. So of course Dennys doesn't trust her at all, though she claims not to be like her father or brother. And Sandy isn't as distrustful of her as Dennys is, partly because she's beautiful. But he'll have his own reason to distrust her eventually, don't you worry about that....

Gosh, what else to say? It seems like such a long book, because of how long it took me to read it, stopping for such long stretches. Really, it isn't that long at all, but alot happens. Eventually the twins get well, and are reunited. And the stars want them to reconcile Lamech and Noah, which they do. Everyone's quite happy about that, and grateful to the twins. This seems to have been the main point of their having come. But, like I said, a lot of other stuff happens. Yalith's sister Mahlah is impregnated by and marries a nephil named Ugiel. And none of the nephilim trust the twins. And there are plenty of other seraphim and nephilim, whose names and animal forms I can't begin to remember. And Sandy and Dennys spend alot of time working in Lamech's garden, which is familiar work for them, since they always kept their own garden back home. And El speaks to Lamech and to Noah of troubling things, of "many waters," and instructs Noah to build an ark. And the twins worry a great deal about what will happen when that time comes, since they have a vague idea what that story is all about, but know none of the details. Nor do they know how they might get home before it happens. And they also worry about Yalith, because El has told Noah to take his sons and their wives on the ark, but said nothing of his daughters. Well, eventually Noah and his sons begin building the ark, and the twins help. And everyone in the oasis laughs at them all.

And other stuff happens. Good stuff, and bad stuff. There's an answer for the question of what will become of Yalith. And the twins come up with a plan for unicorns and seraphim to help them return home. I'm not at all sure just how much dramatic license is taken with the Biblical story, but doubtless there's a fair amount. And I'm not clear on how long the twins remember their adventure after they return home. There's no indication that they forgot, but in the third book, which is set about five years later, I don't get any sense that they believe in such fantastic things. So I really would like to read more books in the series, at some point. Welp, can't think what else to say, except that I've doubtless said both far too much and not nearly enough, about all the books in this quartet. As usual, I'm afraid my review is too much like a report. But at the very least, I hope it gives a fair sense of how interesting all this is....

books index
(Image is a scan of my own copy, which I got from The Science Fiction Book Club, though I don't think it's available from the club anymore. Family tree also scanned from my copy.)