Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review / InterviewThe Wikkeling by Steven Arnston

The Wikkeling is one of those books that make me excited to be be a blogger! It was such a wonderful read I approched the publisher for some of of the beautiful artwork and an author interview.
I was very fortunate to meet the Author of The Wikkeling, Steven Arntson at ALA midwinter. When I saw the cover of this book in the events catalog I was really intrigued.I talked a little to Steven about the striking cover and the artist Daniela J. Terrazzini and about the book but nothing in our brief conversation prepared me for this novel. There are so many wonderful elements to this book that I'm really excited to share my thoughts with everyone and an Interview with Steven as well:

 There are so many themes throughout the novel: dystopia, mystery, and also a straight forward fantasy and fairy tale element. Did all these ideas present themselves simultaneously? Or just naturally develop throughout the writing?

I usually begin projects with almost no plan at all. I started The Wikkeling with just an image of a girl finding a wounded cat in her attic. The rest of that world flooded in on the heels of that image—and it was a messy, crowded place requiring much revision and editorial help to turn into a readable narrative. There's a great lecture by the physicist Richard Feynman in which he ironically apologizes for the complexities of physics, saying, “If you don't like it, go to some other universe, where the rules are simpler!” I love that. It kind of describes my own mind.

 The Wikkeling almost seems to be a technological equivalent of The Boogyman. What was the inspiration for it?

That’s a good comparison. Another thing about Feynman, while I'm thinking of him—there’s a story that he sometimes found his solutions first, and then worked backwards for the equations. The character of the Wikkeling was that way for me. It appeared in the book without explanation. Eventually it came to serve the story as a personification of the world in which Henrietta lives—the deep intentions of the place. Technology is a part of how those intentions are deployed, but what ended up fascinating me more was the process through which systemic, unexamined greed leads to poverty. Henrietta and her parents and friends are impoverished by their living conditions despite the surface-level technological abundance they enjoy. The character of the Wikkeling helped lead me backwards to that, and it’s one of the themes I hope to return to in future books (leading to your next question. . . ).

 There are so many wonderful elements you could continue to explore from this book, especially from The Bestiary and Rose's library :) Are there any plans for a sequel?

When I finished writing The Wikkeling, I was nearly buried in unincluded material—character ideas, backstory, future plot developments (my own Middle Earth it seemed to me at the time), and I remain very interested in it, and am still developing it. I’d love to publish more of Hernietta’s exploits if it turns out there’s an audience!

Now for the review:
On my ARC The Wikkeling has the following Subject Categories: Juvenile Science Fiction, Fantasy &Magic; Social Issues/Friendship. This book incorporates all these elements and more.

Henrietta is  a cog in a futuristic consumer driven, results oriented society that just doesn't fit. Her days are filled with slight infractions that earn her detention, school errors lower her classmates productivity and a family unit that from the outside seems perfect but is riddled with things unsaid. All that changes when a wounded Wild House Cat finds its way into her attic. Around the same time she receives a mysterious book from Al her grandmothers husband, its a Bestiary, an actual physical book weathered with age that catalogues a variety of creatures never imagined existed.

As she treats the cat Henrietta also begins to notice a strange creature hovering around herself and two of her classmates Rose and Gary. As the three form a friendship the creatures presence increases in their lives so much so that he disrupts the electronics of her school during an important test.

I really enjoyed how Steven keep the story flowing while also inserting little bits that comment on the state of this future world in which the children live.

The Wikkeling itself? himself? is a terrifying creature! A technological nightmare slowly begins to enter Henrietta's world despite the protection of her Cat companion and mysterious attic.

Daniela's art is a wonderful complement to the story. The gorgeously illustrated pages of the bestiary along with the wonderful Black and White illustrations add to the overall atmosphere of the novel. I loved the novels resolution and really would like to see these characters again.



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