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Spirits in the Wires

Spirits in the Wires

4.4 13
by Charles de Lint

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At a popular Newford online research and library Web site called the Wordwood, a mysterious crash occurs. Everyone visiting the site at the moment of the crash vanishes from where they were sitting in front of their computers. Christy Ridding's girldfriend Saskia disappears right before his eyes, along with countless others.

To rescue their missing friends,


At a popular Newford online research and library Web site called the Wordwood, a mysterious crash occurs. Everyone visiting the site at the moment of the crash vanishes from where they were sitting in front of their computers. Christy Ridding's girldfriend Saskia disappears right before his eyes, along with countless others.

To rescue their missing friends, Christy and his companions must journey into Newford's otherworld, where the Wordwood, it transpires, has a physical presence of its own...

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“De Lint ... handles his concept of technological voodoo with intelligence, verve and wit while introducing fascinating new characters and expanding on old ones.... Will please previous fans and find new ones for this master of the modern fantastic.” —Publishers Weekly

“Superb characterization and plot development skills.” —Booklist

Romantic Times
"A commentary on our increasingly computerized lives, a gorgeous love story, and a heroic fantasy bundled into one masterwork of fiction."
The Barnes & Noble Review
The mysteries inhabiting the World Wide Web are the focus of Charles de Lint's Newford novel Spirits in the Wires.

When a popular, literature-related research web site called the Wordwood crashes, everyone visiting the site -- including popular author Christy Riddell's girlfriend, Saskia Madding -- suddenly vanishes. Now her friends must somehow find her before it's too late.

It all starts when Aaran Goldstein, the mean-spirited book editor for The Daily Journal, has his fragile ego bruised by Christiana Tree, Riddell's mysterious, independent shadow-self -- made up of all the parts of his personality that he cast out when he was a child. To get back at the strange woman who slighted him, Goldstein blackmails a hacker to send a virus to one of Christiana's favorite web sites. Little does Goldstein know the web site is actually a powerful sentient spirit; and when the virus is downloaded, a bizarre chain of events causes hundreds of people to be sucked into the otherworld of the Internet.

Spirits in the Wires is de Lint at his absolute best, and it will keep him firmly entrenched at the vanguard of urban fantasy. De Lint not only expands upon the intriguing technological themes he touched on in previous short stories ("Saskia" and "Pixel Pixies") but digs deeper into the complex psyche of Riddell through the characters Saskia and Christiana. It was a pleasure to revisit beloved characters like used-book dealer Holly Rue and blues guitarist Robert Lonnie and to be introduced to new favorites like mall-rat Mother Crone and Web-born Suzanne Chancey. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
Canadian author De Lint follows up 2001's triumphant The Onion Girl with another fine novel dually based in the fictitious city of Newford and a magical otherworld, where spirits of faerie and folklore occupy modern technology and cyberspace is a fantasy realm in which imagination fuels artificial intelligence. When a virus crashes Wordwood, a Web site existing in an "impossible limbo in between computers," a lot of people disappear, including Saskia Madding, girlfriend of perennial Newfordian character Christy Riddell. Saskia literally sprang full-grown from a computer and was already suffering an identity crisis when sucked into oblivion. She escapes by taking up residence in the same body as Christiana Tree. The heroic Christiana, Christy's "shadow," must restore Saskia to her own body, sort out what happened to Wordwood, and figure out what can be done to save it and the rest of the spirit world from chaos. Meanwhile, Christy and a band of companions leave consensual reality and enter the Internet spirit world, seeking to save Wordwood and those who have gone missing. De Lint makes the binary tangible and handles his concept of technological voodoo with intelligence, verve and wit while introducing fascinating new characters and expanding on old ones. Not surprisingly, everyone eventually discovers that it doesn't matter where we come from but who we are that counts-but their journeys to that conclusion will please previous fans and find new ones for this master of the modern fantastic. (Aug. 28) FYI: De Lint's story collection Moonlight and Vines (1999) won a World Fantasy Award. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Claiming that she was born in the web site known as the Wordwood, Saskia Madding strikes up a friendship with Christiana Tree, who believes herself to be the shadow twin of writer Christy Riddell, a resident of the Canadian town of Newford. When a sudden disruption of the Internet results in Saskia's abrupt disappearance, her friends search for her and other vanished site visitors in the otherworld that exists beyond the normal reality of Newford. Over the years, de Lint's Newford novels and short stories (The Onion Girl; Moonlight and Vines) have attracted a sizable following of fans of literate and thoughtful urban fantasy. His latest work combines world mythologies with cyberculture to produce a new vision of interwoven realities. Highly recommended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Newford Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

First Meeting

Don't make of us

more than we are,

she said.

We hold no great secret


"Arabesque" (Moths and Wasps, 1997)

Christiana Tree

"I feel as if I should know you," Saskia Madding says as she approaches my chair.

She's been darting glances in my direction from across the café for about fifteen minutes now and I was wondering when she'd finally come over.

I saw her when I first came in, sitting to the right of the door at a window table, nursing a tall cup of chai tea. She'd been writing in a small, leather-bound book, fountain pen in one hand, the other holding back the spill of blonde hair that would otherwise fall into her eyes. She looked up when I came in and showed no sign of recognition, but since then she's been studying me whenever she thinks I'm not paying attention to her.

"You do know me," I tell her. "I'm pieces of your boyfriend—the ones he didn't want when he was a kid."

She gives me a puzzled look, though I can see a kind of understanding start up in the back of those pretty, sea-blue eyes of hers.

"You—are you the woman in his journals?" she asks. "The one he calls Mystery?"

I smile. "That's me. The shadow of himself."

"I didn't… "

"Know I was real?" I finish for her when her voice trails off.

She shakes her head. "No. I just didn't expect to ever see you in a place like this."

"I like coffee."

"I meant someplace so mundane."

"Ah. So you've made note of all those romantic flights of fancy he puts in those journals of his." I close my eyes, shuffling through pages of memory until I find one of them. "'I can see her standing among the brambles and thorns of some half-forgotten hedgerow in a green bridal dress, her red hair set aflame by the setting sun, her eyes dark with mysteries and stories, a wooden hare's mask dangling from one languid hand. This is how I always see her. In the hidden and secret places, her business there incomprehensible yet obviously perfectly suited to her curious, evasive nature.'"

I get a smile from Saskia, but I don't know if it's from the passage I've quoted, or because I'm mimicking Christy's voice as I repeat the words.

"That's a new one," she says. "He hasn't read it to me yet."

"You wait for him to read them to you?"

"Of course. I would never go prying…" She pauses and gives me a considering look. "When do you read them?"

I shrug. "Oh, you know. Whenever. I don't really sleep, so sometimes when I get bored late at night I come by and sit in his study for awhile to read what he's been thinking about lately."

"You're as bad as the crow girls."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"Mmm." She studies me for a moment before adding, "You don't read my journals do you?"

I muster a properly offended look, though it's not that I wouldn't. I just haven't. Yet.

"I'm sorry," she says. "Of course you wouldn't. We don't have the same connection as you and Christy do."

"Does that connection bother you?"

She shakes her head. "That would be like being bothered by his having Geordie for a brother. You're more like family—albeit the twin sister who only comes creeping by to visit in the middle of the night when we're both asleep."

I shrug, but I don't apologize.

"I'm only his shadow," I say.

She studies me again, those sea-blue eyes of hers looking deep into mine.

"I don't think so," she says. "You're real now."

That makes me smile.

"As real as I am, anyway," she adds.

My smile fades as I see the troubled look that comes over her. I forget that her own exotic origins are no more than a dream to her most of the time—a dream that makes her uncomfortable, uneasy in her skin. I wish I hadn't reminded her of it, but she puts it away and brings the conversation back to me.

"Why won't you tell Christy your name?" she asks.

"Because that would let him put me in a box labeled 'This is Christiana' and I don't want to be locked into who he thinks I am. The way he writes about me is bad enough. If he had a name to go with it he might be able to fix it so that I could never change and grow."

"He does like his routines," she says.

I nod. "His picture's in the dictionary, right beside the word."

We share a moment's silence, then she cocks her a head, just a little.

"So your name's Christiana?" she asks.

"I call myself Christiana Tree."

That brings back a genuine smile.

"So that would make you Miss Tree," she says.

I'm impressed at how quickly she got it as I offer her my hand.

"In the flesh," I tell her. "Pleased to meet you."

"But that's only what you call yourself," she says as she shakes my hand.

"We all have our secrets."

"Or we wouldn't be mysteries."

"That, too."

She's been sitting on her haunches beside the easy chair I commandeered as soon as I'd picked up my coffee and sticky-bun from the counter, leaning her arms on one of the chair's fat arms. There's another chair nearby, occupied by a boy in his late teens with blue hair and razor-thin features. He's been listening to his Walkman loud enough for me to identify the music as rap, though I can't make out any words, and flipping through one of the café's freebie newspapers while he drinks his coffee. He gets up now and I give a vague wave to the vacant chair with my hand.

"Why don't you get more comfortable," I say to Saskia.

She nods. "Just let me get my stuff."

Some office drone in a tailored business suit, tie loose, top shirt button undone, approaches the chair while Saskia collects her things. I put my scuffed brown leather work boots up on its cushions and give him a sugar and icicle smile—you know, it looks sweet, but there's a chill in it. He's like a cat as he casually steers himself off through the tables and takes a hard-back chair at one of the small counters that enclose the café's various rustic wooden support beams, making it look like that's what he was aiming for all along.

Saskia returns. She drops her jacket on the back of the chair, puts her knapsack on the floor, and settles down, tea in hand.

"So, what were you writing?" I ask.

She shrugs. "This and that. I just like playing with words. Sometimes they become something—a journal entry, a poem. Sometimes I'm just following words to see where they go."

"And where do they go?"

"Anyplace and everyplace."

She pauses for a moment and has a sip of her tea, sets the cup down on the low table between us. Later I realize she was just deciding whether to go on and tell me what she now does.

"You know, we're like words," she says. "You and me. We're like ghost words."

I have to smile. I'm beginning to understand why Christy cares about her the way he does. She's a sweet, pretty blonde, but she doesn't fit into any sort of a tidy descriptive package. Her thinking's all over the place, from serious to whimsical, or even some combination of the two. I think I just might have a poke through her journals the next time I'm in their apartment and they're both asleep. I'd like to know more about her—not just what she has to say, but what she thinks when there's nobody supposed to be listening.

"Okay," I say. "I'll bite. What are ghost words?"

"They're words that don't really exist. They come about through the mistakes of editors and printers and bad proofreaders, and while they seem like they should mean something, they don't. Like 'cablin' for 'cabin,' say."

I see what she means.

"I like that word," I tell her. "Cablin. Maybe I should appropriate it and give it a meaning."

Saskia gives a slow nod. "You see? That's how we're like ghost words. People can appropriate us and give us meanings, too."

I know she's talking about our anomalous origins—how because of them, we could be victim to that sort of thing—but I don't agree.

"That happens to everybody," I tell her. "It happens whenever someone decides what someone is like instead of finding out for real."

"I suppose."

"You're thinking about all of this too much."

"I can't seem to stop thinking about it."

I study her for a long moment. It's worrying her, this whole idea of what's real and what isn't, like how you came into this world is more important than what you do once you're here.

"What's the first thing you remember?" I ask.

Copyright © 2003 by Charles de Lint

Meet the Author

Charles de Lint lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His evocative novels, including Moonheart, Memory and Dream, Forests of the Heart, and The Onion Girl, have earned him a devoted following and critical acclaim. In 2000, his story collection Moonlight and Vines won the World Fantasy Award.

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Spirits in the Wires 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Book editor Aaron Goldstein is irate by the slight he received from Christiana Tree, whose ¿birth¿ came when Christy turned seven and rejected parts of his personality. Already a nasty person, the angry Aaron forces a hacker to place a virus in Christiana¿s favorite website Wordwood. The repercussions of his actions go way beyond that of destroying a web locale, as Wordwood is a place that exists in that ethereal limbo between computers. Thus people vanish including Saskia Madding, the girlfriend of Christy Riddell.

Christiana feels that she has been assigned a quest to save Wordwood, find the lost souls, and relocate Saskia in her own body. To do this they must leave the realm of the generally accepted reality and enter the spirit ether of the Internet spirit world,

Charles De Lint is at his best with this incredible modern day fantasy that focuses on technological mumbo jumbo to computer illiterates like moi who feels that though it is weirdly impossible it works. The story line is loaded with action and intelligent characters that through the quest learn a key natural law that in a moral society; it is not one¿s genes, but what one does and how one behaves today that matters. This is a great work by the one of the top fantasy authors of the twenty-first century.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't read too much from this author, and only one of the books I read was Newford-related. Still, I loved this one. The premise was creative and well-executed, and the characters were likeable and believable for the most part. The writing was excellent, which is something I remember from the author's other books. It took a little while to get into this book, but once things picked up, I was hooked. Definitely worth a look.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is pretty good, a bit of a stretch at some points, but hey, fiction does require you to suspend belief. My problem is why so many typos in the e-book version? I have noticed this in several e-books. We get charged premium prices for very shoddy editing. There are very noticeable typos in headers, in the beginning of paragraphs, words misspelled, on and on ... it is really disgusting and makes the book a much more difficult read. I really think e-book readers are getting screwed. And we have no recourse other than this type of review, which should be saved for the fiction .. not the typesetting.
R-Snick More than 1 year ago
I've only recently discovered Charles de Lint and I have been so taken with his books that I've voraciously read all of his that I can get my hands on. Until I recently finished this little tale. It's first chapters were intriguing, I had read of Saskia in Moonlight & Vines and thought the story between her and Christy compelling. But then the plot line soon took a nosedive and it. would. not. pick. up. I forced myself to keep reading, believing that maybe the ending would make up for the otherwise lackluster performance (Forests of the Heart, anyone?). And it didn't. The ending was fair, but didn't make up for the yawns. The book was good enough. It passed the time, though often I forced it to. It deserves three stars; not good enough to recommend to a friend. Of course, this will not quell my fascination with de Lint and his books. Now I realize he's just human.
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Millie_Hennessy More than 1 year ago
Despite not having read about many of the Newford gang (except Jilly in The Onion Girl), I really enjoyed this book and didn't feel lost among the references to the past that the characters have shared. As usual, when I read a de Lint book, I want to believe that there is more to life than just "The World As It Is," and that there's some secret magic waiting just beyond what I can see. I enjoyed de Lint's take on the internet being a place inside the spirit world, and that it's inhabited by spirits that seek to gain what they can in the form of devotions from people who use certain sites. The mainline of the story follows Christy Riddle and his shadow Christiana as they quest to find Saskia, Christy's girlfriend, who was sucked into cyberspace when a virus hit a site she was visiting. The point of view varies each chapter, following a different character, and I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the action, though at times I think the real sense of urgency was lacking. As usual I enjoyed de Lint's descriptions and his refrences to a mix of folklore. The idea that characters of books can come to life in the spirit world is especially appealing.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down! As CdL says, he goes more in depth of something he's previously touched before: The Wordwood. I *loved* this book. I think this should rate higher than current no. 7 on CdL's list. I think it may have captured a bonus audience that CdL previously did not have, those of you who are into a little tech. My only complaints? I was disappointed that Jilly, main character of 'The Onion Girl,' wasn't followed up on. (That one had really left me wanting more.) Also, there was one character who kept bothering me (Aaron), not for the lack of trust as most of the characters felt towards him, but for being the show-off male on a gone-good strike.