The DWJ Project: The Game
This, like Wild Robert, is a shorter piece published on its own; I’d guess it’s a novella, in terms of length. Hayley, having disgraced herself to the grandparents who raised her, is sent to live with her numerous cousins, who play an unnamed and very odd game involving a realm known as the mythosphere.
. . . and I really can’t say much more than that without giving spoilers, because the story itself is so short.
I like The Game; I just wish — as I often do with DWJ’s pieces in this range — that it were longer. It doesn’t partake of the flaws that tend to weaken her actual short stories, but it also doesn’t have room to fully leverage the virtues of her novels. The concept of the mythosphere is nifty, but I want a whole novel exploring it; the brief glimpses we get here only make me wish for more.
And now, the spoilers!
I have to say, the mythology in this one is pretty obscure. I used to know my Greek mythology on a nationally competitive level — no really; I did NJCL for years — and I’m not sure I could have named all seven Pleiades on command, or recognized them in disguised form. The more famous characters, like Mercury and Jupiter, are almost wholly offstage, and the names are altered enough to make identification tricky. This does undercut things a little bit, since the story is so short; the note at the end, explaining who everybody is, has to do more of the heavy lifting than it should.
However, the mythosphere stuff is awesome. Hayley’s experience as a comet is a joy to read; I love how it combines both the image and the scientific reality, without acting like those two paradigms have to cancel each other out. I wish we got more exploration of that, not because it fails to stand as it is, but because there’s so much unused potential there. Some of it, admittedly, can’t be done in a novel; if the mythosphere incorporates not just stories from ancient religions but all stories, then presumably you can find a strand that will lead you to Frodo Baggins, or Superman, or Mickey Mouse. But I think you could do some fascinating things with comparative mythology, since the strands seem to be organized thematically.
I also liked the very DWJ-ish moment when Hayley realizes how long she’s been living with her grandparents, without ever being allowed to grow up. Pleone isn’t nearly as abusive as some of the other parental figures wandering around her ouevre, but she definitely belongs in that camp.
Archer’s Goon is next! (I’ve actually finished reading it already; I’m just behind on posting.)