24 March 2011


Character Connection 22

Read about Guy Gavriel Kay's Alessan
and other great characters
@ The Introverted Reader

Given all the "ethical animal" books I read (Hat tip to Birdie for the term!), it was only a matter of time before I shone the spotlight on a non-human character. I'm just surprised that it didn't turn out to be an animal!

This post also counts towards my participation in the "YA of the 80s and 90s" Reading Challenge.

So You Want to Be a Wizard
by Diane Duane

Kit looked confused. "Its name says that it came way out in space somewhere, and it has a mass equal to--to five or six blue-white giant stars and a few thousand-odd planets, and it emits all up and down the matter-energy spectrum, all kinds of light and radiation and even some subatomic particles . . ."

Nita stared at the light in growing disbelief. "Where's all your mass?" she asked. "If you have that much, the gravity should have crushed us up against you the minute you showed up."

(Elsewhere.) the light said off-handedly. (I have a singularity-class temporospatial claudication.)

"A warp," Nita whispered. "A tunnel through space-time. Are you a white hole?"

It stopped bobbing, stared at her as if she had said something derogatory. (Do I look like a white hole?)

We get the term white hole for the "cosmic gushers" of the universe because of the pre-coined and more familiar term black hole. While black holes will swallow anything and everything--including light--so that it seems to vanish completely, white holes do just the opposite: emitting matter and energy from a source that doesn't seem to exist. But this novel's white hole--nicknamed "Fred"--has a point about the name sounding derogatory: he doesn't look like a hole.

He looks more like a star--a very small one. His new human friends Nita and Kit can cup him close. He can also get very bright, like a spark from a firecracker, so they sometimes worry that others might see him. But as Fred soon discovers for himself, some people never notice magic even when it is flashing--that is, emitting--all over their faces. And it's not as if he limits himself to the boring part of the light spectrum.

One night, when he gets excited, he emits ultrashortwave radiation that produces an aurora over the whole town and makes Nita, who was right beside him, flouresce. Another day, when he breaks out in some cosmic cross between hiccups and burps, he starts emitting appliances, encyclopedias and automobiles. "Orderly" stuff, rather than his usual sub-atomic particles, because he is now in an orderly world. And his bemused reaction to Nita's television set? "[I'll] watch that funny box emit. Maybe I'll figure out what it's trying to get across."

It is this natural curiosity and bafflement at our orderly, man-made world that makes Fred so much fun. Until I read this story, I had no idea how tired I was of cosmic visitors who know more about the earth than we do. Fred is a real fish out of water who at first needs explanations for everything; but he also has a steep learning curve and soon gets the hang of being a guest in a strange world . . . although he doesn't stop being funny!

The best part is that Fred isn't there just for the novelty. As Nita's and Kit's wizard manuals assure them, everything that comes into their lives because of a spell, whether it was something they asked for or not, is something--or someone--they need. And in the end, Fred's contribution to their quest proves to be greater than anyone, even he, could have imagined at the beginning.

YA of the 80s and 90s Reading Challenge

Image Source: So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane


IntrovertedJen said...

Okay, you get the award for most original character! A star-ish kind of being that's funny? I'm hooked! I'll have to keep an eye out for this book!

Enbrethiliel said...


I hope you find it and enjoy it as much as I have, Jen! Fred is one of my favourite characters in the world. =D