Jessica's Reviews > The Homeward Bounders

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
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's review
Feb 08, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, wee-ones-and-bored-teenagers
Recommended for: D&D dorks, the children i love (not necessarily in that order)
Read in January, 1989

** spoiler alert ** Haven't read this one in years either, but thinking tonight about how much I love Diana Wynne Jones and remember this being another one of my favorites (not as good as Fire & Hemlock, though). This Diana Wynne Jones woman is a frikkin' GENIUS. IMO these are the greatest kids' books EVER WRITTEN. This one starts out when this kid who lives in some sort of strange time and place that never actually existed stumbles upon a group of Them (Them being hooded, sinister gamers who are possibly among the most haunting figures in kid lit due to horrific combination of general creepiness and very disturbing model of cruel and indifferent gods). They catch the kid spying on Them while they're playing, and as punishment cast him out into a collection of alternate worlds, which it turns out are all these alternate realities manipulated by Them, as Their form of amusing game. Because the kid discovered the players behind the curtain, he is forced to become a Homeward Bounder, doomed to scramble around between the worlds, trying to find his way back to his own home. As the story goes on, you start to get the feeling this might be trickier than originally thought, as the kid begins to encounter other Homeward Bounders, including the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew, who have been at this homeward bounding for quite some time.....


It is not just about how she blends traditional legends and mythology with her own crazy made-up ideas and recurring worlds/characters (I was probably 14 before I realized Guy Fawkes Day was not Jones's own invention -- whoopsie!). It is also about her ability to write this chaotic, artistic, meaningful literature for children. At the end of this book (I'm spoiling here! So lookout!), the characters suddenly confront the significance of the anchors that They use throughout the book as a sort of symbol. This is a really important point in the plot, because it's only then that the protagonist has the revelation that "hope is an anchor" -- that is, that hope and faith in the future is a prison, a deceptive trap being used to enslave the Homeward Bounders and to keep in place the nefarious system of worlds They've established.

Isn't that SO COOL??? Okay, maybe I wouldn't consider that such a profound message if I found it in a grownup book I'd be reading today, but for kids' fantasy fiction, that is some pretty heady stuff, am I right??! Hope is an anchor! It keeps you in chains! The way to become liberated is to abandon all your hopes and optimistic expectations, as only then you can really be free!!! That is just such a terrific message for kids to learn early on, especially in such a very lovely and entertaining format.

GOD I love this writer. I wish I could meet her someday, but I don't really know what I would say. I've got to go back and read these all again, but they're all at my mom's in California, and if my lovely out-of-print/first-edition hardcovers got lost in the mail, I'd have a terrible nervous breakdown for sure and never recover.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by matthew (new)

matthew it's funny how often you invoke god, in this review (count every instance of the combination of the three letters - such combination is of import). i remember you remembering (and this, too, is significant, later) this to me. it's gnosticism. the grown-up analogue (yet more) is crowley's aegypt series, and it lives up to everything she did, in this... and and and (because it's grown-up? i don't know. not all of it is...). i read, and came to love dwj, because of you; please grant me the boon of attempting jc (though it's harder - perhaps even harder for you, lacking my peculiar erudition [emphasis on peculiar, this not being a jab at you, or an exaltation of me {not being james lipton's - isn't that insane?! - lump of larks, insofar as i know}... after all, your coptic may stand you in good stead]). i haven't yet completed the last of the novels in the series, and i've read at least one disappointed review from a person who did (though she admitted the ride was worth it), but i BELIEVE. i've never loved a john crowley book, in any way, as i've loved the three and a half (so far) that make up this series (i've always felt cheated, or stupid, in fact). he, unlike gene wolfe, does repeat his clues (harold bloom loves them both. gene wolfe, worshipper at his shrine that i am, delights, i feel [but he's a catholic, of sorts], too much in the mystery of his mystery cult, and though i'm an adherent, thereto, a thing may be carried too far [repeated readings, howe'er, are demanded, though , and what else have i to do?]). i don't even feel i've properly - even so far as punctuation goes - expressed this correctly. please read john crowley's "the solitudes" (or know that the edition put out as "aegypt" was meant to be called that. that's important. the chapter names are important. their order is important...). this comment took me hours to write and proof, and i'm still not convinced it's correct.

message 2: by Monica (new) - added it

Monica Oooh boy! How old do you have to be to read Homeward Bounders? Not a joke, I'm wondering about my little pal back in NY...

Jessica Matthew: I think it will take me hours to read and understand this comment. Is there a specific book you're telling me to read? If I have to know Coptic, forget it. I never made it past first year Attic Greek.... I'm glad you came to love DWJ! Really, really glad!

Monica: Not sure. Probably around nine? I'm bad at guessing this stuff. It's an intermediate-level chapter book. I'd imagine a kid who reads Harry Potter could get into DWJ, though not having actually read any Harry Potter and not having any kids around me these days, I really can't be sure...

Sorry I can't be more helpful, M&M!

message 4: by matthew (last edited Mar 13, 2009 01:24AM) (new)

matthew the comment was written under the influence of (among other things) the series i was attempting to get you to read, which is insanely involute, and, yet, on the surface, for the most part, much easier to understand than the comment itself (i blame the other things). the series is john crowley's aegypt tetralogy, which begins with "the solitudes" (his preferred title for it, though it was also released as "aegypt"). having finished the series, i don't know if i can, in good conscience, recommend it, except for the sheer beauty of its style. i didn't truly feel the last book satisfying, but it may just be that i failed to understand it (and as crowley repeats, throughout, john dee's injunction, "qui non intelligit aut taceat aut discat." ["he who does not understand should either be silent or learn.":], maybe i should keep quiet). still, it really is a wonder, even with the final book. i'd think it only a wonder for me, because of its specifically weird erudition (concerning hermeticism), if it wasn't almost universally praised by, y'know, important people. maybe take a peek at it. i was also trying to point out that "the homeward bounders" seems, essentially, to be gnosticism (which crowley goes into, as well) for kids.

the funny thing about dwj is that the book that all the critics seem to love, "the tough guide to fantasyland", doesn't move me at all, though i know i understand it. i'm glad you're glad, though.

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