Cover image for Spirits in the wires
Spirits in the wires
De Lint, Charles, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, [2003]

Physical Description:
448 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A novel of myth and magic--on the streets and on the net"--Cover.

"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 24.0 78485.
Electronic Access:
Publisher description l
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Charles de Lint's Newford novels, loosely linked "tales" with overlapping characters set in an imaginary modern North American city, are tales of magic and myth afoot on today's city streets. But at the center of every de Lint story is the miracle of the human heart.And at the heart of Spirits in the Wires are Saskia Madding and Christiana Tree, both of whom are tied to perennial Newford character, the writer Christy Riddell. Are either Saskia or Christiana real? Christy's girlfriend, Saskia, believes she was born in a Web site, while Christiana is Christy's "shadow-self" - all the parts of him that he cast out when he was seven years old.At a popular Newford on-line 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. Saskia disappears right before Christy's eyes, along with countless others.Now Christy and his companions must journey into Newford's otherworld, where the Wordwood, it transpires, has a physical presence of its own... to rescue their missing friends and loved ones and to set this viral spirit right before it causes further harm.

Author Notes

Charles de Lint, an extraordinarily prolific writer of fantasy works, was born in the Netherlands in 1951. Due to his father's work as a surveyor, the family lived in many different places, including Canada, Turkey, and Lebanon. De Lint was influenced by many writers in the areas of mythology, folklore, and science fiction.

De Lint originally wanted to play Celtic music. He only began to write seriously to provide an artist friend with stories to illustrate. The combination of the success of his work, The Fane of the Grey Rose (which he later developed into the novel The Harp of the Grey Rose), the loss of his job in a record store, and the support of his wife, Mary Ann, helped encourage de Lint to pursue writing fulltime. After selling three novels in one year, his career soared and he has become a most successful fantasy writer.

De Lint's works include novels, novellas, short stories, chapbooks, and verse. He also publishes under the pseudonyms Wendelessen, Henri Cuiscard, and Jan Penalurick. He has received many awards, including the 2000 World Fantasy Award for Best Collection for Moonlight and Vines, the Ontario Library Association's White Pine Award, as well as the Great Lakes Great Books Award for his young adult novel The Blue Girl. His novel Widdershins won first place, Editors' Picks: Top 10 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2006. In 1988 he won Canadian SF/Fantasy Award, the Casper, now known as the Aurora for his novel Jack, the Giant Killer. Also, de Lint has been a judge for the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the Bram Stoker Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

With great enthusiasm, de Lint spins another tale of Newford, a twenty-first-century city that has access--sometimes very disturbing access--to what lies beyond the lands we know. The story is told by several narrators, including Saskia, who isn't sure where she came from but thinks she was born in a Web site, and Christiana Tree. Those two are linked to writer and Newport resident Christy Riddell, who has appeared in previous Newford books. Indeed, Christiana is Christy's shadow self, made up of personality traits he discarded at age seven. A strange crash occurs on the popular research site Wordwood, and everyone visiting the site at that moment disappears from in front of their screens. Christy and his comrades must then enter Newford's otherworld, in which Wordwood is physical, to rescue their friends and defeat the culpable virus. De Lint explores the notion that erstwhile spirits of forests and fields now inhabit the cables and other links of modern technology without slighting his customary superb characterization and plot development skills. --Frieda Murray Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



First Meeting Don't make of us more than we are, she said. We hold no great secret ... --SASKIA MADDING, "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’ 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 (c) 2003 by Charles de Lint ; Excerpted from Spirits in the Wires: A Novel of Myth and Magic-on the Streets and on the Net by Charles De Lint All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. 11
First Meetingp. 15
How We Were Bornp. 23
And Here We Arep. 67
The World Wide Web Bluesp. 73
Shadows in the Wordwoodp. 227
This, Too, Shall Passp. 407