Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds

Wow. It has been a while since I reviewed a book on this blog. I’ve read a lot of good ones along the way. However, for whatever reason, none of them compelled me to write a blog post. There were a few I wanted to, but the words just didn’t come. Then Afterworlds came along. Something about this book is so. . .unique, it just had to be written about.

To begin with, it’s important that we realize that Afterworlds is actually two books in one. It is part Afterworlds, a novel written by fictional 18-year old Darcy Patel, and part the story of Darcy becoming a published author. These two stories are told in alternating chapters.

I won’t bore you with the details of either story, because, quite frankly, they’re good, but not the most interesting part of this book. The most interesting part is reading and watching Scott Westerfeld wield his pen and do magical things with this book.

First off, there’s the fact that the story-within-the-story is written by an 18-year old girl named Darcy, not a 51-year old man named Scott (who actually wrote the story). It’s also not only Darcy’s first published novel, but she wrote it in a month, and has spent a year revising it. I don’t know how he does it (probably because the man is a genius), but Westerfeld manages to create a novel (Darcy’s Afterworlds) that a publisher would take a chance on, but also reads like a debut novel from a teenage girl. By itself, it may not get a second glance from me, but the story is interesting.

Okay, I mentioned the story; perhaps I should talk about it a bit. The story of Darcy’s novel is of a girl named Lizzie (and yes, the fact that a girl named Darcy wrote about a girl named Elizabeth is addressed in the book). Lizzie is in an airport when 4 gunmen come in shooting up the place. A 911 operator suggests she play dead, so she does. Lizzie then discovers that she can sort of pass through between worlds — the overworld where we all live, and the afterworld where we go when we die. The story goes from there, there’s some paranormal romance type stuff going on, and she’s faced with difficult decisions along the way. You know, kind of like a debut novel from a teenage girl would read.

Then there’s the other half of Scott Westerfeld’s novel. The story of Darcy herself. As someone who has often been intrigued by the publishing world, I find this story fascinating. Darcy decides to postpone her freshman year of college to move to NYC and work on both Afterworlds and the sequel. She deals with her editor, her agent, and fellow writers. She finds love, and deals with being a young adult in the big city.

In this story, I can see Scott Westerfeld’s experience coming through. His experience as an author in the publishing world is evident, as he has been through the ins and outs of this process many times. Reading this book felt at many times like a veteran pulling up the curtain and poking a flashlight around for everyone to see what really goes on backstage. His experience as a writer comes through in ways I didn’t fully anticipate.

I have never written a book. I have a few I’ve started, but none I’ve seen all the way through. I imagine, though, that if I write a book and have it published, I would love to tell my readers certain things to look for — little pieces that I’m particularly proud of or that took a lot of effort on my part. Darcy, through Scott Westerfeld, gets this opportunity.

By telling us Darcy’s story of getting the book published, Scott Westerfeld can guide our thoughts on the book. We can see the connection between a ghost in Darcy’s book and a “ghost” from Darcy’s mom’s past. We can see how much work has gone in to the ending, so we will read it more eagerly, knowing what could have happened, or what was an earlier draft. We can even keep an eye out for a few words to make their appearance, as Darcy mentions they’d be good to use. How often does an author get to do this? Never. Never times. It’s a unique look into the mind of an author as she is creating the book — even if it is all entirely fictional.

That is the mastery of this book, and that is the genius of Scott Westerfeld.

I give this book a rating of 5 out of 5 fish, just for the flawless execution of the dual story-telling.
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2 thoughts on “Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

  1. Hi Brian.

    After reading several of your reviews on the Wyz Reads blog, I think you might enjoy my newly (self) published YA fiction novel, during your next review cycle. Your review of “Afterworlds” by Scott Westerfeld displayed the depth of insight that I am seeking for an early reviewer.

    My book, Perfect Imperfection, centers around the adventures of a not-too-smart, over-weight young man with a receding hairline who stumbles onto and into a secret benevolent society of scientists, called Perfect Imperfection or PI. With assistance PI’s accelerated learning and artificial intelligence technologies, Billings trains to become a virtual secret agent that helps humanity in the face of accelerating scientific, ecological and social evolution. The antagonist, Blackbeard, an elite black hat hacker, employs cutting-edge tech to land the biggest score of his career. An epic virtual game of cat and mouse ensues, with everything in the balance.

    I’ve tried to give hope to the reader despite the path the world is on, that there is a way to save us. The point behind the story is to show we can overcome the trivialness of our imperfections, be they physical, social, intelligence or economic. I will donate all profits of the book to causes that are consistent the book’s key themes.

    Brian, by way of introduction, my name is S. E. Gould, and I’m a recovering software entrepreneur and corporate finance executive, looking to spend the best part of my life writing fiction that may help inspire the world to choose a better path.

    If you are interested in reviewing, I am happy to send you a paperback version. Lastly, if you want an interview or run a giveaway for your followers, I can help you out there as well. If you are on a reviewing pause, please keep me in mind when you restart. I appreciate your consideration.

    Regards,

    S. E. Gould

  2. I finished Afterworlds just before I opened my email to your post. I LOVED this book – the wonderful Darcy, the inside scoop on the YA writing world, the story within a story, the relationships – ALL of it. And it makes me want to be a writer.

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