The Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones – This book adapts the idea of gods playing games with mankind, except here they’re not really gods, but demonic beings known as Them who banish anyone who interferes with their games to wander from one world to another. Prometheus, the Wandering Jew, and the Flying Dutchman are all involved in the story, but the main protagonist is a boy who teams up with a cranky female mage and a powerful demon hunter. How these people eventually manage to get the better of Them is a clever story. Not my favorite of Jones’s works, but quite engaging.
A Wizard Abroad, by Diane Duane – Nita’s parents send her to stay with her aunt in Ireland to get her away from her partner Kit for a little while, but her vacation turns out to be more complicated than her everyday life. She meets a cat that’s also a bard, struggles with her feelings for an Irish wizard named Ronan who is unwillingly playing host to the Archangel Michael, and helps to save the world from an invasion by the Fomori. The story of Lugh’s struggle with Balor is significant to the plot here, and many figures from Celtic mythology show up. It’s a little slow in parts, but the mythological references made it an enjoyable read for me.
The Witches of Chiswick, by Robert Rankin – This is only the second book by Rankin that I’ve read, but I’d definitely like to read some more. I understand that this book’s characters of Hugo Rune, Otto Black, and Barry the Sprout all appear in Rankin’s other works, although the details provided about them aren’t always consistent from one book to another. I could probably have benefited from reading the earlier books first, but it’s no big deal. Rankin’s writing is a sort of comedy that involves a lot of meta-humor, with the author’s constantly acknowledging how little sense the plot makes. He also relies a good deal on jokes about the suburbs of London, and I’ve never even been to England, so I probably missed some of the humor there. Overall, though, I quite liked it. The plot involves a young man named Will Starling from a dystopian twenty-third century Brentford, who inadvertently stumbles onto the fact that advanced technology existed in Victorian Britain. After escaping a Terminator-style robot from the past, Will travels back in time and .meets up with the eccentric but charismatic magician Hugo Rune, as well as such significant personages as Sherlock Holmes, H.G. Wells, and the Elephant Man. Also involved are Jack the Ripper, a Martian invasion, a plot by a group of witches led by Otto Black, and Will’s alternate self from a different future. Yes, it’s complicated, but in a fun way that makes it not matter how hackneyed or just plain weird some of it is, and how many cop-outs there are.