Saturday, July 08, 2006

Summerland - Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon's Summerland is a baseball-oriented book, which has always rather put me off reading it before as I know almost nothing about the game. However, I picked it up on a random trawl through the YA shelves at the library a few weeks ago, and finally got around to reading it this week. It's a terrific book - the baseball references actually didn't get in the way of the story, although a glossary of terms such as "double play" and "turn a swinging bunt into a gift triple on a bobble" would have helped ! But I still found the book hard to put down.

Ethan Feld is the main protagonist of Summerland and is known as "the worst ballplayer in the history of Clam Island"; Clam Island is just off the coast of Washington State. His team play on the Ian "Jock" MacDougal Regional Ball Field is on the one part of Clam Island where it never rains, Summerland. One day Ethan is recruited by an old Negro League scout, Ringfinger Brown, as a potential hero, rather than as a baseball player, to help to save the world from Ragged Rock (which is akin to the Norse end of the world, Ragnarok. A werefox named Cutbelly explains to Ethan that the universe is a great tree, known as the Lodgepole, which has four main branches, each of which is a worlds. A "shadowtail" like Cutbelly can leap from branch to branch to travel between three of the worlds - the Summerlands, the Winterlands, and our world (which is called the Middling). The fourth world was closed off thousands of years ago. When branches between worlds rub against each other, they form a gall and this acts like a wormhole between the two worlds. One day it rains on the baseball field and everyone knows something is going wrong, although only a few beings like Cutbelly, know just what is wrong. He tells Ethan that the rain is the work of Coyote, who is trying to destroy not just the galls, but the Lodgepole itself.

Then Ethan's inventor father is captured by Coyote, who wants to use Mr Feld's talents to poison the roots of the tree and bring an end to the universe. Ethan and his fellow Roosters players, Jennifer T. Rideout and Thor Wignutt, set out in the old family Saab (pulled by Ethan's father's zeppelin) across the worlds to rescue Mr Feld. They travel with two small Ferishers (who should not be called fairies), a gentle female Sasquatch named Taffy, and an undersized giant. They must play repeated games of baseball, the universal sport in all the worlds, against various groups in order to continue their journey to the Murmury Well, which they hope to reach before Coyote can poison it. It's a race against time to save the world, played at the speed of a baseball game.


fusenumber8 said...

It's one of the rare Americana fantasy books out there too.

Michele said...

Yes I gathered that from a couple of the reviews I read after I finished reading it and had written my review. At least one reviewer compared it to Harry Potter - which I felt was a mistake, because Chabon's book is on a different level to HP.

RC said...

to me the crime of this book is that it combines too many elements making it a not that enjoyable children's book or fantasy book to me.

--RC of

Michele said...

Really ? I didn't find that at all. I found it so enjoyable I'm going to buy a copy to re-read - and these days, that's a rare thing for me to do since I have so little space for books.

Harrison Boyle,Wallington said...

I think that Summerland was a great book! I would reccomend it to anyone who likes baseball or magical stories. I think that Michael Chabon is a great author and he really knows how to keep you reading. Also I think the characters are amazing, no one character is great unless he/she is working together with everyone else.