Thursday, February 4, 2016

Worlds within Worlds in Arcadia by Iain Pears

Shifting points of view do not always work well in fiction, but they work well in this complex tale, Arcadia. 

Pears creates four separate, yet overlapping, stories.
Readers must have patience, however, to see how the four separate threads of the story connect.

The first thread involves Henry Lytten, an Oxford don, who belongs to a writing group that resembles Inklings that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien founded. 

Rosie, who takes care of Lytten's cat, accidently finds a portal to his fantasy world, Anterwold. 

In another thread, several hundred years in the future, scientific researchers on the island of Mull are trying to find a mathematician who has disappeared with time travel technology that could change the world.

This mathematician, Angela Meerson, has disappeared into 1960s Britain. The threads of the story converge when Angela makes the acquaintance of Henry Lytten, the Oxford don responsible for creating Anterworld.

The scientists on Mull, led by Hanslip, consider Angela a criminal, a terrorist, and possibly insane. They send Alex Chang to the past to confront her, never suspecting that Angela and Alex Chang would become allies.

Another thread in the story involves Jay who has briefly seen Rosie through the portal. The people of the pastoral-like Anterwold believe this was foretold in the Story. Jay becomes a student of the well-respected scholar, Henary, largely because of his vision.

Jay and Rosie's story become briefly intertwined but then she disappears. A duplicate copy of herself returns to 1960s England while another version remains in Anterwold.

This complication disturbs Angela Meerson immensely as it could change the course of history; it could, in fact, doom the world to depopulation, nuclear war, and colonization.

Pears has created worlds that are each fascinating and dependent upon the other. His storytelling ability, however, is so great that readers never feel let down when they exit one world and enter another.