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Past the Size of Dreaming
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Ace Books, 342 pages

Past the Size of Dreaming
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Nina Kiriki Hoffman's other work -- either on her own or with other authors -- includes Body Switchers from Outer Space (R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street, No 14), Child of an Ancient City, Echoes (Star Trek Voyager, No 15), I Was a Sixth-Grade Zombie (Ghosts of Fear Street, No 30), The Silent Strength of Stones, Why I'm Not Afraid of Ghosts (R.L. Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street, No 23), Body Switchers from Outer Space (Ghosts of Fear Street, No 14), Why I'm Not Afraid of Ghosts (Ghosts of Fear Street, No 23) and The Thread That Binds the Bones.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Red Heart of Memories

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Regina Lynn Preciado

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I've been a Nina Kiriki Hoffman fan since the Weird Tales issue devoted to her in the mid-1990s, and I don't even like short stories. Her short-short work "Valentine" still remains vivid in my mind -- I could probably recite it from memory, given enough Scotch. I've read The Thread That Binds the Bones and The Silent Strength of Stones more than once and vowed to purchase any novel she publishes. Imagine my shock when I discovered that Past the Size of Dreaming is a sequel (to A Red Heart of Memories) and that I had missed the publication of the first book!

I went ahead with Past the Size of Dreaming anyway, deciding to test the novel on its own merits rather than part of a greater whole, which might be why I have mixed feelings about it. I recommend reading A Red Heart of Memories first. Past the Size of Dreaming doesn't recap the previous story or go into an extensive history for each character. I had to just accept that Edmund used to be volatile and that Matt had indeed been homeless. Luckily for me, I'm not very demanding -- I took their words for it.

Past the Size of Dreaming picks up about 15 years after A Red Heart of Memories left off, with Edmund and Matt (Matilda) Black partners in life and in the search for Edmund's old friends, all of whom have their own magic. As adults, each member of the group has changed at least as drastically as Edmund has. Julio in particular causes quite a stir when they finally locate him, and while Terry can't resist sneaking a spell on Matt, it lacks the depth of meanness she exhibited in the past. Tasha's metamorphosis into a creature of Air adds a touch of gentle humor. Even Nathan the ghost has grown up.

Edmund and Matt soon find that their compulsion to get the group together again is not solely out of nostalgia. House, the haunted dwelling that opened them to magic in the first place, has plans that require the combined power of all the (former) children. Meanwhile, Julio's nemesis Dominic Cross has returned, stronger and with creepy hench-creatures to send after the gang.

The danger doesn't feel quite threatening enough to label Past the Size of Dreaming an adventure story. Instead, the relationships among the characters, and the self-knowledge each gains from the external and internal challenges they face, take precedence over any battles or chase scenes. That's not to say that the gang doesn't encounter horrors. They're just not of the blood-and-guts kind. The subtlety of the more frightening aspects of the story is one of Hoffman's signatures -- and greatest strengths -- as a writer.

She certainly deserves the praise that other fantasy greats have heaped on her. Her prose manages to be lyrical and unusual without overshadowing the story; her characters are wounded, flawed, and offbeat, and display a resilience and reality about them that you can't help but admire. She directs her large cast with an even hand so that you don't forget who is who, or which experience happened to which witch as a child. I did find it awkward when Matt came into the story and seemed to become its focus, but that most likely comes from not having read A Red Heart of Memories first. Hoffman, like Peter Beagle, avoids the grim tone that many other writers use for their urban fantasy tales. I hope she gives us a third installment!

Copyright © 2002 Regina Lynn Preciado

Regina Lynn Preciado lives in a converted barn in Los Angeles with her dog Jedi and a hummingbird-sized Sphinx Moth, Mothra.


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