SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Trader, Charles de Lint introduced Johnny Devlin, one of the darker characters living in his alternate Ottawa of Newford. In Someplace to be Flying, de Lint continues to explore the seedier side of Newford, opening his story with a mugging and murder near the Tombs.
Like so many of de Lint's characters, Hank Walker (a.k.a. Joey Bennett) is a marginal member of society. The mugging brings him in contact with Lily Carson, a freelance photographer trying to find the marginal and aboriginal animal people she was told about by de Lint's recurring Jack Daw. This is only the starting point, and de Lint's tale quickly expands to make major characters of a variety of Walker & Carson's friends, such as Rory Crowther, Moth, Maida and Zia and others. We quickly learn that many of these characters are, in fact, the animal people that Lily was looking for in the first place.
The early parts of the novel seem disjointed as de Lint seemingly goes off on tangents whenever he becomes interested in a new character, although some of the most interesting characters, such as Sean MacManus, the deli owner who serves what he thinks you want instead of what you order, appear on the scene for periods of time that are way too short. As the novel progresses, del Lint manages to tie their disparate stories together, both by expanding the action and using flashbacks. Furthermore, few of the main characters are what they seem upon first introduction.
Many of the characters are obviously the animal people: the crow girls, Cody, Ray, Raven and Jack, their names are usually indicative of what type of creature they are. Unfortunately, the animal people remain on center stage for far too long. One of the strengths of the supernatural creatures featured in de Lint's works is that they always remain somewhat mysterious and therefore interesting. In Someplace to Be Flying, de Lint has pulled away the curtain on their strangeness, allowing them to become full-blown characters. While this does strengthen them, it also weakens their otherness.
Someplace to Be Flying also contains a couple of mysteries. Foremost for de Lint is the mystery of Kerry's personality and identity. Kerry is a young girl who arrives in Newford to attend Butler University. She takes a room in a boarding house known as the rookery, which seems to house only animal people who have avian blood in them. Only recently released from a mental institution, Kerry is trying to cope with the world with very little experience or knowledge of her own background. Her search forms the glue that binds the characters together.
Loosely related to Kerry's quest is the realization that Lily's attack was not as random as it first appears, although why she was attacked and what her attackers are after remains a mystery throughout much of the book. A third mystery concerns a stripper who has been accused of murdering her abusive boyfriend. Peripheral to the main plot of the story, Hank's involvement in the murder case sheds light on Lily's plight and is one of the more interesting subplots.
Overall, Someplace to Be Flying is a good, typical Charles de Lint novel. Not as gripping as The Little Country or Memory and Dream, but still worth picking up and reading. His odd blend of native American and Celtic mythology seems a little contrived at times, however he does manage to carry it off well throughout this book and the earlier Newford stories.
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