Posts Tagged ‘many waters’

Time Quintet Re-read: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

I want to begin by saying that I have a paperback copy from 1981, and Charles Wallace has an epically bad late-70s/early-80s haircut on the cover.

Let’s see. Having read this now, I don’t think I’ve read it before. I can remember, probably at least a decade ago, searching through used book stores and rummage sales in search of A Swiftly Tilting Planet because I had the other three books and not this one, but apparently I never actually read the book once I finally acquired it. Go me.

I did like it, though. I thought it made a good continuation from A Wind in the Door with the Echthroi and the upping of the stakes (though I continue to be uncertain how IT and dark planets connect, and there’s no mention of either in this book). I liked how small changes throughout history–even just in a few families’ lines–can turn a potential bad event into a good one.

There were some things I found infuriating, however. Whenever Charles Wallace was Within, he essentially disappeared. We know, from the narration, that his being Within changed something in the time, just a little, to get a more positive outcome over a negative one, to swing the balance, but you have no idea what it was. For example, in the colonial period, where Zylle was being tried as a witch, I assume in the original time line she was burned and so forth, but I couldn’t tell you why it went differently with Charles Wallace. After being Within Madoc, Charles Wallace asks if he gave Madoc the rune, but this wouldn’t have been true in later times because the rune was passed down through the families. So I would have liked just a hint of what changed with Charles Wallace there, what he brought into the equation that hadn’t been there before.

And with most of the times, I could guess at what had changed, but the one with Beezie and Chuck…I have no idea. Sometimes it seemed like most of the point of being there was to get bits of the story, leading up to the final Within, the one that directly determined whether it would be a good or bad future, the one with Matthew Maddox, but then, it was a bit of a false lead-up, because we didn’t get any more insight into what Charles Wallace did to help there than we did elsewhere.

I can see why she went back and set Many Waters  between this and A Wind in the Door. It’s been nine years, and you have to wonder what happened in that time period, why, after two encounters with dark forces in two years, that they’d gone so long without another.

On the other hand, you have unicorns in both this book and Many Waters, and they don’t quite work the same. Gaudior is an intelligent being, who can talk and think and so forth. While the unicorns in Many Waters can also travel through space and time, they don’t seem to be intelligent at all, and don’t really exist when they’re not there. I’m not sure why she chose to have unicorns in both but not be consistent with them.

Sandy and Dennys seem a bit out of character here if you take the events of Many Waters into account. Which is always a risk in backtracking your characters.

Calvin continues to not really be much help.


1. Madeleine L’Engle has always been a bit vague about when and where the Time Quintet takes place, sometimes leaving contradictory clues. Based on this book alone, what would you say the when and where is?

2. Is it right for Charles Wallace to push people towards decisions that they would not have made on their own? Why or why not?

3. What is gained by having Meg kythe along for the journey?

4. What do you think the title means?

5. Why do you think it’s necessary to have time pass in the present while Charles Wallace and Gaudior are off riding the wind through time?

As always, your own questions and comments are welcome. And we’ll read our final book, An Acceptable Time, for December 27th.

Time Quintet Re-read: Many Waters

Hopefully no one got confused (like Ian *cough*) and read A Swiftly Tilting Planet instead. While Planet was published before Many Waters, Many Waters goes first chronologically.

I still like it a lot. Bible mythology is one of my very favorite mythologies. I’ve done a lot of research on it myself, so it’s always nice to see it used (and used properly) in a story. My one real complaint is that she uses “nephilim” here to essentially be synonymous with “fallen angel,” whereas the term is usually used to describe human/angel offspring. But the nephilim are generally described as giants, and I like how she’s made them (and the seraphim) so much taller than the people. Also, one of the reasons God creates the flood is to destroy the nephilim, so hoorah to her for incorporating that.

Things I like about this story: the world. I like that she’s integrated these creatures that are mythological into the normal world. Unicorns and manticores and griffins – things that exist in stories but could have, conceivably, been destroyed in the flood. And I like that she made the people much smaller. We know that people used to be shorter, even as little as a few hundred years ago, so it makes sense, and it’s nice that she makes it so it’s hard to tell when exactly they are.

And I want a pet mammoth.

I also like the fact that while it is a retelling of a biblical story, it is not a religious story. There is some good vs. evil, like in the entire series, but aside from the fact that God (“El” here, which is also great, more on that in a second) actually talks to people and angels, there’s not a lot of morality that you’re hit over the head with.

Plotwise, this book seems completely stand alone, unconnected to the other books. First of all, we’ve got Sandy and Dennys as the main characters, when they’ve been merely peripherals otherwise, and there’s no mention of dark planets or Echthroi. Aside from the mention of tessering and some discussion of quantum physics, the scientific aspects are barely mentioned here.

Calling God “El” here is a wonderful move, because “el” literally means God. This is why the angels are named things like MichaEL (who is like God), GabriEL (strong man of God), RaphaEL (God has healed), etc. So not only is it an actual translation of God, but it makes things obvious without brow-beating.

Okay, onto the questions, and have Planet ready to go for November 29th.

1. How do you think disrupting their father’s computer program manages to result in actual tessering?

2. Do you think the twins were meant to go to that time period? Why?

3. Would you consider THIS to be a religious book? More or less than Wrinkle?

4. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle decided to move away from Meg/Calvin/Charles Wallace for this story?

5. Most of the creatures on or around the oasis are mythological or are nephilim/seraphim in disguise. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle included the mammoths but not any other extinct creatures?

As always, your own comments and questions are welcome.