Sometimes the Sky Calls: The Auralia Thread

I was on an airplane en route to New Zealand when I finally arrived at the conclusion to Jeffrey Overstreet's fantasy novel series The Auralia Thread. As I looked out my window after reading the final sentence of the last book The Ale Boy's Feast, I just happened to be coming out of a misty white fog similar to that which was described in the book, and the beautiful green shores of the North Island were just coming into view. It was breathtaking, and my spirit was uplifted by the perfect timing of these two journeys. Upon settling in Auckland, I found it fitting to celebrate with a good dinner at a restaurant called "The Shakespeare," for as the king in Hamlet called out "Give me some light!" I felt this is exactly what The Auralia Thread had done.

The series, in a nutshell, is about what happens in a fantasy world called The Expanse, when a young artist named Auralia is brought into a society called House Abascar where art, color and imagination are declared to be illegal. The first book, Auralia's Colors, introduces us to some of the main characters, sets up the history of Abascar and tells what happens to it when Auralia's colors are revealed. The other three books, Cyndere's Midnight, Raven's Ladder and The Ale Boy's Feast, follow the path of several other characters whose lives are impacted by Auralia's colorful artworks and how they are led on an exodus to find a new home. The entire epic tale is not always a "light read," for there are many characters, lots of interweaving storylines and many details of a deeply imagined world to keep track of. But the challenge was a welcome one, and it's a world I would love to swim around in again.

The language of the writing is deeply poetic, and shows a real love for the musicality of words and how they play together. There are many scenes which play out in a dream-like quality, where rather than spelling out a straight-forward description of where characters are in a scene, it often comes more into focus as things move along. Given that Overstreet is also a film critic and a connoisseur on the world of movies, this helps his novels unfold and play out in a very cinematic style, but not always in a typical Hollywood fashion. The cinematic quality of The Auralia Thread plays out more like scenes by film directors like Terence Malick or Hayao Miyazaki in their ethereal dream-like moments, or like Terry Gilliam or David Lynch in their quirky, intense and darker moments. Lynch's Twin Peaks has not, to my knowledge, been mentioned as a direct influence in any interviews with Jeffrey on these novels, but given the way he crafts the interweaving of so many characters, plot lines and twists, and the fact that he lives in the mysterious coffee-soaked culture of Seattle where The Black Lodge resides, in a subtle way I also felt this thread in those pages.

If The Auralia Thread were to be translated into film or any similar visual medium, it would have to be done with as little CGI as possible and rely more on practical effects, much like Pan's Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal (another direct influence on the books).  This would bring more symbolic resonance to elements of the story, where art is fashioned by materials and colors found in the natural world, and stone is shaped by craftsmen called "stonemasters" who work it with their hands. But even then, the text itself does not often spell out exactly what things should look like, as there are no illustrations (other than the cover art) and creatures and characters are not always described in full detail. They are rather suggested to us in a way that invites us in to realize them more in our imagination, which again, supports the dream-like manner in which scenes are described. And how does one begin to draw a dream they have had, in all its detail and fullness? The poetry of the language in which The Expanse is described already feeds the reader with plenty to work with, so a literal illustration seems almost peripheral. That being said, my imagination was ignited enough by the terrifying "viscorclaws" (living tree branches with deadly intentions behind them) that they worked their way into my sketchbooks...

All the while, supporting the poetic descriptions of creatures, settings and events, there is a beautiful and well-crafted story being told throughout the whole series. Like any good fantasy story, there are elements of humor and beauty balanced with plenty of suspense, violence, and heart-wrenching drama and tragedy. Overstreet fully believes in his world and especially in the characters who inhabit it, and if you have listened to him speak in interviews or the Kindlings Muse podcasts, you will find there are sprinklings everywhere of his own questions, passions and other artists, books or films that influenced the story to begin with. I recognized a few direct quotes from the likes of Madeline L'Engle woven into the text, as well as background characters named after his friends and colleagues. 

Another one of these influences is a song which, I believe when all things are considered, sums up the heart of The Auralia Thread. It is woven through its themes, into moments between characters, and its overall story about a deep longing for a world beyond. A keen eye will even spot some of its lyrics planted like seeds into the text itself. The entire song goes like this:

This looks familiar, vaguely familiar,
Almost unreal, yet, it's too soon to feel yet.
Close to my soul, and yet so far away.
I'm going to go back there someday.

Sun rises, night falls, sometimes the sky calls.
Is that a song there, and do I belong there?
I've never been there, but I know the way.
I'm going to go back there someday.

Come and go with me, it's more fun to share,
We'll both be completely at home in midair.
We're flyin', not walkin', on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings.

There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I'm going to go back there someday.
I'm going to go back there someday.

-by Paul Williams, I'm Going to Go Back There Someday (sung by Gonzo the Great in The Muppet Movie)

To see what I mean, I encourage you to add these four books to your collection and follow the thread to wherever it may lead you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this story to share. The Auralia Thread-novel is a good book and many best things are described in this book and the beautiful green shores of the North Island were just coming into view.Hence it give a nice feeling while reading. If you want essay related topic you can go for custom essay writing service will get better result.