As a child, I remember loving science fiction and that genre having the most profound effect on my understanding of the world. So when I heard there was a classic science fiction novel that won a Newbery, had three quirky guides that take some children across the galaxy to fight evil? I was sure it would become my new favorite story.
To my child's mind, it was the worst kind of science fiction. The kind where everybody was oh so clever and brilliant, using theories that sounded interesting, but never explaining them beyond that. I remember being so mad at the scene where the father tesseracts and nobody explains it. Yes, it's one thing to imagine a squaring of the fourth dimension, the theory made sense to my mind. And it makes sense for billions of year old entities that can change their bodies to do it. But how
is Mr. Murray able to do it? Simply understanding that we are made of atoms and largely empty space, that we are capable of traveling faster than light, doesn't suddenly give our bodies the ability to follow through.
I spent the entire time reading it and being peevishly disappointed at how little sense it made other than "we said so." Why couldn't Mrs Which come back and save them if she did it before. At least in other stories it becomes a matter of "humans must choose their own destiny or else the whole thing is forfeit" but here it seems just like a convenient excuse for the amazingly powerful beings to stay out of the way. And I remember being vexed that Mrs Whatsit gave up her life as a star only to become what she is which doesn't seem like a great sacrifice in the long run. Introducing a new spiritual plain of the afterlife while meddling in pure good versus evil left me wondering how important the stakes could be in this case. It muddles it up in Christian theology, which still has long arguments about the active and Deistic methods of God, so seeing it here just seemed tacky.
As an adult, I re-read it again and still found it disappointing. Not only in how they don't explain things but also don't really explain characters. I believe the deep sibling bonds and familial bonds because there is the expectation of it. But having Calvin meet the Murray kids, immediately say they are going to be best friends and the next page show that they are with no trouble? I need to believe in the relationships. Especially since it hinged on their relationships, and I really couldn't believe in the characters themselves. I loved the idea of Meg's faults being her strengths but right after that they go back to faults again. None of them felt real as characters, having the same sort of explanation prone motivations as the inscrutable creatures they are traveling with.
So, in short, I hated it. But I appreciate its existence. Why? Because this book led the way so the ones I love, Bruce Coville's "My Teacher is an Alien" series or Diane Duane's "So You Want to be a Wizard?" series, could exist. And there are good moments in here, interesting characters in the trio, and interesting ideas. But it's not a book for everyone and I think it's okay too. After all, one of the arguments is difference is good.