The 13th Reality: Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

As a kid I remember imagining myself fighting alongside Prince Caspian in the battle to retake Narnia from his evil uncle. I my mind I crawled with Digory and Polly through the creepy attic and right into mysterious study of her creepy uncle Andrew. I dreamt of exchanging riddles with the fishy Gollum or crafting secret nicknames for the Dragon Smaug. These stories never die and the of childhood blends faery-land with reality. Now, as an adult the nostalgia and beauty of stories has never left me. And every so often I slip them on like a secret ring and enter the portal of the faery and the hero. I some ways I enjoy these stories even more now that I understand that my yearning to join the hero is based upon my own participation in the Great Story in which I am a servant of the Great Hero. A couple years ago my younger siblings discovered The Mysterious Benedict Society. Though not set in a fantasy land it incorporates all the best elements of of faery tale: A despicable villain, riddles, secrets, a courageous hero, and the clear call to do the right thing no matter what the cost. After devouring this series last Summer my only regret was that there weren’t more books in the series. My usual diet of theology, apologetics, biographies and history occasionally screams for a break. And at last I found it: The 13th Reality: A Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner. Best known for his Dystopian Maze Runner Series Dashner weaves a spellbinding story of fear and courage. A nerdy boy—Tick—from Washington receives crazy letters at first doubting his own sanity but soon begins to meet some strange people. As he solves the riddles contained in the letters he learns that he has been called to lead a quest to save the world. Sound like every fantasy novel you’ve ever read? Okay. But there are at least three characteristics that put this series in a class above their ilk: Tick lives with his loving family and throughout his solid relationship with his Dad is strengthened and his Dad is shown to be a courageous, kind man. The story revolves around theories of quantum physics which allow the characters to jump between alternate realities and explains that significant choices can lead to significant consequences in an alternate reality. The writing style is excellent—and the British characters were a nice touch. It has a fine balance between serious adventure and humor.
Though there are a few cliche moments and spots where the dialogue drags a bit the book is mostly a gripping fun, rollicking adventure punctuated by a few moments of sheer terror—for the characters at least. It is no psychological thriller but I may make you think twice about the world you live in and the choices that you make and will certainly give a few evenings of pleasant enjoyment for kids and adults alike. And in this way it exemplifies C.S. Lewis’ maxims: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest” and “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”

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