Feb 25, 2010: I’m not a huge fan of fantasy stories, and have a habit of shying away from vampire and werewolf tales, especially since there has been such a glut of these stories in commercial publishing lately. HOWEVER, Above Ground is no simple fantasy story, instead melding elements of science fiction and steampunk alchemy into a richly detailed landscape where the fish out of water has a human face. The worlds both above and below are so clearly defined it’s easy to visualize Lilith and her place within them, along with the various characters she meets in her quest above ground. Her confusion over what is happening draws us into her dilemma, and pushing the conflict forward as she tries to interact with careful political steps with the people and creatures she is forced to trust for her survival.
I love how strong Lilith’s character is, with the conflict in her coming from the prejudices she has due to her growing up in a bourgoisie life underground, where humans are priviledged and isolated from the world above. She is afraid and makes mistakes in her journey, but she is a likeable character and it is easy to admire her tenacity. As she explores this strange world, so do we, with the mysteries in it gently expanded upon until the reader feels the sensation of reading fall away as this world envelopes them into it. The characters have very definite personalites, and I especially loved the descriptions of the ewts with their water tanks and their cultural leanings in regards to money. There are many cultural expressions used to the full effect in this series, where every creature has its own set of rules of conduct, rules which Lilith is painfully ignorant of and which often plunge her into danger—such as when she makes a rash decision to strike a deal with a snake.
As I’ve said elsewhere, I love a good linear story, and Above Ground does not disappoint in this regard. Every episode follows the last in crystal clarity, moving the plot forward and not leaving the reader with any confusion as to what is happening. The wolf pack’s characters and their interactions with others in the world above ground is a fascinating cultural insight, using both wolf and human concepts in defining their society. Silver’s bonding to Lilith is an interesting conflict, especially when there are challenges to his dominance from lesser wolves within his own pack, and Lilith herself seems to start taking on some of these cultural leanings, with her feelings of jealousy and her frustration with her ignorance of Silver’s past.
All in all, a fantastic read, and one worth bookmarking or putting into your RSS feeder. With its way of drawing you into its universe and refusing to let you go, Above Ground is sure to become a weblit classic, and one that should be used as a good example of how amazing weblit creations can be.