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TWIG

A seed is planted

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Apr 9, 2015: A twig is a small branch or, interestingly, a tiny branch of an artery or vein. Updated: August 2016. In the story Twig, Wildbow’s latest series, the main characters are children, nascent versions of what they might grow into. They live in a world of biological experimentation, where small changes in their genes and bodies at birth grow into abilities as they mature. The title is an apt metaphor on many levels.

Wildbow excels at creating epic stories out of small seeds, with multi-layered plots, characters and worlds. In Twig all of his skills come to the fore and surpass his earlier works, Worm and Pact.

The team of characters are fully realized personalities that I care about as people, not just characters on paper. Gordon is about twelve at the start of the story and fits the strong, heroic leader archetype. Jamie is the glasses wearing brains. Helen is the popular girl, who might grow up to be the femme-fatale. Lilian is being scientifically and medically trained by the Academy, one of the organizations behind the biological advancements of this story’s culture. And the narrator, Sylvester, self-identifies as the "bastard," and the villain. His friends call him Sy, but once in awhile Jamie calls him "Sly" which seems to fit. Cunning, strategic and manipulative, Sylvester makes the story interesting.

The children are all developing parts of a larger project, like branches on a tree waiting to bloom. What they become depends on their development and teamwork, which from the outset makes Twig about the parts that form a whole. It’s more dynamic and character interactions are more natural and entertaining.

While Twig would be interesting on its own, it shows something interesting about its author in his own development when you place it in context as the third of Wildbow’s serials. Worm was several years in the planning and execution, and on its own was a work of brilliance. Pact showed that Wildbow had the chops as a writer to keep creating new, unique settings and different tones and characters. However, Pact focused on one main protagonist and other interesting personalities and subplots were truncated as a result. Here, in Twig, Wildbow is proving that he learns as he writes, and incorporates that learning into improved experiences for his readers. Pact had hints of humour and characterization that here in Twig are more fully realized, and so reader sympathy for characters is better engaged. I care more about each individual character as a person in Twig than I did for the majority of Pact’s cast, because they come across as real.

That’s particularly impressive when the Academy designed the orphan team to be archetypes—hero, brain, villain, femme fatale, medic—that could be right out of TV Tropes. That they rise above their archetypes to be human is great writing, and clever on the part of the author. Wildbow is an expert at twisting expectations, as is his protagonist Sylvester. The story’s conclusion is one that seems beautifully inevitable and at the same time stunning, which is difficult to describe and even more difficult to pull off. Nobody does it better than Wildbow.

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