The Homeward Bounders

The Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones
"You are now a discard. We have no further use for you in play. You are free to walk the Bounds as you please, but it will be against the rules for you to enter play in any world. To ensure you keep this rule, you will be transferred to another field of play every time a move ends in the field where you are.  The rules also state that you are allowed to return Home if you can.  If you succeed in returning Home, then you may enter play again in the normal manner."
This is one of DWJ's older and lesser-known books, but I wish it would come back into print again; it's a great story.  Jamie is a tough Victorian city kid who likes to explore, and he pokes around a little too much.  He finds Them, who play his world as a game and impose rules on it, and They discard Jamie, telling him that he must wander the Bounds forever, unless he can find his way home.  He finds himself an exile, thrown from world to world.  He meets other wanderers--some of them legendary.  Jamie eventually teams up with Helen, who has been raised in the temple of Uquar in her particularly horrible world.  They meet Joris, a slave and a demon-hunter, and they start to realize that together they might be able to fight Them.
"There are no rules--only principles and natural laws." 
Because it is DWJ Month, I'll try to tell you why I think this book is so great, but I always find it hard to describe why DWJ is so cool.   First, the concept is a great idea, and it's developed in the signature DWJ style where she makes you work to understand what's going on.  Then she throws a bunch of different people into the mix; all the characters have very definite personalities (another trademark) and they come at the situation from--literally--different angles to solve it.  And the thing about DWJ is how she used straightforward, fairly simple language (I think I've seen it called deceptively simple) to evoke a lot of very different, very intense feelings and reactions.  There is always a surprising amount of insight packed into a small space, in a format you might not expect.

This image I've used for the cover is one of the better Homeward Bounders covers--it's the one I own, which I picked up in the UK in 1996.  Most of them are hideous.  DWJ did seem to suffer from rotten covers more than her fair share of the time--I suspect a mixture of the era (a lot of her books were published in the 1980s) and the inherent difficulty of producing a really good illustration of stories as unusual and weird as hers usually were.  The more recent covers are often much better, and that might be partly because they tend to be more decoratively abstract instead of trying to illustrate a scene.  We should have a post on covers!
"But you wouldn't believe how lonely you get."


  1. I need to reread this one. I remember it affecting me quite a bit.


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