The first thing that intrigued me about this book was the blurb:
There are four quarters to this novel;
They can be read in any order and the story will work.
They are assembled here in just one of twenty-four possible combinations;
This order makes one kind of sense,
but the reader should feel free to choose a different order,
and a different sense if desired.
You can see why.
The Ghosts of Heaven is like no book I've ever read. I read it in the order it is in the book, as it seemed a logical way of reading it.
The first quarter, Whispers in the Dark, is written in poem form. It tells the story of a girl in a tribe a long time ago, hoping to be a part of the magic that helps her people survive. It mentions no names, just she. It was a very interesting read, although I had to re-read parts a couple of times to understand what was going on (that might just be me not concentrating properly though).
The second quarter, The Witch in the Water, is based on a girl and her brother, when their mother dies. As the title may suggest, she is accused of being a witch. This is a bit closer in time than the first quarter. It is written in the more traditional story verse. Witch hunts are always interesting subjects to read and write about; this being no exception. I really enjoyed this section.
The third quarter, The Easiest Room in Hell, tells us of a mental institute and the tales of its patients and doctors, following one doctor in particular. I liked this section as it shows the struggle some people have with fitting in with 'normal' society. I found it quite easy reading, but that isn't a bad thing. It touches upon some very controversial subjects which I found really interesting.
The fourth and final quarter, The Song of Destiny, is probably the weirdest in my opinion. It shows us a future, where humanity is searching the galaxy for a new planet, overpopulation having become an increasingly big issue. The ideas within this section intrigue me, the technology and ideals of future generations interesting. However, there were some points where I lost the storyline a bit. Maybe Sedgwick didn't want us to understand everything, maybe it was meant to stay mysterious. I don't know.
The prevailing feature throughout all four quarters is the spiral. Whether it be a shell, a drawing, a dance, waves or signals. Although I think this is a really unique and intriguing idea, I never really understood the spiral.
Also, I love the idea of having different stories with one linking feature, but with this I felt almost let-down at the end, as because you can read the quarters in any order, there is no definite conclusion; each quarter felt like an individual story, rather than part of something bigger.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was intriguing and unique, but I would have liked a more definite ending. It left me really thinking about the issues it raises - a mark of a great book.