The Homeward Bounders
name = The Homeward Bounders
Diana Wynne Jones
language = English
genre = Children's
release_date = 1981
media_type = Print (Hardback &
"The Homeward Bounders" is a fantasy novel by
Diana Wynne Joneswith the chilling premise that there is a vast series of parallel universes, all of which serve as the game-boards for a race of demons that delight in war-games and fantasy-games. The style in which she presents this strange premise is directed at children, but without whimsical language, which appeals to mature readers as well.
Jamie, a 12-year-old in what is proven to be 1880's England, discovers a strange place in his hometown in which several demonic entities (known only as "They") are playing a board game with the entire world. Upon discovering Them, They make Jamie a Homeward Bounder, which means he must constantly travel from world to world until he finds his home again. Jamie finds that as a Homeward Bounder, one cannot die, and he has been told he may not interfere with "Play". For instance, if someone were to interfere directly with Jamie, that person would die mysteriously.
In his travels, Jamie meets the
Flying Dutchman, with his ship and crew, and Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. In addition, he meets a strange entity chained to a rock by Them. Every day, a Vulture comes to peck at him. While he is never named, the entity is Prometheus(he states that his name means "foresight" and that, according to legend, he was punished for bringing fire to humanity).
So Jamie wanders through the worlds, year after year passing, yet aging hardly at all, until he meets Helen Haras-Uquara, from the barbaric world of Uquar. She has a "gift", which means she can change her right arm into anything at all, for instance, an elephant trunk or a snake. Helen has only recently become a Homeward Bounder, because she, like Jamie, has seen Them playing their game with the worlds.
Helen and Jamie travel together until they meet Joris, another Homeward Bounder, who is a slave (though we learn later his master plans to free him as soon as permitted by law, when he attains adulthood) and apprentice demon hunter from another world. They travel together until they come to a world in which they meet Adam and Vanessa. This world is like our current world and is also strongly reminiscent of Jamie's home world. He is sure that if they could just travel on one or two worlds more he must reach home. The Homeward Bounders convince Adam and Vanessa that They exist, when Konstam, Joris' demon-hunting-master arrives, and joins their party. Konstam is eager to fight this new kind of demon, and the six go and invade Their strange place and try and defeat Them, only to have the six made into Homeward Bounders, thus reaching the maximum number of allowable Homeward Bounders (even They must play by Their own rules).
Jamie awakens, alone, and realizes that Adam and Vanessa's world is his Home, only 100 years too late (he recognizes a photo of Adam and Vanessa's grandmother when she was young; it was his little sister, grown up). His hope of ever returning home crushed, he returns to the mysterious entity chained to a rock, and inadvertently frees him, as only one without hope can free him. With the help of Him, Jamie rallies all the Homeward Bounders, and they make a frontal assault on the main base of Them, and destroy many of Them and also their special place, known as "The Real Place".
Everyone is returned to their respective home worlds, except for Jamie, who chooses to continue to wander through the worlds, so as to keep "The Real Place" in all the worlds, not just in one place, as They did, so, in the end, Jamie stops Them from returning for at least a few centuries, by giving up any hope of a normal life and having to endure watching his friends die while he stays young.
* [http://www.suberic.net/cgi-bin/dwj/wiki.cgi?Diana_Wynne_Jones_Wiki_Home Diana Wynne Jones wiki]
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