I could just say that everything I wrote about the first book in the Outlaws of Time series is true of this one, in spades. If you read and liked The Legend of Sam Miracle, you’ll probably like this second book, too. If you had some issues with the first book —pacing, confusing time shifts, complexity, violence and clutter— then, you’ll find those same issues in The Song of Glory and Ghost.
In this volume, Sam and his friend/sidekick, Glory, and the boys of SADDYR, are at their home base on an island near what’s left of Seattle in the year 2034. (Warning to N.D. Wilson from George Orwell: those exact years in the future catch up to you, finally, if your book lasts that long, and before you know it, it’s 1984, or 2034, and the future is no longer the future.) Well, they are mostly on the island, when Peter and Glory aren’t practicing time travel or hunting for The Vulture (El Buitre) or riding a motorcycle back in time to look for supplies. 2034 is a bleak year. Since Sam didn’t kill The Vulture, history has made a turn for the worse, and Seattle and most of the west coast has been destroyed in a series of apocalyptic events. Millions have died, and it’s all Sam’s fault. If he can only find The Vulture in one of the time gardens that is left and destroy him once and for all, maybe the timelines will right itself and Sam will have fulfilled his purpose.
But it’s Glory who takes center stage in this book. When she meets up with Ghost, a sort of Grim Reaper character, he tells her that she is the one can save Peter Atsa Eagle, guide Sam to the time and place where he can confront The Vulture, and defeat the desert demons called the Tzitzimime (somebody pronounce that one for me!). The Vulture has teamed up with the Tzitzimime and their zombie-like army of evil creatures, and their mission is to destroy, decimate, and rule the world. Only Sam and Glory can defeat them and save the world. Yes, the plot sounds a lot like a comic book, and the repeated references to comic books and drawing comics and Sam Miracle as a superhero reinforce the graphic novel feel. But it’s not a graphic novel, or a comic book, and there’s an undercurrent of theme and foundation that makes this story more than just another superhero story.
The problem is that the book tries to be many things: superhero myth, apocalyptic novel, spiritually significant story, and just a not-so-plain time travel adventure, just to name a few. Mr. Wilson draws on Spanish legend and language, Aztec religion and mythology, Christianity, and tales of the Pacific coast and the southwestern United States, again to name just a few sources. And in the middle of serious world-changing scenes, he can’t resist throwing in wry or corny joke or two:
“The two of you are permitted to see me only twice,” Ghost said. “The third time we meet eye to eye, I will be carrying your soul away. Then you may see me as often as you like.”
“Perfect,” Sam muttered. “Let’s hang out tons after we’re dead.”
It’s either comic relief or a distraction, depending on your sense of humor. This book introduces a new character, Samra, and I’m not sure what her purpose is. Maybe she’s Everyman (woman), the one who observes the action and the crazy time travel and snake weaponry from the vantage point of an ordinary human being. Glory, Sam and Peter (Father Tiempo) have become a sort of trinity of gods or super-beings by now so maybe we need an ordinary person to round out the cast.
The Song of Glory and Ghost won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it is indeed full of interesting and arresting scenes and themes and characters. If you haven’t read The Legend of Sam Miracle, do read that book first. I don’t think this book would be a good introduction to the series. But again if you liked Legend, you’ll probably like this one, too.
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This book may be nominated for a Cybils Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.