When you hear the word “comedy,” what do you think of? Most likely you think of something funny—a Saturday morning cartoon, or a humorous movie, or a stand-up comedian. But is comedy just about making you laugh?
In Spark, Evan Angler’s newest novel, Ali knows all about horrible situations. The people she depends on fail her, one after another. Some of them lack the power to help her. Others want to use her for their own advantage. The one person Ali finds who really understands her situation is Logan Langly. He is imprisoned inside the Ultranet; Ali enters of her own free will. But it is her ability to freely enter the Ultranet that causes Ali to be manipulated when she is outside it. Logan, by contrast, is inside it because he was manipulated. He knows what it’s like, having someone twist the things you intended for good.
Ali spends most of Spark being manipulated in ways she doesn’t even understand. Yet Spark is a comedy. How? Because comedies aren’t really about being funny. They aren’t even about being happy. What matters in a comedy is how it ends. If the ending is good, the story is a comedy, even if most of it seems sad.
As Ali leads Logan through the Ultranet, as they cross what looks like outer space, Evan Angler says they are passing through the “divine comedy.” What on earth does that mean? He’s talking about the universe, yes, although the universe is, in this case, inside the Ultranet. But why call the universe a divine comedy, of all things?
Ali’s part of the universe looks more a tragedy. She hasn’t seen her mother since she was four. Her best friend Sarim is imprisoned because of her. She doesn’t know whom to trust.
Logan’s world is, if possible, even worse. All his friends think he’s dead. The Dust is inactive. Daniel Peck is nowhere to be found. Cylis, it seems, has won.
Or think about Jesus’ world, thousands of years earlier. One of his best friends betrayed him. The others ran away in fear. The crowds that once cheered for him didn’t protest when he was led away to die. Soldiers killed him like a criminal. There’s no comedy there, right? Nothing funny. Nothing happy.
Wrong. Just when his friends, his family, all of the people who loved him had given up hope, something unexpected happened. Jesus’ body disappeared, to everyone’s great confusion. Then, to their even greater confusion, Jesus himself appeared—scarred, but fully alive. Catastrophe was turned into comedy.
Spark concludes hopefully, although Ali, Logan, and their friends have a long road ahead. The world is dying. Things should seem dark. Perhaps they do. But the world—dying or not—is part of the divine comedy. And what matters, in a comedy, isn’t whether a story is funny, or even whether it’s mostly happy. What matters is how it ends.
Cylis controls a lot of things, but he can’t control the Ultranet, for all his trying. He definitely can’t control the universe, no matter what he thinks. There is someone greater and more powerful than Cylis. And He intends to turn Ali’s and Logan’s broken world into a truly divine comedy.