Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Title - The Graveyard Book
Author - Neil Gaiman
Rating - 4 Stars

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .


Review

Despite having read two other Gaiman books, I was quite hesitant in reading this one. For one, it seemed to be marketed for quite a younger audience but for another ir would the first Gaiman book that I would read without having a foreknowledge of the source material, this made me rather nervous. I was not ready to dislike Gaiman just yet.

To be honest, I should not have worried. It seems the best stories might be a coming of age stories. This novel is about Nobody 'Bod' Owens who got his name due to an unfortunate incident where his parents are killed by the man Jack and is adopted by a group of ghosts a mysterious otherworldly man Sylus.
This book plays a lot on mystery, page on page you are faced with numerous mysteries like who is the man Jack, why did he kill Bod's real parents, what is Bod's real name and what type of creature is Sylus.
Gaiman in his usual style does not attempt to answer all of the question, leaving an air of mystery even after the boom is done. It had me thinking about it long after I had stopped reading it. It's one of those books where you stare at the back cover wondering why it's missing it's last few hundred pages.

I loved this book. Bod was a perfectly defiant, intelligent, loving, smart and sometimes naive perfection of a narrator. This book, having been set in a graveyard had a perfect mix of dark shadows and bright lights of childlike enthusiasm. The powers that are granted to Bod are not only unique but incredibly creative which is a wonderful change from the usual shapeshifters and blood suckers.

It seems that Gaiman also loves the Hempstocks as they have found a way to get from the Stardust to his novel. Liza Hempstock is a brilliant character with a great mix of teenage mutiny, wisdom of the dead and witchcraft. I feel like I watched a toddler seamlessly transit to a teenager and I did not feel like I saw any considerable time jumps.

This is a brilliant book that can be read by children or adults and is equally entertaining. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

P.s. Did I mention Bod dances with death, literally.



Product Detail

Paperback, 289 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2008
Language: English
Author's Website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/
Purchase: Amazon | Barns & Nobel 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Title - Coraline
Rating - 5 Stars
Author - Neil Gaiman

Coraline's often wondered what's behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her "other" parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.

Review

After reading Stardust, I decided that I wanted to read a lot more of Gaiman's work.  Coraline seemed like natural choice since I was a big fan of Henry Selick's very Tim Burton styled animated adaptation. 

As is the case for every book to film adaptation, there are some changed that are for the better and others that should have been left as the writer has imagined it. It is a brilliantly dark and twisted tale about a girl who feels abandoned by her very busy parents and a creature that introduces herself as the other mother and attempts to fill the void of a parental figure while she hatches her rather insidious plan. 

I'm not sure if this is intended for a younger audience since the monster that lurks in these pages could very easily scare adults. There are a lot of ambiguity about what kind of creature "the other mother" is and Gaiman makes no effort into reveling any answers.  

From a purely narrative standpoint, Coraline is an amazing character. She is smart, brave and intuitive.  Unlike the Coraline in the movie, she is not easily fooled by better food and playground. She is very suspicious of the other mother from the start and is resistant to the idea of this perfect world that she is presented with. It does however present the point that her narrative might be too smart for the age she is, not that I object to it.

On her part the other mother is much more complicated that she is seen in the movie, she doesn't just want Coraline just for the sake of it but wants to really love her in her own way, even if her form of love is very short lived and based solely on a narcissistic need to have something other than herself love her back. 
The only thing that was disappointing about Coraline is the notable absence of Wyborne 'Wybie' Lovat, while his character is not essential, he was a really fun character to have. Like Stardust before it, Coraline does not make a habit of wrapping all the lose ends into a neat bow but leaves it to the reader to imagine some of the lose ends as a potential for the reader to explore   by themselves. 

This is amazingly creative, dark and just simply amazing. The creatures and characters in this book are not only well thought out but are incredibly detailed in their existence. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars for superb story telling and brilliantly twisted imagination. 
Product Detail
Paperback: 162 Pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Language: English
Author's Website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/
Purchase: Amazon | Barns & Nobel 

  

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust
Rating: 4 Stardust
Author - Neil Gaiman

Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victorian-English village on a quest for a fallen star
in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest


Review

I came across Gaiman a few years ago with the release of the movie Stardust and then again with Coraline and a few episodes of Doctor Who. I really enjoyed adaptations so I thought it was about time to read the source material.

I have seen the movie several times and have enjoyed it each time so I had a high expectations for this book. Stardust the movie and Stardust the book are very different, it's almost like reading two parallel stories that draw upon each other but are fundamentally very different.

This book has all the makings of a wonderful play, it reminded me a little of Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Nights Dream with a lot of magical creatures and a fairytale like setting.

Unlike the movie, the book goes to great lengths to set up the story of Dunstan Thorn and the town of Wall. It is a magical place where the creatures of the other side can have a more dynamic relationship than suggested in the movie making Tristan's story much mote believable.

Gaiman also created a beautifully intriguing encounter between between the very beautiful elven princess Una and Dustan Thorn. Their relationship while brief is painted into a much more convincing and realistic relationship.

The one thing that I really love that the movie has created is Captain Shakespeare, while his character exists within the novel, he is not as flamboyant and dynamic. The Captain within the novel helps Tristan as he is part of a "fellowship" which goes otherwise unexplored.

The one thing that did disappoint me about this book is Tristan himself, he is very naive character who doesn't seem all that intelligent of curious. He seems completely unaware that Victoria Forester is not interested in a boy of his social class. He is pretty much my expectation of what an average Victorian man is like which I suppose is pretty what he is.

The novel is very Faerie orientated with Lions on crowns, unicorns, actual fairies and witch queens and many more wonderful creations rather than the explosion orientated movie creation. Gaiman had a gift with story telling, his story is extremely visual and follows with a natural ease that is hard to find in a lot of books.

I really liked reading this book and would definitely read another Gaiman book. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars for a brilliant visual and dynamic story.

Product Detail
Pages: 192
Publisher: Headline Review, 2005
Language: English
Author's Website: http://www.neilgaiman.com/