Posts Tagged With: Neil Gaiman

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman


I first came across this this tale within one of my favourite books, Stories, which Neil Gaiman helped compile and edit. It’s quite a dark story, and wasn’t one I got on that well with. However, placing it into it’s own book, most importantly with the accompanying artbook, made the story more alive for me.

The main character is a small man, who is taking a journey. This is not purely a physical journey, as we’re aware there’s a simmering anger and obsession within him.

This book is designed to be an immersive experience – the combination of words, artwork and comic strips all blend into each other, enhancing the story to much higher levels. The art itself isn’t really to my taste, and I have to admit that if I was in a shop, I may not have bought this. As it was sent to me to review, I took the time read it, and as I’ve already said, I’m glad I did. I also love the dark image on the front cover.

Fans of Neil Gaiman should love the writing, and it’s a book to be explored. The art may not be to everyone’s taste, but it conveys the darkness of the story.

 

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Stories – Edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

Roddy Doyle
Jeffrey Deaver
Joanne Harris
Chuck Palahniuk
Jodi Picoult
Peter Straub

These are but a few of the authors who have contributed to Stories – a collection of short stories collected and edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. In the introduction, Neil explains that they were looking for tales which cause the reader to say ‘..and then what happened?’; tales which come under the term ‘fantasy’ but in it’s widest form. What they found were a variety of stories, by some great storytellers – not one feels like a failure.

Stories gives us over 400 pages, and includes contributions from no less than 27 authors. They can read in order, dipped into, or you can start by finding your favourites authors first. There’s a range to choose from, and some of my highlights were Wildfire in Manhatten, about gods and goddesses living in America; Blood, in which an everyday man discovers a taste for the red stuff; Unbelief, about a very unusual assassination; and Weights and Measures, a quiet story of loss.

Stories was published in hardback in June 2010, and it somehow passed me by. Going by the limited number of reviews on amazon, and the lack of mention at the forum, I think it’s passed others by too. The paperback was published n April 2011, so there’s no excuse to let it do so any more. This will appeal to lovers of short stories, as well as those who just enjoy a good story. It’s great for holidays, for reading in the bath, and most certainly for re-reading. The only I want to know, is when will we see the next collection… What happens next?!

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Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 2005, HarperTorch

Number of Pages: 384

Synopsis (from back cover): Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother.

Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep – about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting…and a lot more dangerous.

Review: Anansi, one of the gods featured in Gaiman’s American Gods, is a spider god who owns all the world’s stories. This is probably the most important thing to understand about him. His son, Fat Charlie, though, is a man who doesn’t even live his own story. When Anansi dies and Charlie meets his brother, he is forced to face the two parts of himself: the part that is Fat Charlie and the part that is Spider, who lives a life Fat Charlie could only dream of.

This story is many things all at once. In a way, it’s a coming of age story (even though Fat Charlie is an adult). It’s also a story about families, love, and the nature of life and death. It’s a thriller, with its own maniacal killer, and it’s a story about the history of the world and how we came to understand it, mainly through Anansi’s stories. It’s fast-paced, moving, hilarious, and scary. I would recommend this book not only to fans of modern fantasy, but also to anyone who simply wants to read a great story.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 2001, HarperCollins

Number of Pages: 588

Synopsis (from back cover): Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming – a battle for the very soul of America…and they are in its direct path.

Review: Neil Gaiman, originally from England, explores an issue that every American, whether they realize it or not, has struggled with. Who are the gods of America? Where do they come from? America is a country founded by people from all over the world, depriving us of a central mythology or religion. Even the people who crossed the land bridge over the Bering Straight brought their gods with them…they weren’t here already. This is the problem that face the unique characters in Gaiman’s story. They are gods…but what happens to gods when people stop believing in them? People brought them here, and then abandoned them. The gods in the story are  a wandering people,misunderstood, forgotten, and fighting for survival.

Shadow unwittingly gets put in the middle of the fight between the old beliefs and the new. As a main character, Shadow is mysteriously incomplete. Although much of the story is told from his point of view, he seems to simply react to things and doesn’t ponder them. In any other book, this would be a drawback, but in this one, Shadow fits perfectly. He is a man without a past; after the death of his wife, he lets go of his past and unflinchingly accepts his new fate.

As an American reading this book, I really identified with the idea that the country is a difficult place for gods. My ancestors came from all over Europe; there is no one defining culture or belief system. But the book provides a warning, that as a society, in place of the old gods, we have set up new ones: technology, mass media, fashion. To what or whom will we sell our souls?

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 1999, Harper Perennial

Number of Pages: 250

Synopsis (from back cover): Young Tristan Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria – even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristan learns, lies Faerie – where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

Review: Stardust is a superb story, hearkening back to both ancient fairy tales and to Tolkien’s beloved works. It pulls you in to its magical world and makes you believe in it without question. At the same time, there is a sense of modernism to the story that adds a complex element to the story. Many of the characters, even the magical ones, are recognizable as the heroes and heroines of modern stories, as well as the fairy tales we all heard as children. The love that drives Tristan Thorn to journey through Faerie, looking for his beloved’s star, is at once timeless and innocent. He remains an innocent throughout the story, just like the young adventurers in the old stories.

Everyone pursuing the star does so for a different, but elemental reason. Tristan seeks the star for love. Septimus and Primus, heirs to the throne of Stormhold, pursue the star for power. And the old witch searches for the star to regain her youth. All of these things – love, power, and youth (health) – are sought everyday by all people in their different ways, meaning that the reader is able to connect with this story on many levels.

In terms of simple storytelling, Gaiman once again delivers. The language is flawless, and it is here that I could sense the influence of Tolkien, which is more than appropriate for the story. The characters are engaging, funny, terrifying, and real. The setting comes alive on every page. This book made it into my dreams as I read, and for me, that alone is proof of its magnificence. I would recommend this book to all fans of fantasy and adventure.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis from B&N:

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 . . . Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

My thoughts:

It’s almost difficult to put into words exactly how good this book is. I don’t hesitate to say that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan – I believe he is one of the best storytellers of our generation, and I always have high expectations for his work. So when I say this novel exceeded my expectations, what I mean is that I’m not sure I have, even yet, realized exactly how brilliant it is.

Gaiman talks in his introduction about how much he owns to Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”, and the parallels are easy to see – a real, live boy, raised apart from his family by creatures not like himself, figuring out which world he truly belongs in – Gaiman does this sort of thing in many of his novels, and I think it works particularly well here. His characters are interesting, a little creepy, and somewhat mysterious, and he always leaves the reader a little bit of room for their own imagination.

He also doesn’t force a “happily-ever-after” ending – I don’t want to give too much away, but he allows the natural progression of the story, even though it doesn’t end with happiness and joy, and the book is better for it. It is never a light, happy read – it does, after all, take place in a graveyard – but Gaiman’s humor keeps it from feeling like a downer. Bod does his share of silly, impulsive things, and there are beautiful moments, as well, that make reading the book a pleasure.

Each time I think about it, I remember something else I loved. This is a novel I will certainly read again, and I’m sure discover more to enjoy. I’m thrilled for the author that it won this year’s Newbery – I believe it deserves the praise.

Finished: 2/16/09
Source: my sister (Thanks, Carolynn!)
Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by: Elizabeth

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Synopsis:
When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

Review:
Neil Gaiman is an amazing writer and I’ve read several of his books, this, however, has already become my favourite one. The characters are so well realised it feels like you’re reading about old friends; the plot is suspensful and keeps you gripped from start to finish; and although aimed at the youth market, has enough oomph to keep any adult reader amused to the last page. To top it all, this version has beautiful pen and ink illustrations by Chris Riddell (who also illustrated The Edge Chronicles) to enchant readers of any age. It’s a lot of fun to read and you get really invested in the action, so the pages fly past – grab it, read it, love it!

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

Date of Publication: 2002, Harper Perennial

Number of Pages: 162

Synopsis (from back cover): In Coraline’s family’s new flat there’s a locked door. On the other side is a brick wall – until Coraline unlocks the door…and finds a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only different.

The food is better there. Books have pictures that writhe about and crawl and shimmer. And there’s another mother and father there who want Coraline to be their little girl. They want to change her and keep her with them…Forever.

Review: Many people will be reading this book as we anticipate the upcoming motion picture. As a fan of Neil Gaiman, I wanted to read this book before the movie came out to really experience the story the way Gaiman intended it. It is a thoroughly frightening and engaging tale, and I read it in one sitting. Coraline is a lonely, bored girl, spending a dreary summer exploring her family’s new house. She has quirky neighbors, but it seems as if even they aren’t enough to satisfy her curiosity. When she finds the passage behind the door, everything begins innocently enough. It takes some time for Coraline to understand the grave danger she’s in, and it takes all her bravery to save herself and others from a terrible fate.

Although Coraline is a relatively short book, it is still able to imprint itself onto a reader’s imagination. I found myself thinking about the story well into the night and it even entered me dreams…very creepily. This books needs to be read during the daylight hours (although not even daylight is that safe) with someone else in the house. But for all its very frightening qualities, Coraline is a very imaginative, well-written story. Its concepts have never been presented before, and yet it seems eerily familiar. All fans of fantasy and fairy tales will love this story.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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Eternals by Neil Gaiman

I picked this up firstly because it was recommended, and secondly (or predominantly) because Neil Gaiman is the author. I have scarcely devoted any time to reading Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels (where as I love his novels) so I thought I would give this one a go!

I’m not familiar with the original Marvel comic series of the Eternals and I think that this actually helps when reading this book. The reader gets to discover the hidden histories of these ancient characters as the characters themselves realise their lives are not all they appear to be. It is a cleverly unfolding story and each issue provides equal measure of questions and answers to peak your interest.

This book contains the collected first seven issues and it does very much feel like a beginning and back story to greater things to come – I look forward to the action really starting!

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 1996

Number of Pages: 370

Synopsis (from back cover): Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart – and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed – a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city – a world far stronger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known…

Review: This book starts out at a perfect pace, introducing the reader to the main character’s ordinary life, and swiftly sweeps both the reader and this ordinary man into a dark reality from which there is no escape. By the end of the book, I had a real affection for the bewildered Richard, and for his friends in London below: the curiously powerful Door, the conniving marquis de Carabas, and even the single-minded bodyguard, Hunter. It’s easy to become concerned in their fates, and they are all unique and likeable characters, each in their own ways.

This story is easy to relate to, as it follows a familiar plot: average person gets swept up in mysterious goings-on, meets allies, they have a quest to follow, with powerful enemies popping up now and then to interfere…or worse. This doesn’t mean that the story is stale. Indeed, it constantly surprised me with its twists and turns, and its utter originality. But what makes the story familiar makes it comfortable; otherwise, the alien world in which Richard finds himself would be too cold and unknowable. Richard, being from London Above, gives the story its dose of reality, which of course makes the book all that more unnerving.

All fans of fantasy and modern thrillers will enjoy this book. This is the first book of Gaiman’s that I’ve tried, and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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