Posts Tagged “neil gaiman”
NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman
Harper Torch, 1998, 370 pages, 978-0380789016, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
A few of Gaiman’s other novels have been reviewed here before, all receiving praise and positive remarks. Neverwhere, one of Gaiman’s earliest books, is no exception—this book was fantastic. So much so that I read it in a single afternoon because I just couldn’t put it down. This isn’t my first exposure to Gaiman, having read his graphic novel series Sandman and another of his novels, Stardust, but it is the novel that permanently reinforced my opinion that Gaiman is a master a crafting fantasy worlds that are delightful, mystifying, familiar, and unreal.
The story follows the life of Richard Mayhew, a man who, by all accounts, leads an average life. He’s got a satisfying career, a decent London apartment, and a beautiful, albeit controlling, fiancée whom he loves. Stability and routine govern Richard’s life until he comes across a mysterious young woman who goes by the name Door, whom he finds helpless, wounded, and exhausted on a dark London street. Being the good man that he is, he decides to help her, and it’s then that his life spirals rapidly into the unknown. His very existence seems to have been erased, and, to return back to his own world, he has to embark on a journey with Door through the Underside, a confusing and magical world among the sewers and tunnels below the surface of the city.
As some other critics have suggested, the novel feels like a grim, dark reimagining of an urban Alice in Wonderland. Much like Wonderland, The Underside is a realm that feels startlingly familiar as it sprawls beneath the streets of London. Several locales in the story are the shadowy sides of London sites unseen by normal people. Yet Gaiman weaves so many wonderous elements into the story that the seemingly normal London becomes something else entirely. The rat-speakers, the Floating Market, and the House Without Doors paint such a fantastical image that it feels like a completely new world. It’s a brilliant combination of commonplace and extraordianry that makes Gaiman’s London so fascinating to read about.
Like Underside, several of the characters appear, at first glance, like revised members of Alice’s crazy adventures. The White Rabbit, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and the Chesire Cat all seem to have provided inspiration for the creation of Gaiman’s cast. That being said, each character’s role is so wonderfully fleshed out that the similarities are skin deep by the end of the novel. Each one is a fully developed character, and they’re all incredibly entertaining. The Marquis de Carabas is full of snark and smarminess, but he becomes a favorite character because he can back up his talk with actions. Door is resilient and slightly callus at times, yet she is endearingly sweet and warm when she needs to be.
The most intriguing characters in the novel, surprisingly enough, are actually the antagonists. Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar are a true testament to just how well Gaiman can create bad guys. They’re intelligent, malicious, sadistic, predatory, and stark raving mad. They’re absolutely insane, and their macabre lunacy makes them incredibly interesting.
In my last review, I commented on the need for deep, meaningful conflict in a story’s narrative. One where the characters’ desires are in opposition with some outside force, and where their journeys come full circle with the overall plot. Gaiman does a fantastic job of this. The pacing is incredible, and the action is constantly moving forward. And, while the action is never exactly heart-pumping or extreme, it’s certainly compelling. Everyone’s motivation is clear in Neverwhere; we know what they want, and they continue to move toward those desires.
My one problem with the story would have to be the novel’s “big-bad.” While Gaiman weaves his characters’ journeys well into the overall plot, the main villain doesn’t get enough attention to be interesting. His goals are never fleshed out enough for us to find him threatening; Croup and Vandemar are seen much more often throughout the novel, and they are much, much better villains. Because we see so little of the main antagonist, we never learn exactly what his end-game is. We don’t know what it is that he wants, and because the stakes for our heroes are never clear, we’re never as concerned for them or their success as we should be.
That said, the story Gaiman tells is incredibly fun to read, and the Underside is such a vast place that he has left himself enough room to write a sequel if he were interested in doing so. Neverwhere is a fantastic glimpse at the world below the streets of London, and it’s one that is definitely worth reading.
, harper torch
, neil gaiman
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GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Ace, 1996, 367 pages, 0-441-00325-7, Mass Market Paperback, $6.99
As far as this particular book goes, well, I can finally, FINALLY (and happily!) say that I’ve read Good Omens. The only question you should be asking (because I’m certainly asking myself) is — what took you so long?
I purchased Good Omens back when it was first released in the States. It’s been sitting on my shelf for what…fourteen years? Yeah, that’s right–I’ve got the old school cover, too.
My god. I was a sophomore in high school back then. Er. . .let’s not talk about that.
Of course, since I’m a chronic book buyer, I ended up purchasing far more books after Good Omens, which caused it to get lost in the shuffle. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to dust off a few of my older, unread titles in order to give them some much-awaited attention.
Since this is a mini-view, I’m not going to go crazy with plot summaries and the like. Basically, I’m working off the assumption that everyone but me has already read this book (not true, but it ought to be).
Good Omens was fabulous in the way that only a couple of snarky British writers could make it fabulous. If you like this brand of humor (and why wouldn’t you?), you won’t be able to get through a chapter of this book without laughing so hard you cry. Honestly, I begin to wonder if the reason why I took so long to get through this novel was that I never wanted it to end. It always guaranteed hilarity, no matter what time of day.
Easily, my favorite bits of the book included Crowley and Aziraphale. Crowley is fantastically awful but not quite evil, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, Aziraphale is an angel in a bookshop. I think from here on out I should start taking notes about angels in bookshops. Maybe set up a convention. So far the only two in attendance are Aziraphale and Lyda Morehouse’s Morningstar (who no doubt got his ticket through sheer force of personality—and probably for free).
There’s a lot about this book that you’ll enjoy, especially if you like clever humor. And ducks. Oh, I loved the ducks.
I tend to recommend it to people who’ve read and enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The humor strikes me as similar, though the subject is different.
I think my only remaining question, after reading this book is, what happened with Hastur? I was sure he was going to come after Crowley again in the end. Either I missed it, or that wasn’t quite wrapped up.
, neil gaiman
, terry pratchett
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THE SANDMAN: KING OF DREAMS by Alisa Kwitney
Chronicle Books, 2003, 180 pages, 0811835928, Hardcover, $35.00
Genre: Non-fiction/Graphic Novel
This is going to be my shortest review to date, mostly out of necessity, but also because there’s no reason for me to ramble on about it (and, believe me, you’ll be seeing my ability to ramble all too soon in my review of The Lies of Locke Lamora).
This is a great book to read for anyone who wants a primer on the graphic novel series The Sandman. It’s perfect for those who, perhaps, have been meaning to pick up The Sandman and just didn’t know where to start, or even for those needing to write up a presentation on comics and wanting to use it as an example. And before you ask, yes, I’ve met both of those requirements.
Alisa Kwitney does a lovely job of summarizing each volume of the series and bringing to light its most interesting and moving moments. Her insights are both useful and entertaining, and I truly enjoyed reading the entirety of the book.
I do feel that, toward the end, she stopped being as conversational as she had been in the first half of the book. She stuck more to summary and extrapolated less, which I was sorry to see. All the same I think she did an excellent job of bringing it all together and getting across the main ideas as well as the depth of the character Dream. Reading this book made Dream a real and exciting character for me without yet having read the series itself (though I have the first volume now and plan to read it right away).
The layout designers of the book should be commended as well. The interior is interesting to look at with full color pages, samples from The Sandman’s stories, and fun, textured backgrounds that make flipping the pages just as interesting as reading the material inside. And while the size of the book may be large, most of that is taken up by the visual elements. Completing it will take less than a day.
So, again, this is a very useful book for anyone who’s ready to jump into the universe of The Sandman and needs a map to get started. Or if you’ve already read the series, it will make for nice supplementary reading. I now look forward to reading The Sandman and determining just how much of it lives up to the expectations that I’ve formed since finishing The Sandman: King of Dreams.
Tags: alisa kwitney
, chronicle books
, graphic novels
, neil gaiman
, the sandman
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ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman
Harper Torch, 2005, 400 pages, ISBN: 0-06-051519-8, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
There’s a certain satisfaction for a reader when she moves on from knowing a single work in an author’s bibliography to knowing two, and so on and so forth. So while I had a number of other books on my table, I couldn’t forgo the opportunity to read Anansi Boys immediately following American Gods, especially since someone was kind enough to lend it to me the very weekend I finished the first novel.
The first thing I noticed about Anansi Boys was that the narrative better resembled what I had first expected from American Gods. It was a little more free flowing, occasionally addressing the reader rather than having everything squarely within the head of the main character (not that I disliked that in American Gods. On the contrary, it was quite appropriate). It moved a little more quickly and took much less time to read. But, then again, there weren’t as many characters and events to keep track of. Anansi Boys is a more contained novel, and it was nice to read something slightly different in Gaiman’s style.
While not a sequel to American Gods, this novel does deal with a character from that story. Well, more or less; it actually deals with his descendants.
Fat Charlie Nancy has never been especially enamored of his father’s behavior, so when his fiancee suggests that they invite him to the wedding, Charlie immediately resists the idea. She convinces him, however, and when he finally makes the call to Florida, he learns that his father has died. But that isn’t all. After the funeral, he learns two other surprising things over which Charlie is skeptical: his father was a god, and he has a brother.
Until then Charlie has been living a normal life. He has never done anything extraordinary and never expected to. But once he finally meets his brother, it seems that nothing will remain the same. And in the process of trying to figure out how to return his life to the way it was before, a number of unfortunate things begin to happen.
As with American Gods, I find it somewhat difficult to summarize further without getting too much into the story itself, so I’ll leave off there and just say — I really enjoyed this novel. I don’t think there were any characters that I inherently disliked. Even the antagonists were interesting because of their bizarre quirks and how unlikely it seemed that they would be stopped. The events take the reader to many different places, to the dreamscape of the animal gods and plenty of earthly locations, and its exciting to see how Gaiman chooses to describe them all and give them personalities of their own.
This is one of those stories that weaves together exceptionally well at the end; one where most of the peripheral characters come back to do important things, too, and you’re glad they did because you really liked them (or at least had a marginal interest in their stories…). So I can honestly say that I was satisfied with the ending, and with all the events that led up to it. There are so many moments I could list as examples, but I’ll leave that for other readers to enjoy on their own.
, harper torch
, neil gaiman
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