Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Book Review: Stardust (Neil Gaiman) (3 ½ *’s)

Stardust is the second novel of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read. The other was The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Like Ocean, Stardust is a relatively short novel with reasonably long chapters that were broken up into short subsections. I saw the movie a few years back. I enjoyed the movie, so I figured I’d give the book a go. It was an easy quick read; in fact, I read the entire novel in a single day. The main character in the novel is a seventeen-year-old young man by the name of Tristran, who is hopelessly besotted with the youthful beauty Victoria. In a fit of indifference, hoping to put off Tristran and his advances, Victoria says she will give him whatever he wants, if he finds the star they both witness falling. Much to her surprise, Tristran agrees and heads out of town in pursuit. There is a catch, of course; it’s called Faerie.

Tristran and Victoria live in a town called Wall, named because it has grown up in the shadow of a long wall separating our world from the world of Faerie that lies on the other side of the wall. There is a hole in the wall, a gateway between the two worlds. Once every nine years the two worlds meet in something of a Faerie Market which is held on the Faerie side of the wall for three days. It is quite the event, and it was a liaison there between Tristran’s father and a captured Faerie woman that led to Tristran’s birth. Tristran does not yet know that he is half Faerie, but his quest to please Victoria will lead him on many revealing adventures. It is this quest which consumes the bulk of the story. Tristran does find the star he is looking for, but it is not anything like what he expects. Still, he endeavors to bring it back to Victoria, no matter the cost.

Strengths: the prose was excellent; the characters were reasonably well-developed given the time and space the author had. The plot was okay: Perhaps the natural surprise and intrigue suffered because I had seen the movie previously. Weaknesses: I take issue with a few things. There were several elements in the novel that jarred on me because they seemed more appropriate for an adult book than something written in the Fairy-Tale type of style and tone that Stardust seemed to embody to me. There was a sex scene (although not too graphic), and a few profanities like p*** (which isn’t a really big one), and also f***. Like I said, they just didn’t fit the tone of the novel as a whole and were therefore kind of jarring. In any event, the novel never really gripped me. It wasn’t bad. It just lacked something I can’t define.

I’ll give Neil Gaiman’s Stardust three and a half stars out of five.

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman, 4 *’s)

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a reasonably short novel with fairly short chapters. Although I finished it last night, I can’t remember the protagonist’s name. This is because it was told from First Person point-of-view and they only mention the main character’s name once or twice (I think). Anyway, it took a bit for me to get into this story. I read it primarily for a group I joined on Goodreads. Having finished it, I’m glad I read it. Halfway through, though, I was having a tough time staying focused on the tale. It’s a fantasy tale set in the real world, and the beginning was just too slow for my tastes.

 

Anyway, the story begins with the death of a border at the protagonist’s house (the protagonist is a young boy of seven years). This sets off a series of events beginning with the awakening of a creature called a “flea.” It wasn’t a real flea; it was a mystical creature made of awnings and rotting canvas that assumed a human shape and proceeded to make the protagonist’s life a very troublesome affair. The protagonist’s “young” friend, Lettie Hempstock, is a girl of apparently eleven years of age is … I guess she’s a kind of force of nature. She’s not a witch (at least she claims not to be), but she is far older than her seemingly eleven years. The same holds for her “mother” and “grandmother.” Anyway, the plot revolves around the mystical happenings that plague the protagonist for several days during which Lettie does her best to help him. There are … difficulties, though. You’ll have to read it to learn more.

 

Strengths: the characters were well-developed and the plot clear. The ending was excellent. It had a very surreal feel to it, and I walked away wondering if Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother were all the same person/entity, kind of like the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone of lore. After reflection, I don’t think they were, but I think that would have been really cool if they had been. Regardless, the atmosphere of the Epilogue made the whole book worth reading. It was really quite well done. Weaknesses: well, I’m a fantasy buff and I prefer to see swords swinging and spells flying, chaos and blood. Because there was remarkably little of that in this story, I was bored for the first few chapters. I never fully got into the story, except for the Epilogue … and that does not bode well for the novel as a whole. I’m glad I read it, but I have no intention of reading it ever again.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five (despite my complaints, it was really quite well written).

This review originally appeared on Goodreads on 1-19-14.