Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The quiet brilliance of Neil Gaiman

     Neil Gaiman has a soothing voice. I've just been listening to the audiobook of his fantasy novel "Stardust," read by the author, for at least the fifth time. The book was adapted for film a couple of years ago and fairly well reviewed, but I didn't care for it. It was loud and cliched, not soothing.
     Both as book and film, "Stardust" takes place in the village of Wall, which has a stone wall that leads into Faerie, and in Faerie itself. It's hero is a young man who enters Faerie looking for a fallen star. The young lady with whom he's smitten has said she'll marry him if he brings her that star. Along the way he meets many strange people and creatures, some of whom he befriends and some of whom befriend him. There is drama and comedy, conflict and pratfalls, but Gaiman usually avoids the cliches, and when he can't, he makes them his own.
     Unlike the film, there is no dramatic conflict with the evil witch in her lair at story's end. Instead there is cleverness, resourcefulness and the end result of machinations begun before he was born. Even if you've seen the film, the book is different enough that you may be surprised by the plot differences, and I believe it's worth reading for the prose alone.
     It's also worth listening to. Gaiman has recorded several of his books and short stories. Many are available for download to iPhones, MP3s and Kindles. Another favorite of mine is "Coraline," also adapted to film, but far better in prose and as read by the author. It's a fairy tale suitable for younger readers, but adults can enjoy it too.
     Gaiman is also the author of "Neverwhere," which began as a TV mini-series for BBC and has been adapted as a graphic novel, "American Gods," "Ananszi Boys," "The Graveyard Book" and several collections of short stories. His first novel, "Good Omens,"  was written in collaboration with Terry Pratchett. He's also authored some picture books for children and the comic book series "The Sandman," the entire run of which is available in graphic novel form and is worthy of your attention.


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