Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

I was happy to find out the other day that several of my colleagues have gotten into Neil Gaiman too. He's making inroads into the magic-and-fantasy reading lists started by Tolkien and continued by Robert Jordan and friends. The great thing about Neil Gaiman is that he's just a really good storyteller. His plots, characters, settings, MacGuffins, all if it, is just consistently very good. Rarely is one element far above the others -- in fact, I often don't remember exactly how a story ended or a plot element was resolved after a few months -- but for my money Gaiman is the most consistent craftsman writing fantastic stories today. (The exception is American Gods, in my opinion, Gaiman's truly Great American Novel.)

The Graveyard Book is, what else, consistent with all that. It's the story of a young boy whose family is murdered in the first chapter (yeah, this is Gaiman after all) but who wanders away to a graveyard and is taken in by the, ahem, residents there. Of course, there's a barrow, and an old Roman ghost (I would have liked to see more of him, actually), and enough authentic and funny historical flavor for the different ghosts to make it all work wonderfully. In his acknowledgements, Gaiman credits Kipling first, and that's really right on. I even read Sam some of the "younger boy" chapters and he fell under the spell of Gaiman too.

I may actually prefer Gaiman's "young adult" fiction, like this book, and am now going back to find more of it. His writing is colorful and imaginative enough that often the more "adult" elements seem to get the in way. So, ignore the "young adult" label if it bothers you, it means this book is better, not worse. This book's highly recommended as average Gaiman, which is very good indeed.

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