Tag Archives | Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's NeverwhereNeil Gaiman can do no wrong. From American Gods to The Sandman, from The Ocean at the End of the Lane to Norse Mythology—everything he writes is compelling. Gaiman has the ability to transport you into alternate worlds that feel, despite their fantastical nature, just as real as the chair in which you read them.

In the introduction to this, the Author’s preferred text, Gaiman explains that

I wanted to write a book that would do for adults what the books I had loved when younger, books like Alice in Wonderland, or the Narnia books, or The Wizasrd of Oz, did for me as a kid. (xii)

He succeeded. Neverwhere is the story of the underside of London where people who fall through the cracks live. It’s a place where rats are honored, villains have careers that last for centuries, and character like Door can, well, open doors. Think Narnia only darker and far more dangerous.

To echo the words that Guy Gavriel Kay wrote to first-time readers of The Once and Future King, I envy everyone who has not yet read this book. You have the gift of being able to read Neverwhere for the first time.

Gaiman, Neil. Neverwhere. Author’s Preferred Text. New York: William Morrow, 2015.

Stardust | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's StardustThe town of Wall has an eponymous stone wall to the East. There is only one six foot break in the wall that separates Wall, the city, from the realm of the fairy. For thousands of years the town had posted two guards at the entrance to prevent traffic between the two worlds. This arrangement worked well until a certain Tristran Thorn decided to chase a falling star.

Stardust is fairy-tale at its finest. Although first published in 1999, it feels like something far older—something George MacDonald might pen. The classic themes of love and adventure, mystery and sacrifice, are woven into a tale that will linger in the reader’s mind.

I read Stardust in one evening. It has that sort of compelling power. It’s the perfect companion for a candlelit evening when the power goes out and the world seems strange. Read it and you’ll never look at a shooting star the same way again!

Gaiman, Neil. Stardust. New York: William Morrow, 2016.

Norse Mythology | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's Norse MythologyOdin, Thor, and Loki are literally the stuff of legends. Their exploits, recorded by Snorri Sturluson in his Edda have been reinterpreted for English readers by many people—from J. R. R. Tolkien to Stan Lee! Neil Gaiman dove deeply into Norse Mythology to ground his American Gods, so it seems fitting that he has offered his own rewritten version of the ancient myths.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman tells the story of the Norse gods from creation to their eschaton: Ragnarok. These are stories of Elves and Giants, of war and betrayal. Gaiman’s prose is as rustic and direct, suitable for the gods of a harsh land. It’s clear that he’s sipped deeply from Odin’s gift.

One sentence in the introduction has stuck with me. We know relatively little about Norse Mythology and what we do know hints at many more stories. “We have lost so much” (14). Fortunately, in Gaiman’s hands, what we do have comes alive a millennium after it was first penned.

Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

Complicated Inside | Neil Gaiman

Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.

—Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013), 112.

Child Gods | Neil Gaiman

Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their way of seeing things.

—Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013), 51.

Childhood Memories | Neil Gaiman

Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.

—Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013), 5.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane coverCertain fairy tales have staying power. Take the Brothers Grimm, for example. Who can forget the story of “The Frog Prince” or “Rumpelstiltskin” or “Rapunzel”? Disney’s built an empire on rebooting these stories.

If you’ve ever read the original fairy tales (not the modern sanitized version), you’ll know that they’re much darker. The second sister of Cinderella, for example, slices the back of her heel off at the will of her mother to fit it into the glass slipper. The rationale? “When you are Queen you won’t have to walk any more.”

Neil Gaiman has written a masterful fairy tale in the older, darker tradition. If light can only be seen in contrast to dark, Gaiman’s light shines!

The novel centres around a young boy’s memories of life with a friend who lived down the lane-way from him. When the circumstances in his life became increasingly difficult, his friendship with Lettie Hempstock became life-giving.

As I read through this short 178 pages novel, I felt like I was reading something older—more primal—than the stories we’re used to today. It’s the sort of gripping, enduring, story that you will want to consume in one sitting.

—Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (New York, NY: William Morrow, 2013).

American Gods & Anansi Boys | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Neil Gaiman's American Gods / Anansi Boys omnibus

Barnes & Noble Edition

Imagine a world where all the gods of mythology are real. It doesn’t matter what mythological system, either—figures from Norse legends like Odin and Loki to African folk-gods like Anansi still roam.

Now imagine that they’re tied to their worshipers. The more devoted worshipers a god has, the stronger that god is. When the last worshiper dies, that deity is extinguished. This is the world that Neil Gaiman explores in his two novels, American Gods and the spin-off Anansi Boys.

Before I get into the novels, I should offer a brief note about the edition I’m reading from. In 2011, Barnes and Noble reprinted a number of important works with exquisite binding. This particular edition is leather-bound with an embossed cover. It even features a ribbon bookmark. After I finished reading the book, I found the spine as straight as the day I brought it home from the bookstore. If you’re interested in reading Gaiman, track down this edition.

Okay, enough gushing over the binding. On to the novels …

American Gods

The cover of Neil Gaiman's American Gods

First Edition Cover

Shadow is a tough prisoner who has spent his jail-time avoiding attention and practicing coin-tricks. As you might expect in a book called American Gods, his life gets caught up with all sorts of deities beginning with Mr. Wednesday. (Read this book if you can’t figured out who he is!)

In Gaiman’s world, when a person immigrates to America, they bring their deities with them. The US is littered with old-world gods from every tradition who fight for position with new upstart American gods like Technical Boy and Media.

The idea behind this story is brilliant—lifted and tweaked (admittedly) from Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories. It provides a fertile landscape for the sort of fantastic mystery story-telling Gaiman excels at. There’s no question why this book is still being reprinted.

Anansi Boys

The cover of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys

First Edition Cover

Mr. Nancy, one of the deities from American Gods, is the protagonist of this spin-off novel. Or, to be precise, his “boys” are. Anansi is a West African Trickster god who frequently takes the form of a spider. He has a number of stories associated with his name.

Anansi crossed the ocean in the devotion of slaves on trade ships to Haiti. From there it was a quick jump to America where he found himself a home in Florida.

Since these two novels are published under one cover, it only seems fitting to compare them. Anansi Boys is shorter and nowhere near as epic in scope as American Gods. Don’t misread that as criticism, though. Anansi Boys is a different type of novel with a stronger sense of humor.

There’s a rumour going around that Gaiman is writing a full-fledged sequel to American Gods.  I’ll be the first in line.

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