Monday, January 4, 2010


by Neil Gaiman, 1998.

Fantasy novel, mostly notable as the first independent book-length prose by the author. Plot summary you can find elsewhere, and not planning to spend too much time reviewing this one. The whole effort struck me as competent but unexciting, a coming-of-age travel adventure with a backdrop of magic and strange creatures that didn't show anything like Gaiman's full abilities. There's nothing of the edge, raw creativity or narrative power of Gaiman's Sandman or American Gods. Instead there's a basic narrative that feels too plain, too modest, to be really worth Gaiman's time. So there's enough plot twist to keep the whole thing fairly energetic and moderately meaningful, but it's still lackluster.

Perhaps the most disappointing element was that the political intrigue surrounding the Stormhold was so stylized as to be dull, which robbed a large point of the ending of its force. On the other hand, some of the basic premises of the book are rather engaging, with the question to bring back a shooting star that is in Faerie a living being, and the town of Wall elaborates trying to ward off Faerie. This last is the most interesting element by far, and brings a touch of genuine structural excitement to the work, while it's basic the scenario imagined for the barrier between mundane and fantastical is fairly unique.

For a long point when reading this book I was trying to figure out if this was stronger or weaker than Gaiman's most recent book, the improbably Hugo-winning The Graveyard Book. I think ultimately it's a bit weaker, though they're in the same general ballpark. The Graveyard Book was better at atmosphere, of taking a core narrative and reworking it into an effective post-urban fantasy atmosphere, for all that the villain and central conflict were much lamer than in Stardust. Both books are worth it for Gaiman devotees(which, of course, I'm on record as being) and probably will be at least tolerated by those interested in traditional-style fantasy. I still hope to see more of the other Gaiman, the mindblowing one.

This book reminded me of, but was better than: Lint's The Mystery of Grace
This book reminded me of, but was worse than: Martin's A Game of Thrones

1 comment:

  1. I really like the "this book reminds me of, but is better/worse than" comparison. It's neat that you're able to do that.