Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is the easiest book review I’ve ever written. It goes like this: If you like Neil Gaiman, you will like Stardust.

There’s not much more to say about it than that. In typical Gaiman style, Stardust is an entertaining story, with equal parts fantasy and reality, that could be a whole lot more drawn out than it is. Whenever I read Gaiman, I wonder if I like his way of presenting the bare necessities of worlds and stories which could fill page after page. If Gaiman were to go into more detail (not uncommon for fantasy writers, we’ve all seen the 1,000-page paperback bricks in the stores that are one of a nine part series), would I like the story as much as I do?

Picture courtesy of neilgaiman.com

I don’t know and Stardust didn’t answer that question. But that’s OK because it was an enjoyable read nonetheless. The first Gaiman I read was Fragile Things, a collection of short stories which I liked. Then I read The Last Temptation, a graphic novel which I really liked. I place Stardust in between these. It would be hard to beat The Last Temptation. It’s a graphic novel with Alice Cooper as the antagonist. NeedIsaymore?

Don’t sweat it if you’ve seen the movie. I saw Stardust in the theaters and watched it again after I read the book. They are two different beasts and I’m not sure which is better. The book of course has more context and detail, but the movie has longer roles for Robet DeNiro and Ricky Gervais’s characters. So it’s a toss up. I recommend both.

One final note: Stardust was originally released in comic form with illustrations by Charles Vess. I wish I had read this instead of the pictureless paperback novel. If you’re going to get Stardust, get your hands on one of the comic editions.

Up next: The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow

Advertisements

Weekly World News on Google Books

I’ve been an avid fan of the Weekly World News since I was just a young buck who still believed that there was no such thing as redneck aliens. It was a sad day for me when “the world’s only reliable newspaper” released it’s last issue.

But I am very pleased to report that back issues of the Weekly World News are available on Google Books. And by back issues, I mean they go all the way back to 1985. Got plans this weekend? You do now.

One of my favorite stories. When I asked my high school morality teacher, who was a Catholic priest, if the church considered this wrong, he said, “No because deers don’t know any better.” And that is one of my favorite high school memories, boys and girls.

I’ll never forget when I read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things and he admitted to “having much fun making up stories” for his friend at the WWN to use. I thought, “Aha! I knew it!” But really, I didn’t need proof. I always liked the way the Weekly World News never let on that their articles were full of it. To me, they were the poor man’s Onion and were sometimes, if not often, just as good.

The full archive of Weekly World News papers starts at 2007 goes back from there. They also have a website (where they are slightly more forthcoming about their truthiness), a Facebook page, a store which sells books and t-shirts, and, I kid you not, Bat Boy: The Musical. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

I have a tough time reviewing short story books. The stories are rarely connected to one another and the best you usually get is a theme shared by all. Such is the case with Fragile Things, a collection of Gaiman’s gothic tales (yes, there are other kinds). Unlike most short story collections, however, Fragile Things has two strikes against it before readers even pick it up.

Most people know of Neil Gaiman through The Sandman, his graphic novel series. The Sandman was one of the first popular graphic novels, mainly because the story was so good. But so was the artwork, and there’s the rub. Fragile Things comes with no artwork. For someone used to having the visuals provided with a Gaiman story, this could be problem.

It is not.

Although I feel that all short stories should come with illustrations, Fragile Things, is simply great stories written by a great writer. Add to that the gothic theme and you have something very special because Gaiman is especially good at writing dark fiction. He proved this with The Sandman.

What makes or breaks it for me, though, is how I knew that each story was well written. I didn’t like every story, but no one will enjoy every story in a collection. I knew, however, that the stories I didn’t would appeal to others. Basically, Gaiman’s writing abilities are on full display.

And speaking of the stories, here’s a list of the ones I enjoyed and why I enjoyed them.
The Mapmaker – A nice little story hidden away in the introduction.

The Flints of Memory Lane – This is the perfect ghost story because it doesn’t cost the reader anything. They don’t have to believe in the supernatural forces or objects. All they have to know is that something very unusual happened and it scared someone very much. These are the best ghost stories because they are the most likely to happen to you. Bonus: This one is true.

Bitter Grounds – I hate to call this a zombie story because most zombie stories suck. So I won’t. This story is more like a dream – it picks up in the middle of nowhere with just enough background given and then somehow manages to have a definite ending that leaves much hanging.

Good Boys Deserve Favours – This is a great story for musicians, especially bass players.

Harlequin Valentine – Another great story, now available in graphic novel form.

Feeders and Eaters – This story is just creepy and cool. I’m not going to ruin it for you at all, but if you read one story in this book, and you want it to be a great and creepy story, make it this one. This was a dream Gaiman had. It was first a comic, which would probably also be pretty cool.

Diseasemaker’s Croup – This is a very interesting, very short story.

Goliath – One of the better stories in this book. Very Matrix-like. According to Gaiman, he wrote it to go on the Matrix’s website. Imagine that.

Sunbird – This was an exciting story. It works a lot like stories about the devil, although the payoff and revenge are a bit introverted. Gaiman says R. A. Lafferty was at one point “the best short-story writer in the world” and Sunbird is his attempt to write a Lafferty short story.

Up next: Reading the OED by Ammon Shea.