Tag Archives: neil gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is always an entertaining and often a thought-proving writer. In Anansi Boys, he tells the story of Fat Charlie and his brother Spider, a brother Fat Charlie didn’t know he had until he was well into adulthood. Their father is rather special, but Fat Charlie doesn’t know that. He only knows that his father is a good-for-nothing that seemed to abandon him and his mother when he was a child. It is only when his father dies and Spider comes into his life that he realizes who his father, and by extension he himself, really are.

Gaiman shifts the story telling from the point of view of different characters, some of which are actually quite creepy. His characters are well developed and he gives even the worst of the villains solid motivation.

As Fat Charlie learns about who he is and who is brother is, they both have to escape the plots of powerful forces aligned against them. Without revealing too much of the plot, they have to learn to work together to make it out alive.

Gaiman’s writing is always clever, and he has a number of nice lines that were memorable:

  • “The nature of parents is to embarrass merely by existing, just as it is the nature of children of a certain age to cringe with embarrassment, shame, and mortification should their parents so much as speak to them on the street.”
  • “Today, like every day, roughly five thousand people on the face of the planet will experience one-chance-in-a-million things, and not one of them will refuse to believe the evidence of their senses.”
  • “…he noticed that anything louder than the gentle Brownian motion of air molecules drifting softly past each other was above his pain threshold.”
  • “…as a small girl she had been unable to envision a God who disliked anyone enough to sentence them to an eternity of torture in Hell, mostly for not believing in Him properly…”
  • “The important thing about songs is that they’re just like stories. They don’t mean a damn unless there’s people listenin’ to them.”
  • “Naturalists have pondered this for years: there are spiders whose bite can cause the place bitten to rot and to die, sometimes more than a year after it was bitten. As to why spiders do this, the answer is simple. It’s because spiders think this is funny, and they don’t want you ever to forget them.”

As with all of the Gaiman I have read, in Anansi Boys he deftly combines a clever plot with great characters and some deeper rumination about the world we all share. Another great story by a master storyteller.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A boy lives in the country side with his parents and little sister, a typical family. They live a quiet, peaceful life. That is, until the boy becomes friends with the girl, Lettie, at the end of the lane, a girl whose family is anything but typical.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is another marvelous story by Neil Gaiman. He effortlessly weaves the almost mundane rural life of a little boy with cosmic events and characters that boggle imagination. While we never really learn more than the boy does about the cosmos beyond the glimpses he gets through his friendship with his neighbor, Gaiman teases a vast and complex world in which there are many forces struggling for control, for dominion. The boy’s struggles, all too threatening to his life, are mirrored against those of almost a planetary scale, with the nature of reality in the balance. Never are the boy’s struggles minimized but there is always the threat of something even bigger coming, with the power to destroy not only the boy, but everything.

As has been said, any science advanced enough will appear like magic to those unfamiliar with it. Thus, Lettie and her mother and grandmother don’t practice magic, per se, but talk about neutrons and electrons and come across as knowing more about how the world works than average people, though this is only briefly touched on, teased so to speak.

Some of the characters Gaiman introduces are only given a brief introduction, even if they are all important to the story. This story left me wanting to know more, about the history of these characters and their future stories. Hopefully, this is a world that Gaiman revisits in a future book.


Stories by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

A book of good short stories is sort of like wandering the Parte Vieja of Donosti in the Basque Country and sampling pintxos from the different bars. Each one is completely different than the one before, but just as unique and exceptional. I just finished reading probably what is now my favorite collection of short stories, entitled, aptly enough, Stories. The editors, Neil Gaiman (of varied fame) and Al Sarrantonio, have pulled together an impressive group of writers to contribute to this collection. Some of the bigger names include Jodi Picoult, Chuck Palahniuk (who wrote The Fight Club), and Joyce Carol Oates.

Many of these stories have a fantasy or supernatural bent to them, but some of them are simply of ordinary people in quite unordinary situations. Some of them are simply odd, and others are quite dark. One, for example, is the story of a serial killer, from the point of view of the killer himself. Others are stories of revenge or simply stories of life. While some made bigger impressions on me than others, none of them disappointed.

I won’t go into any detail about any of the stories, as I’d prefer to let anyone who might be so inclined to discover this great collection for themselves. I will say that, while I tend to enjoy fantasy, it was the other stories that resonated more strongly for me. And the darker ones were, indeed, a bit disturbing. All, however, are highly recommended.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has become quite a well known author.  With the recent movie Coraline, based on the book of the same name by Mr. Gaiman, he is fast becoming a household name.  I’ve read a few of his previous efforts, including American Gods and his short story collection Smoke and Mirrors, both of which I greatly enjoyed.  His newest book, a children’s book like Coraline, is The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book recently won the The John Newbery Medal for “the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,” an honor which I think it richly deserved.

I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but I’m sure that there might be some spoilers in what follows.  I would rather describe my general thoughts about the story.  The story centers around the childhood of a young boy, Nobody Owens, as he grows up after a tragedy in his family.  I imagine it won’t be much of a spoiler, since the title of the book essentially gives this point away, to say that Bod, as Nobody is nicknamed, grows up in a graveyard.  I’ve read that Gaiman was inspired on this point by The Jungle Book, putting a young boy in a very odd environment in which to grow up.  The plot revolves around Bod growing up and learning about the graveyard and the world around him, as well as the mystery surrounding the events that led him to the graveyard in the first place.

The story is fast paced, with several adventures as Bod discovers new corners of the graveyard.  The reader essentially grows up with Bod, learning about both the world in which Bod lives as well as the greater world beyond the physical world in which most people live.  We learn that Ghouls, Werewolves, and, while never explicitly stated, Vampires exist in this world.  Bod has to learn to navigate both the everyday world as well as this supernatural world in order to survive.

There are three main aspects of the story that I particularly enjoyed.  First, there is a diverse cast of characters and, while we don’t get to know most of them very well, they all add a lot of color to the universe of The Graveyard Book.  Second, the plot is definitely suspenseful, and at the peak I definitely didn’t want to put it down.  It is a real page turner.  Finally, the book is meant for children.  Maybe not the youngest, but maybe preteens or so.  As such, I like that it doesn’t offer a world-view that is all roses.  That is, bad things happen to Bod and, even when he does the right thing, it doesn’t always work out for him.  And the ending is bitter-sweet.  I’ll leave it at that.

I highly recommend this book.  It is full of imagination and I expect that most kids would love the world that Gaiman has created.  I am torn in hoping that Gaiman further explores the world of the graveyard, but, at the same time, it is maybe better to leave those corners too to the imagination.

There is a website dedicated to the book.