Monday, March 29, 2010

Neil Gaiman - Graveyard Book

As a first post in this blog, I will comment upon a novel worth it. Even though this novel is written for children and young adults I have given the story a lot of thought. If you have not read it or need a reminder of its context, here is a short summary from Mr. Gaiman's homepage: The genre in which I would believe many struggles to place Mr. Gaiman's novels, is often the genre of classical fairytales. Mr. Rothfuss nicely summarized what a fairytale is: a story in which our world or a similar one is met with improbable occurances and creatures such as for example magic or talking-crossdressing wolves.

The story is an original one, a human boy brought up by ghosts and what seems to be a sort of vampire, in a graveyard. As to the overall plot, it's sort of weak. Only the first and ending chapters involve the plot at all. The mid part of the novel is made up out of individual, smaller plots such as aquiering a headstone for the graveyards rejected whitch or exploring the disallowed crypt. This seperation of plots results in a jagged read, the flow of the story more similar to a collection of short stories, all with the same main character, Nobody Owens. In my opinion some of the smaller plots are way more interesting and exiting than the main plot, where Nobody is hiding from the murderous man Jack, who is determined to kill him.

On the other hand, these smaller plots and stories are perfect for children who has a smaller attention span than adults and for bedtime reading. The more scary parts such as the ghouls kidnapping Nobody, may save the children from nightmares, but dissapoint the adults as the ghouls do not reappear. It did certainly dissapoint me.

As for the characters, they are definitly a strong point in the Graveyard Book. Bod (short for Nobody) Owens is charming, naive, courageous, strange and an outsider, easy to identify with and recognize. I sympathised with him in his adventures, yet still he annoyed me with his foolishness. But what else than missteps would drive the story forward? I like it best when the main character works his or hers way out of the situations themselves with tact and action, such as when Bod escapes from the crypt or the backroom of the pawn shop. And as it is, I like Bod, including his foolishness. My reaction of irritation is only proof that I care for the character and his fate. The brooding mother hen, that's me. (Yeah, I know it is a work of fiction) The other good characters are all agreeable and entertaining in their familiarity, maybe exept Silas who is dark and mysterious and most surely a vampire-like creature. Also Bod trusing Silas examplefies the animal in us humans; "Oh, from this looner and dark vampire comes food and drink, therefore I must trust him and be loyal".

The evil side with the man Jack as the main evil-doer is less interesting. Mysterious, yes but just pointless. It is not convincing that there is an organization of sociopaths that methodically kills people for no good reason and usually gets away with it. Even Gaiman's self-obvious style does not convince me. I do accept the ghosts, ghouls and all other fairytale elements, maybe it is the lack of the supernatural that makes the man Jack less probable?

Anyhow, this novel is worth reading and wholly entertaining. Just read it for what it is, a collection of great shorter stories collected as a novel adding a matching beginning and end.

Yours Truly, Yakoni