Showing posts with label Neil Gaiman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Neil Gaiman. Show all posts

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Rating: WARTY!

This is the last Neil Gaiman that I'm going to read. Ive tried several of his mostly with little success. The way this started, I was unsure; then I thought I was going to like it, but in the end it became bogged down with extraneous detail. Props to Gaiman for reading his own work. He didn't do brilliantly for me, but he did okay to begin with.

More authors need to do this, but in the end, even this proved a negative influence in this novel because Gaiman sounded to me rather like a soft version of Professor Snape. His voice has tones of Alan Rickman in it, and in the end I could neither take it seriously, nor enjoy listening to it even as am amusement since, Like Rickman, but far less captivating, his voice had odd pauses in it and strange inflections (and not because it was British!). It certainly did not help that it was in first person, the weakest and least credible voice for a writer to choose.

It didn't help, either, that the story is one long flashback, another tedious conceit for me. Set in the county of Sussex in England, an older man revisits his childhood home and recalls a supernatural incident from when he was much younger. In short, it's an old fashioned wicked witch story, but it was boring when it should most certainly not have been. The problem begins right there, because no one has that kind of verbatim recollection, so credibility for me was lost from the off.

The story is of the guy crossing into another world holding the hand of his childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock, and I don't thing Gaiman ever uses her name without using it in full like that, which was another source of tedium. She has this in common with the villain of the piece, the melodramatic Ursula Monckton, a wicked witch which the boy brings back accidentally from this other land. i was rooting for Ursula.

We're supposed to believe that this man who is recalling every vivid detail of this event from almost a half century before accurately and relating entire conversations word for word, hasn't thought of this girl with whom he shared this adventure "in decades!" It makes no sense, and neither did this story. I cannot recommend it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Rating: WARTY!

This was a bloated audiobook which I came to by way of the excellent TV show. I find it disheartening that authors like Gaiman (who is evidently channeling Stephen King here), so routinely get away with padding novels with extraneous material that's not even relevant to the plot, let alone moves it along. If this had been submitted, as is, by an unknown author it would have been slashed and burned by the editor or publisher, assuming they even deemed it publishable.

Gaiman needs to take a few editing hints from the writers of the TV show, because for me, this bloating is what ruined what could have been a fine novel. I made it about a third of the way through, and hit one section after another that was padded with material that seemed to come out of deep left field - which is saying something for a story that is entirely out of left field! - and I gave up on it. I'll stick with the TV version. It's better done.

For example, an entire half-hour drive to work listening to this audiobook (nineteen disks!) was ironically occupied in the novel by a drive which Shadow, the main character in the book, undertook simply to get from point A to point B. It did nothing to advance the story. Gaiman could have simply said "and he arrived somewhat worse for wear from the long drive, but he got there" or words to that effect and that would have been it, but instead, we got thirty minutes of prose and dialog occupied with his buying a crappy old car to make the trip, driving the car, sleeping in the car, taking a leak in the morning (yes, Gaiman described this!), having this random woman show up to beg a ride from him, driving the car, stopping for a meal, driving the car, and then dropping her off at her destination. What exactly, was the point? Just so's he could hook up with her at the end of the story?

The next disk after that became bogged down with the minutiae of running a funeral home. I pretty much skimmed every track on that disk, and quickly decided that this novel, which had started out so well, was not for me. None of this padding was necessary, giving how fat the book was. Frankly, I was annoyed and resentful that a writer felt he could so casually waste my time like this. This is why I don't typically like to take on long novels because they're almost inevitably larded with this kind of thing, and it's boring and irritating to me.

The story in outline is that the old gods - those which are familiar to anyone who knows anything about mythology or comparative religion (although some reviewers seemed sadly ignorant of the mythology which begs the question as to why they even started reading this book in the first place!) are at war with the new ones.

Gods such as such as Odin, Kali, and so on, are being forced out in a take-over by the new gods of television, videogames, technology and so forth. Odin resents this and decides to embark upon a fruitless war against them. He endeavors to recruit the other old gods to help him. This means we meet a lot of characters (if there is one thing humanity truly excels at, it's inventing gods). I notice that in his recruitment of gods obscure and common, Gaiman carefully avoids names like Yahweh, Allah, and Brahma so as not to piss off any fanatics. Other than that, he has no rules and no boundaries.

Some of the story was good, well-written, sacrilegious, and fascinating, but it was nowhere near good enough, well-written enough, or fascinating enough to make up for the dreck. I cannot recommend this. Go watch the TV show instead. be warned that both novel and TV show are explicit and violent.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sandman Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones

Rating: WARTY!

After negatively rating Sandman Overture, I was urged by a Goodreads acquaintance to read this one, which precedes it and which was supposedly better. It wasn't! Not from my perspective; for me, it was confused and unappealing. If I'd asked my youngest son to write a story, and make it as weird and gross as he could, I'd have got something just like this.

Even the titles are confused. How anything can precede an 'overture' I have no idea, unless it's taking your ticket at the door hand having an usher show you to your seat, which wasn't what happened here. This was more like having someone shred your ticket at the door and having Roderick Usher show you to his sister's tomb where she's grossly rotting. 'Prelude' and 'overture' really mean the same thing - a light introduction to something more weighty, but neither of these graphic novels had any weight as insofar as it impacted upon me.

There was only one part of this which made sense, the interlude (as long as we're employing a musical motif!) wherein the Sandman, who honestly looks like a cross between Neil Gaiman and Alice Cooper as depicted here, interacted with John Constantine. That story made sense after a fashion, but it was boring, and it's like the writer and artists knew this and tried to punch it up, but instead of achieving that by making it interesting or exciting, they simply piled on the gross, and declared themselves happy with it. I wasn't.

You'd think someone with the Sandman's powers would be able to find his own sand pouch, but no! After that we went downhill again and I gave up on this when the epilogue appeared about two-thirds the way through, I don't read epilogues any more than I read prologues.

So this was a fail as far as I'm concerned and I'd just like to take this opportunity to send out a general message, not aimed at anyone in particular. You may well adore Neil Gaiman, but I am done with him for now at least. I have literally scores of other authors I want to read instead. I know you mean well and it's admirable that you want to share your enthusiasm for an author. That's why we amateurs do these reviews, after all. We sure get no other reward for it!

But no more Neil Gaiman recommendations and while we're on the topic of advice, no more strident attempts at belittling my views by telling me that I can't review a novel if I haven't finished it, or by suggesting that I just haven't read the right work from author X, and if only I'll just read book Y I'll be in seventh heaven!

If I don't like an author, then reading more of what that author wrote isn't going to make me suddenly like them! No, it's just going to irritate me and worse, waste my time. To paraphrase Gotye, Neil Gaiman is just some author that I used to know, and now I'm moving on to other, potentially more rewarding stories.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Interworld by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reeves

Rating: WARTY!

I'd like to like Neil Gaiman. I loved the Doctor Who episode he wrote a couple of seasons back, and I really liked his novel Stardust, and I liked his Underwhere graphic novel, but ever since those, it seems that he's determined to thwart my every effort to like what he writes. A few days ago I read a The Sandman Overture graphic novel and thought it was a nasty mess. I decided to try again with this middle-grade audiobook and I thought, finally, I'd found something I could listen to, but after enjoying the opening chapters, the novel went the same way that Sandman had: sideways, but in this case literally. It then devolved into nonsense and became just annoying. Maybe middle-graders will like this gobbledygook, but it sure doesn't leave anything but distaste in my reading mouth. I can't imagine my own kids finding it entertaining.

I say reading, but I mean listening since this was an audiobook, and to be fair ('cos I'm normally as unfair as I can get!), Christopher Evan Welch didn't do too bad of a job reading it. The story is about a kid named Joey. He makes a big deal about his lack of any sense of direction, which is not only irrelevant to the story, but it makes him look like a moron who doesn't even know where the sun rises. I don't know why any writer would do that to their main character.

The novel is first person PoV, which is sucky, and the authors admit how limiting it is by having "interlogs" told by another party. It's a clunker. Tell it in third and be done with it instead of performing these ridiculous acrobatics, for god's sakes. Get a clue.

Joey ends up wandering in a fog and no, it's not a metaphor. He comes out in a parallel world where his own mom, who has no son named Joey, but instead, a daughter named Josephine live. He's rescued from his ridiculously prolonged confusion by a guy named 'J', which is evidently 'Jay' - it's impossible to tell in an audiobook. In fact, everyone he meets thereafter - on the good guys side - seems to have a name beginning with a 'J'. No idea why. It was at this point that the story went downhill for me and never recovered.

Apparently there is an infinity of worlds which range on a scale from scientifically inclined at one end, which are inexplicably named binary worlds, and magically-inclined at the other end, inexplicably named HEX worlds. Earth - Joey's Earth that is - is of course in the middle. Despite this veritable plethora of worlds, there is a battle for control of them between various forces, and the "walkers" are charged with keeping a balance between them. Why? No idea. But you know there always has to be a balance even in a universe where the laws of physics are suspended, right? Because, well, it's the law. Either that or authors are either too dumb or lazy to think up something new and original. I'm sorry but no. None of this made any sense, and Gaiman's obsessive addiction to describing mathematical concepts in the Interworld, larding it up with geometrical ideas and paradoxes was just boring, and that's all it was. Like I said, maybe some middle graders will be mesmerized, but I was yawning. This was a DNF and I cannot recommend it.

The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman

Rating: WARTY!

Illustrated weirdly by JH Williams the 3rd, the graphic novel failed to launch. The story made zero sense and the artwork was lousy. I trudged through about fifty percent of it and then asked myself why, and dropped it right back into the library return bin. It was ugly and unintelligible. This is one of two Gaiman reviews I am posting, and both are negative. As I said in my review for Interworld, I'd like to like Neil Gaiman. I loved the Doctor Who episode he wrote a couple of seasons back, and I really liked his novel Stardust, and I liked his Underwhere graphic novel, but ever since those, it seems that he's determined to thwart my every effort to like what he writes! I'm done with him and I can't recommend this at all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Warner Bros
Rating: WARTY!

Adapted by Mike Carey
Art: Glenn Fabry
Color: Tanya and Richard Horie
Letters: Todd Klein.

This was what Neil Gaiman created for a TV show in Britain. I've seen the show, but it was not very memorable. It was inventive enough to intrigue me, so I was interested in reading this graphic novel when I saw it on the library shelf. The graphic is taken from the novel which Gaiman wrote from the TV script he also wrote.

I should say up front that I'm not a big fan of Gaiman's work. I tried reading one of his novels a while ago and gave up on it, but I did really enjoy the episode he wrote for Doctor Who during Matt Smith's tenure.

In true comic book tradition, women are exploited. All the male characters are almost uniformly completely dressed, whereas the bulk of the females are depicted in various states of undress or skimpy dress at best. The main character, the one we meet first, is Door. She's of the portico family, and as the names suggest, they have the ability to find portals where you wouldn't expect them.

Door's family has been wiped out, and she is on the run from Messrs Croup and Vandemar, who are trying to complete their extermination of her family by killing her. Door is also trying to learn who ordered her family's extermination, so she can get some payback. I don't recall how she was dressed in the TV show and I haven't read the novel, so I can only go by what the graphic artist has drawn and here, she's depicted inexplicably wearing combat boots, stockings, and a short skirt with an overcoat.

The graphics are good, and the coloring is perfect for the mood, but the lettering I had issues with. At one point, where Croup and Vandemar are depicted approaching the reader in a long tunnel, the speech is written so tiny as to be illegible. It was a gimmick to indicate their distance, which was already patent from the image, so it failed. More than this, the letterer evidently felt a need to embolden at least one word in every single speech balloon, and the chosen words were evidently random. It was annoying and distracting. I can't recommend this approach at all.

You really have to know a bit about London to get the most out of this. Without that geographical knowledge and an appreciation of how long London's history truly is, you won't get the most pout of Gaiman's delightful playfulness with the names of various London places and landmarks.

That was, I'm sorry to say, really the best thing about it. Watch the made for TV move instead - that's where it all started. Everything else is just - how did Mel Brooks put it in Spaceballs? The Search for More Money!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shadow Show 2 by various authors

Title: Shadow Show 2
Author: Various
Publisher: Idea & Design Works, LLC
Rating: WORTHY!

Shadow Show is purportedly a tribute to Ray Bradbury in the form of a collection of short graphic stories riffing off Bradbury's own stories or related to him and his life in some other way, but I can't vouch for where the profits are going. There is a host of writers, artists, colorers, inkers, letterers and so on who worked on this, but it seems some of the work is adapted from other stories which may or may not have initially had anything to do with Bradbury. Most names I didn't know, but two of the writers were Neil Gaiman and Audrey Niffeneggar. You may have heard of them!

Ray Bradbury died in 2012 after a long and successful career writing novels, short stories, plays, and TV scripts. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. My first encounter with him was in The Golden Apples of the Sun which I really liked. I never did get into his Martian Chronicles, though.

The first story, By The Silver water of Lake Champlain, by Jason Ciaramella based on a short story by Joe Hill is derived from Bradbury's The Fog Horn which I first read in The Golden Apples of the Sun if I recall correctly. This story was good and faithful in spirit to Bradbury's own original. This is followed by Nail Gaiman's The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury which is little more than a list of Bradbury's story titles. This is followed by Niffeneggar's Backwards in Seville, which is a very short and rather disturbing story as it happens, and which wasn't bad. It's hardly more than an idea, though, not really a story!

Live Forever, adapted by Sam Weller, fell a bit flat for me, but I suppose in many ways it's more true-to-life (Bradbury's fictional life, that is!) than most of the other stories. Harlan Ellison's Weariness was uninteresting to me, and not even a graphic story. Dave Eggars's Who Knocks? is just plain weird. Earth, a Gift Shop by Charles Yu is horrible. Altenmoor, Where the Dogs Dance by Mort Castle was nonsensical.

One thing I didn't like was how the stories ran into one another, I don't know if this was intentional, but in a lot of cases, it was impossible to tell that one story had ended and a new one had started until you swiped a couple more pages and discovered the story title, and realized you were already reading it. This was irritating at best. The first story had no title until the very end, however, which was just plain ridiculous. The graphic novel itself had no cover. Note that this is an ARC (advance review copy) which we don't expect to be perfect or final, but in this day and age of ebooks there really isn't any excuse for not having even an ARC is pretty much in perfect and final condition. I sincerely hope this isn't how they plan on actually releasing the book. If so, they have problems!

I can't tell you who wrote the last story or what the title is because there is no title page at all for it. That's sad because this was the best story in the whole collection and is overwhelmingly the main reason why I'm rating this positively. The story is creepy and realistic, the dialog intelligent and engaging, and the art work and coloring wonderful. It makes great use of the white space and the lettering is crisp and readily intelligible. It also defines what it means to be a true friend.

It concerns dear friends Abbey and Cate, young and slightly wild small-town girls who encounter a new guy in town - someone who has a reputation for being a bad boy. Normally I detest love triangles and while this isn't one per se, it sure feels like it's heading down that road until the delightful twist comes. I loved this story and because of it I recommend this graphic novel.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Audible
Rating: Worthy!

I have long been a huge fan of the movie and review it here, so this is going to be yet another novel review and movie comparison. It's long past the time to see how the novel matches up, especially since Gaiman is the one who reads it.

It turns out that the movie followed the novel quite closely, but my favor remains with the movie - just. The novel, set in the mid-nineteenth century, is just fine, but not quite as fine as the movie version, although the two are quite different beasts. The movie is written with a younger audience in mind - but not too young; the novel has some very mature content and a much more sly sense of humor and playfulness. The biggest initial difference between the two versions is that the novel has Tristran with both his parents at home, whereas in the movie he has only his father - to begin with. In the novel there is this section where Tristran is wandering in a forest with a hairy "guy". I found that rather boring. Perhaps that's why they omitted it completely from the movie (not because I found it boring, of course, but because it's objectively boring).

For me, I'd much rather he found the star and got on with it than lolly-gagged and gallivanted so much beforehand. I mean, how wonderful a concept is that: having a star show up personified and a guy fall in love with her? I wish I'd thought of it first. In the movie, that relationship was one of the most charming, with Clare Danes doing a far better job of being a star than she does of being a CIA agent in Homeland where I'm honestly beginning to really tire of her endless whiny attitude, her teary eyes, her perpetually quivering lips, and her patented readiness to break down every five minutes. I'm about ready to ditch that series! She needs to get some lessons on backbone from Annie Walker....

The story improves immensely when Tristran actually does find the star and starts hanging with her, although the details of that encounter and their subsequent interactions differ in a lot of small ways from the way they were later portrayed in the movie. He has a much warmer interaction with Lord Primus, too. I loved this sentence: "The squirrel has not yet found the acorn that will grow into the oak that will be cut to form the cradle of the babe who will grow to slay me." (p122) especially when he ends that chapter with "Then [the squirrel] ran away - to bury the acorn and to forget it."!

I have to say that I really warmed to Gaiman's reading of the novel and I'm glad that he read it and no one else. He has the perfect voice for the novel's tone (unsurprisingly since it's his!). I think had someone else read it, I wouldn't have warmed to it in quite the same way, and indeed, may have become annoyed with it. He has a really winning way of turning a phrase, and a charming cadence to his voice which indicates two things: first of all, he's really enjoying himself in his read, and secondly, this isn't the first thing he's ever read aloud - far from it, in fact! It would be interesting to know if he reads that way to himself (in his own head) when he's reading a novel.

His writing is very good, too - really, exceedingly good. I mentioned in my recent review of The Midnight Dress (which is actually a cool title for a novel!) that author Karen Foxlee doesn't know how to write about the darkest blue (she said the dress was so blue it was almost black). Well, funnily enough, in this very novel, Gaiman gets it right: he says a red dress is so dark it was almost black! Curious coincidence!

So all of the novel's main points were represented in the movie, which is quite something, but the novel has a different twist to many of them, and sometimes events happen in a different order, or in a completely contradictory way as compared with the later movie version. Each of them stands alone, and the novel was wonderful. I rate this as worthy read.