Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - What's In the Book?



Pros: Interesting idea.
Cons: Weak storyline.
 
The Bottom Line: Some might enjoy. Me? No thank you.
 
Sometimes I wonder if I must be missing something when it comes to some of the books I read.  I enjoyed Hyperion while everyone around me went nuts trying to read it.  American Gods grated endlessly on my nerves while others raved about it.  I guess in the end it just depends upon your taste in books.  Guess that's why I seem to be the odd man out when it comes to The Graveyard Book.

I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman - I adore Coraline and will happily watch Mirrormask any day of the week.  So I was excited with the idea of a live boy being raised by ghosts in The Graveyard Book.  And while the book was entertaining, on the whole it was a letdown.

The main drive of the story is that Nobody Owens - Bod for short - was a baby when he came to the graveyard.  If he leaves, the man Jack will find him and kill him.  We don't know why Jack wants to kill him or who Jack is even working for.  Bod dutifully remains on the graveyard grounds as he grows, having several adventures along the way and remaining under the watchful eye of his guardian, Silas.

But all we get is the top layer of the story.  There is something beneath the surface, something deadly serious going on, yet we never get to know about it.  I know that even if I were a kid again and reading this, I'd feel the exact same way as I do now.  Frustrated and wanting my questions answered.  The book is essentially full of snippets of "a day in the life of Nobody Owens."  Each chapter is like a vignette, a brief adventure that Bod has.  He meets many interesting creatures and ventures to some dark places, and it's fun to go with him but eventually you want something interesting to happen, and by the time said interesting thing does happen, it's over.  Most of the time it's Silas doing all the work for Bod.

I want to know why Bod was so special (ok, so they kind of say, but then again, who the heck are "they?").  I want to know what the Sleer was.  I want to know what Silas and his two companions were fighting ("they" but again, what made them so tough and dangerous and what the heck is their goal?).  Very poor plot drive.  You just sort of keep reading, waiting for something important to happen, but instead are just mildly entertained by a series of situations and trial-and-error moments Bod gets himself into.

It won the Newberry Award, and I guess if they don't count plot as a bit point in the book and just writing and ideas, then sure, I understand.  After all, it is well-written and has some neat ideas going on (I do love the Hounds of God idea).  However, if I had to do it all over again, I'd skip this and read something else.
 
Weak recommendation; read if you're curious.  It won't take very long and Dave McKean's illustrations are always interesting.

NT


Notes from the playlist: "Peter Gunn" by Henry Mancini

1 comment:

The said...

Gaiman's fans are legion (I'm kinda/sorta one of 'em). I'm so impressed you left the fan girl at home and went with the material itself.

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