Sunday, 29 April 2012

A Nod to Neil

While watching the terrific film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's creepy children's novel Coraline, I had a thought; I've never dedicated a blog post to Neil Gaiman, Master Storyteller and my favourite author. Ever. I intend to put this unfortunate mistake on my part right. Right now.

For those of you who don't know him, Neil Gaiman is a British fantasy novelist who mainly lives in America. Apart from his critically-acclaimed, multi-award winning novels which are increasingly being made into films (Coraline and Stardust are two films based on his works and another, a film version of the Graveyard Book is being developed now) he is also known as the writer of the Sandman comic book series (which I really mean to get around to reading) and as an occasional scriptwriter; he wrote last year's Doctor Who episode 'The Doctor's Wife.'

It's not too easy to say why I like his writing so much. His work is of course incredibly witty and clever, his style of prose captivating but I think it's something more than that. Something on a deeper level.
 Like I connect with the films of Tim Burton, I really feel for the characters in Neil Gaiman books and get incredibly sucked into whatever world it is he has created. Usually it's a world not too different from our own, just a lot more fun. His writing has such a real heart, I think. Basically, I'd describe his writing as magic. There's not really another word for it. Even when his stories don't involve magic, which, on the whole, they don't, they are magic.

Of course, him writing ghost stories, Doctor Who, fairy tales, Batman, dreams and Sherlock Holmes - all areas I am interested in - doesn't hurt.

If you haven't read any Gaiman I highly recommend you should. In turn, you'll be surprised, shocked, humoured, thoughtful, entertained and even tearful. Below, are my five favourite examples of his stuff. If you are interested in reading any do check them out.

Good Omens
Although not much of a Terry Pratchett fan, I love this combined effort of both author's talents concerning the run up to Armageddon. First and foremost, it's hilarious. Totally written for laughs, we get to know a host of bizarre characters as they all attempt to prevent the Anti-Christ destroying the Earth. The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley are my favourites; after being stuck on Earth since Creation, the two have formed a close friendship despite the fact they are meant to be on opposite sides. Great fun!

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
And now for something completely different. The conceit of this comic, that Gaiman was asked to write as 'the final Batman comic', is that the Dark Knight is dead. All his greatest friends and enemies are gathered at his wake to pay respect to Gotham's now-late Hero. If this all sounds a bit of a downer the twist comes as we realise Batman, in the form of a ghostly apparition, is a guest at his own funeral (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler). It's heart-warming stuff which provides all the reasons why you should get into Batman and love Gaiman's work in general.

Smoke and Mirrors
One of the best things about Gaiman's writing is the chance to dive into his singular imagination. And what better way to do that then in a collection of his short stories which features a plethora of great tales and ideas. Read about the cat who protects his owner's family every night from the devil or the old woman who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop or what happens to the world when a cure for cancer is discovered - that also has some unexpected side-effects.
Smoke and Mirrors has something for everyone, whether you like fantasy, fairy tale, sci-fi or just great storytelling.

Doctor Who: The Doctor's Wife 
Well, obviously I love this one. A Doctor Who episode written by Neil Gaiman. Duh! It's a fab idea for a Who episode though; what if the TARDIS became a person? It's title is a bit misleading but I forgive it that cos it's a radical, shake-em-up concept that you knew would only last an episode (like the Doctor's Daughter). It makes you look at the show in a new light. And for that to be done to a 49 year old programme is no small credit to Gaiman's talents.

 The Graveyard Book
Most probably my favourite Gaiman novel. A Gothic riff on Kipling's classic the Jungle Book, this tells the story of a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard. Just the idea of that is amazing for me but it's followed through superbly. Gaiman's prose and story-telling abilities are at their sharpest. Each chapter moves the story onward a few years so we see the boy, Nobody 'Bod' Owens, grow older. We follow Bod on adventures involving witches, trolls, werewolves and - worst of all! - his first day at school. It's a book for older children primarily but I think it's great joy is that anyone can get something from it. Much like Gaiman's writing on a whole.


  1. Great post on one of my favourite authors. (Have you read Neverwhere? That's my personal favourite.) And I see you are from the Isle of Wight too. Small world!

    1. Thanks very much. I have - Good choice, Neverwhere almost makes my favourite but is just pipped by the Graveyard Book. Its nice to hear from a fellow Gaiman fan (is there a name for us? Gaimanite?) as I know a few people who dislike him.
      And, yeah I know, I thought that when I visited your blog!


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