Tag Archives: neil gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (unabridged audiobook read by the author; 6 hrs on 5 discs): The more I like a book, the less I have to say about it, so expect this to be short. It’s the story of a man finding his childhood was different from how he remembered it, but more than that, it’s a story of old gods and hidden spirits and all those kinds of things that Gaiman really excels at. He makes the ordinary world magical.

A note on the audio: Gaiman remains a fabulous reader. I wish he could read me bedtime stories every night. And I don’t mean that in a creepy euphemistic way, either: I just really enjoy listening to him tell stories.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: When Richard Mayhew helps a bleeding girl on the sidewalk, his life is turned utterly upside-down. First his fiance dumps him, then he seems to no longer exist: taxis won’t stop for him, people don’t notice him unless he speaks directly to them, then forget him immediately after. He then journeys into London Below, a strange world of magic and sewers and abandoned tube stations. This is Gaiman’s forte: take the real world and then flip it on its head, revealing the strange beauty beneath. There’s a real sense of wonder woven throughout the story, making me desperately want to visit these places, meet these characters, see these sights. The villians were nefarious and even the heroes were a bit disturbing at times. I think my favorites were Old Bailey and the marquis, though I wasn’t sure how I felt about the marquis for quite a bit of the tale. If you’re looking to try out Gaiman, this is a good book to start with.

Side note: did anyone else notice that the physical description of Richard Mayhew very much resembles Gaiman himself?

Also posted on BookCrossing.

P.S. – I’m seeing Neil Gaiman speak tonight at George Mason University. Yay! :D

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (unabridged audiobook read by the author; 7.75 hours on 7 discs): Bod (short for Nobody) Owens lives in a graveyard, raised by the ghosts and otherworldly beings who live there. This tale chronicles his entire childhood including his adventures with ghoul gates, Hounds of God, the Sleer, and fellow living children. The narration borders on the lyrical, with ghostly voices like rustling leaves and Bod’s guardian Silas the most mysterious of them all (though I have my suspicions). This is one of those rare books that I enjoyed so thoroughly that I can’t think of anything to say about it in my review. It’s weird and funny and bittersweet and very memorable. I will definitely be reading it again one day.

A note on the audio version: Very few writers are good readers, but Gaiman is one of the best of both. I was completely enchanted by his gentle narration, and I advise everyone not to miss out on a chance to listen to him read his stories. However, by listening to this on audio I missed out on Dave McKean’s illustrations. Which is why it is such good luck that I happen to own a paper copy as well, so I can go back and read it with Gaiman’s voice in my head and McKean’s drawings at hand.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (unabridged audiobook read by the author): Haunting and atmospheric as usual; whenever I read any of Gaiman’s stories I immediately wish I could visit whatever location he describes. No matter how desolate or bland, he always manages to fill it with a sense of wonder and beauty. I wasn’t, however, quite so impressed with the story-poems, which struck me more like prose with awkwardly placed line breaks. I also wish I’d known so many of the stories would be from collections devoted to authors I’ve never read, such as H.P. Lovecraft. But that’s okay. Maybe someday, after I’ve read some of those stories, I’ll come back and reread these. Speaking of rereading, the final two stories, “Murder Mysteries” and “Snow, Glass, Apples”, I’d heard before on Two Plays for Voices. They’re much easier to follow in prose form. All in all, I think I prefer the other Gaiman I’ve read.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Weekly Geeks

WG 2009-39 is about book recommendations. To be perfectly honest, most of the book recommendations I follow come in the form of books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BC in DC members. We get passionate sometimes, and more than once I’ve shown passing interest in a book, only to get a glowing “OMG you must read this”-style exclamation from whoever brought it. More often than not, I give it a try. And am rarely disappointed. I’ve come across several great authors this way, including Simon Singh, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine M. Petrini. Basically if a book looks interesting, regardless of genre, I’ll give it a shot.

Sometimes the books I read are a random find, such as the infrequent occasion when I catch a BookCrossing book in the wild, or if I happen to win it in a contest. I usually have a large number of to-be-read (TBR) books on my shelves, so it is rare indeed for me to finish my current book and have to go searching for something else to read. If I do, though, there’s always The Book Seer, Literature-Map, and Debbie’s Idea, all of which are fine tools for discovering new books and authors.

The official assignment this week involves reader participation. Since the vast majority of my readership exists solely in my head, I may have to play music to drown out the crickets, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But anyway. The assignment is to ask for recommendations, and give my own, both within a single genre. So I’m going to choose science fiction/fantasy (SFF) as my genre. Some people may protest and tell me that’s two genres, but I beg to differ. First, several popular authors write books that are difficult to categorize as one or the other (e.g., Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Stasheff), and as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

First off, I’d love to hear your recommendations. I don’t mean stuff that necessarily aligns with my established tastes, I mean great SFF books in general. What are some titles/authors I simply should not miss?

And now for my recommendations, again in SFF. The WG page suggests I start with something like “If you’re looking for…” which could just mean narrowing it down by genre, but I’m going to narrow it down a little further. So here goes:

If you’re looking for a rowdy yarn set in the far future… Mike Resnick is your man. Most of his books are set within the future chronology laid out in Birthright: The Book of Man, but my personal favorites are Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and the Penelope Bailey trilogy.

If you’re looking for a beautiful fairy tale… then march right up to Neil Gaiman and Stardust. This is one of the few books I’ve kept and intend to reread. I hear Neverwhere is his best novel, but I haven’t read it yet (though I do have a copy on my shelf).

If you’re looking for a powerful tale of children in an adult world… I cannot recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card highly enough.

If you’re looking for hilarious satire in the guise of SFF… then you want definitely to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

If you’re looking for time travel… The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is your best bet. There are other notables in this sub-genre, but Wells tops them all IMHO.

If you’re looking for good YA SFF… I really enjoyed the Borderlands books, especially Elsewhere and its sequel Never Never by Will Shetterly.

If you’re looking for great concept stories… Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov are all excellent choices for expanding your horizons.

And finally, if you’re looking for mythology in the modern world… you’re sure to get a kick out of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ll missed a bunch, but this is a good start.  What glaring omissions do you spot on this page? Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Most importantly: enjoy! :)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: Tristran Thorn, a 17-year-old boy in the city village of Wall, promises the woman he loves to bring her the falling star they see one night. In return, she promises him anything he desires, though she is neither interested in him nor taking him seriously. From there begins the wonderful fairytale of Tristran’s journey to retrieve the star. Though it’s not particularly suspenseful or dramatic or funny, it is a delightful piece of fantasy storytelling, perfect for a rainy afternoon’s escape.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: The Apocalypse is nearing, but the Antichrist has been misplaced, and an angel and demon that have been around since Creation are realizing that they’re rather fond of the world and would prefer if it didn’t end just now. This is a funny book. The bizarre asides, reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, are really the best part. I can see now why this book is so popular among fans of humorous fantasy: it’s wonderful. It’s one of the rare books I could see myself reading multiple times.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods by Neil Gaiman: I can’t say too much about the plot without giving it all away; much of my enjoyment of the book was from slowly figuring out exactly what’s going on. The story starts with Shadow, a man whose wife is killed two days before he was due to be released from prison. On the plane home, a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday offers him a job which, upon learning that his best friend – who owned the Muscle Farm where Shadow was going to work – is also dead, Shadow accepts. From there he goes on a crazy journey all over middle America, meeting gods old, new, and otherwise. It was a long book – over 600 pages – but it didn’t drag or jump around in time too much, and things were described well enough that I really felt like I was there. Sometimes I was a little confused as to where it all was going, but the end was satisfying. Now I want to visit some of those old run-down roadside attractions mentioned in the text, especially the House on the Rock.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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