Tuesday, 9 April 2013

'Shadow had done three years in prison'

Last summer, at the beginning of Boom(k) Club (the nickname given to the book club I'm a part of, after a problem with autocorrect and Facebook), Cat suggested that we read Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  The book was agreed and we all went away and read it.

The following week Cat lent me Neverwhere.

And the following week I downloaded American Gods onto my brand new Kindle.

Now, I've read a lot a fantasy in my time.  And I mean a lot.  For example, I'd read The Lord of the Rings about five times before I left primary school, and to this day I can point out continuity errors in the Harry Potter series.  One of my Masters essays even included an analysis of Gaiman's portrayal of Shakespeare within his The Sandman comic series ('The dramatic unities in fantastical appropriations of The Tempest', also looking at Diana Wynne Jones' Hexwood and the 196 film Forbidden Planet). Nonetheless for some reason I'd never really read any of his novels.

Now, I enjoyed Anansi Boys.  I loved Neverwhere.  But I was blown away by American Gods.  Not only is it epic in both material and size, but it's simply brilliant.

The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow. (Wikipedia)

Every now and then, a snippet of information about the sequel or the HBO adaptation, is leaked online and for approximately 72 hours I am transformed into a squealing, hyperventilating fangirl.  And then the BBC adapted Neverwhere for radio.

It is cool to love Neil Gaiman because his writing is compelling, with sentences and phrases that I long to be able to shape myself.  His characters are deep and complex and he adopts and adapts so many different styles of writing (Stardust, for example, reads like a bastardised fairytale) that it's like experiencing a college of literature all at once.

And he's got a new book out at the moment: The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  The spiel on Amazon reads:

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is a fable that reshapes modern fantasy: moving, terrifying and elegiac - as pure as a dream, as delicate as a butterfly's wing, as dangerous as a knife in the dark, from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman.

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

I know I'm going to Kindle it as soon as I get paid.

But still, if you read only one book this year, let it be American Gods.

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