BooksOfTheMoon

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Despite being told through the eyes of a child, this is very much not a children’s book, with a lot of quite dark imagery and musings on life, death and childhood terror. The central theme, as Gaiman discusses in an interview at the end of the book, is to do with childhood powerlessness. Our nameless protagonist’s world changes when their lodger steals their car, drives it to the end of the lane and commits suicide in it. This leads to him meeting Lettie Hempstock and her family, and gets involved with creatures and forces from beyond the boundaries of creation. But also leads to him getting involved in things he doesn’t and can’t understand or control. Whether it’s his father’s anger or a creature that wants to tear him from reality, it’s about the power of adults over children.

It’s not a long book, but it has some complexity and will benefit from rereading. But for the moment, it’s given me a lot to think about. Gaiman’s on good form with this one.

Book details

ISBN: 9781472200341
Publisher: Headline Review (Hachette)
Year of publication: 2013

Batman: Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

This is an odd little story which tells of the death, or rather deaths, of Batman, in the words of his closest friends and enemies. Gaiman manages to include a mystery and some mysticism into his tight script and the art matches it well. Short and pretty sweet, this is definitely worth a read.

It also comes with some original sketches for the story and some short pieces set in the Batman universe in which the Caped Crusader himself only tangentially appears.

Book details

ISBN: 9781848563926
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Year of publication: 2009

The Books of Magic

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Four mysterious men argue amongst themselves on what to do about Timothy Hunter, a young boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of his age. They eventually decide to show him the realms of magic and let him choose his own future.

At first glance this graphic novel of a young boy with glasses being introduced to a world of magic (even with his own owl) might look a bit familiar, but The Books of Magic was published many years before J. K. Rowling’s bespectacled wizard was even a twinkle in her eye.

We actually learn very little about Timothy in this volume (although apparently we get that in later volumes) and there’s little characterisation, but that’s not really Gaiman’s intention with this story. Like much of his work, this is a story about myth and magic, and it’s the mythology of his world that carries it.

There are many, many cameos from characters in the DC universe throughout the story as the ‘Trenchcoat Brigade’ (including DC favourites John Constantine and Doctor Occult) show Timothy various aspects of the magical realm, but even to someone like me who is mostly unfamiliar with it, it doesn’t matter and you don’t need to be familiar with the characters to enjoy the story.

The artwork is excellent all the way through and the aura of unreality about it suits Gaiman’s story to a tee. A very enjoyable read. And the owl’s cooler than Harry Potter’s too…

Book details

ISBN: 9781563890826
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 1993

Brief Lives (The Sandman, #7)

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Possibly the most linear of all the Sandman stories, this volume has Dream and his sister Delirium searching for their lost brother. It also has themes on life and how no matter how long or short your life is, it’s all the same (Death says this at one point, “you got the same as everyone else: a lifetime”). A wonderful story about life, death and change, it feels melancholy all the way through (but that might just be future knowledge creeping in).

Book details

ISBN: 9781852865771
Year of publication: 1994

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Taking inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, this is a series of linked adventures about Nobody Owens (Bod) whose family are killed but he escapes and finds sanctuary in a graveyard where he is adopted by a childless couple of ghosts, given the freedom of the graveyard and the mysterious Silas becomes his guardian.

I really enjoyed this short book with each chapter following Bod as he grows up in the graveyard, and slowly unravelling the mystery of the man who murdered his family and the reasons behind it. Bod is clearly drawn and easy to sympathise with while the rest of the characters are mostly sketches but nicely defined and fit the story well. I found this a highly enjoyable read right from when Bod first enters the graveyard to the final time that he leaves it.

Book details

ISBN: 9780060530921
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of publication: 2008

Coraline

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Coraline Jones is bored and feels ignored by her parents and then finds a door that leads her to an alternative home with an Other Mother and Other Father. She quickly learns the lesson that things that seem too good to be true usually are…

I’ve just re-read this for the first time in years, after seeing the film adaptation. Goodness but it’s dark, something that I’d quite forgotten! It’s quick to read, I finished it in a couple of hours but it’s quite a satisfying read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780061139376
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Year of publication: 2002

M Is for Magic

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 2 stars

This short story collection was something of a disappointment, not because of the contents which were pretty good but because just about every story has been published in other Gaiman collections, or elsewhere so there was almost nothing that I hadn’t read before. If you’ve already got Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, then I wouldn’t bother with this book, but otherwise it’s worth reading.

Book details

ISBN: 9780061186424
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year of publication: 2007

The Wake (The Sandman, #10)

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

This slim volume provides the epilogue to the story of Dream of the Endless. After his story is complete, the whole series is bookended by a story of Hob Gadling and Shakespeare’s last encounter with the King of Dreams which was the inspiration for The Tempest. A satisfying conclusion to an epic journey.

Book details

ISBN: 9781563892875
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 1996

The Kindly Ones (The Sandman, #9)

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

The penultimate Sandman novel, this sees the culmination of the story that’s been building up over the past eight books. After her child is kidnapped, Lyta Hall calls on the Furies for vengeance on the one she holds responsible: Morpheus.

The rules that govern the behaviour and actions of the principal characters are far from transparent, but you get the impression that old rules don’t necessarily have to make sense, but just have to be “mythic”, and that certainly applies here. The only odd storyline seems to be that of Rose Walker, which didn’t really seem to go anywhere. Apart from that, an excellent story.

Just don’t read the introduction until you’ve read the story since it contains a pretty massive spoiler.

Book details

ISBN: 9781563892042
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 1996

Odd and the Frost Giants

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

This short little children’s book concerns a Norse boy, Odd, the three talking animals he encounters when he runs away from home and his adventures thereafter. A fun book that’s got a little bit of depth to it.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747595380
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Year of publication: 2008

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