Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Graveyard Book -- Neil Gaiman

Spoilers galore.  Read at your own risk.  

Okay, there's this kid whose parents are brutally murdered by a mysterious guy with odd powers.  The kid survives and winds up in the graveyard where he's adopted by ghosts and a guy who, though it's never specified, is a vampire.  He learns to open the Ghoul Gate, to Fade, and to Dreamwalk.  He's still being pursued by the guy who wants to kill him (it's all part of an ancient plot because of a prophesy that says the boy will grow up to be a powerful guy who can walk the line between the worlds of the living and the dead).  There's a cute (but dead) witch whom the boy likes.  The boy's name is Nobody Owens (sly wink to The Odyssey).  Muggles, er, the general population, doesn't understand they boy when contact occurs.  He can't fit in.   At the end of the story, there's a big battle in which Nobody (or Bod, as he's called -- get it?) uses his powers against Jack and the other Jacks to defeat them.  He's no longer a boy by this time.  Rites of passage are completed.  Gains and losses are totaled up.

The structure of the book is episodic.  Several of the chapters could stand alone as short stories.  It works pretty well.  The relationship between Bod and his ghostly parents isn't very well developed, but I guess that's okay.

Gaiman says his story is a retelling of The Jungle Book.  It reads a lot like a plot based on the novels about a certain young wizard to me.  Anyway, it's very well done.   Good writing, good suspense, interesting characters (living, dead, and in-between).  When it's all over, there are plenty of things left unsolved, and there's more than a hint that there will be a sequel or three should there be a demand.  Since this book won the Newbery Medal, I suspect there will be a demand.  Hey, I'll read 'em.


pattinase (abbott) said...

It was hard to believe the first chapter was in a YA book, wasn't it? Yes, clearly he's learned much from the Potter books.

Bill Crider said...

Yes, the first chapter is a bit rough for a YA. Or I guess it isn't, since it's there.

Dan Guy said...

I find the charge laughable, especially considering that many have accused Rowling of borrowing liberally from Gaiman's earlier "Books of Magic", about a young, bespectacled, British orphan, Tim Hunter, who is one day informed that he is the most powerful wizard in the world. (It, and the non-Gaiman-written series that followed it, was far superior to the Potter books IMHO.)

Gaiman, rightly, has said that it's silly to accuse Rowling of ripping off his story, that only someone who was not widely read would make such a mistake, that there are plenty of prior books that are closer to his and Rowling's than they are to each other.

Bill Crider said...

Didn't mean to make a "charge," just a sort of observation that the book reminded me more of the Rowling books than Kipling. The Rowling books remind me of lots of other folks, including the now-forgotten Theodore R. Cogswell.