I don’t have an excuse for why it took me so long to read a book by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is an author I knew I would love. I love fantasy, fairy tales, and excellent writing. I have friends who are huge fans of his, who have gotten their books signed by him, and who have urged me to read his books. But every time the subject came up I was either in the middle of another book with a long list of books to read afterwards or I was in the middle of school and didn’t have any plans for recreational reading until coming up for air during winter or summer break. Not a good excuse, I know. I’ve even written a post about an article of his, but last week I finally, finally read a book of his- Stardust.
Stardust is one of the few movie/book combos where I have watched the movie before reading the book. I am usually pretty good about sticking to my book before movie rule, and it has introduced me to some good series (i.e. Divergent), but Stardust was not one of those examples. I first saw the movie Stardust in college and I absolutely loved it. I was hesitant about not reading the book first, but I quickly got caught up in the story and that was the end of my worrying. I rewatched it a few years later, both times swearing that I would read the book, but as I said before I never got around to it.
The movies for Stardust, Eragon, The Golden Compass, and Inkheart all came out with in a few years of each other. And most of these titles are tagged as great books that made not so great movies. I haven’t seen Eragon or Inkheart; I enjoyed the Golden Compass movie, but I do agree the book (which I am currently reading) is much better. But Stardust doesn’t fall into that category. It makes an excellent movie. After reading the book I think the movie did a really good job of maintaining Gaiman’s sense of imagination and whimsy on the big screen. There were even a couple of scenes that I thought would be in the book that weren’t, but they still fit in with the feel of the story. So even there is some discrepancy between the book and the movie (which I am usually pretty picky about), it still has the same feel as the book, and that is what makes it a good movie.
Now, onto the book itself. Gaiman has really perfected the art of the adult fairytale in Stardust. While there is a whimsical feel to the story, and many of the typical characters one would find in a fairytale (a witch, a prince or two, etc.) there is a distinctly mature feel to the book as well. Tristan Thorne is a young man who lives in Wall, a town in England bordering a fantasy world (the two are divided by a wall, hence the name). He goes out on an adventure to retrieve a shooting star for his love back home, but the story quickly becomes more complicated than that as other characters want the star as well. There are many tropes Gaiman follows in this book, but he also does a good job of turning them on their heads which makes the story more unique and memorable.
Many fantasy authors create fantastic worlds through description, but Gaiman’s excellent use of language adds another element to the his fantasy world. It’s artistic but not overdone to the point where it becomes tired or draws the reader out of the story. Instead it draws the reader farther in. He is going on my list of authors who use great language along with Billy Collins and Markus Zusak. I should say that this list doesn’t actually exist on paper, although it probably should. I can tell that Stardust is a good book to reread as well, and I’m looking forward to coming back to it and seeing what jumps out at me the second time around.
It is also a graphic novel, and I am interested in reading that as well to see what changes, what stays the same, how pictures add to the story especially considering Gaiman’s use of language. So that’s something that I’m looking forward to. And it’s almost the weekend.