Deliciously good fantasy

Posted by Marie on Friday, February 27, 2009 in , , , ,
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adults / Children; ISBN 0-380-80734-3; HarperTrophy, 2003.

Let’s face it. Neil Gaiman is a darn good storyteller and the people to complain that his awards were the results of just being popular clearly don’t know what they are talking about. But I have to be honest here – despite being a fan, I only know him for his graphic novels, with the large bulk from his multi-awarded Sandman series, and a smattering of his Marvel projects. This is my first time reading a pure text-based Gaiman work.

And I simply loved it. While it is obviously a children’s book, anyone who can read and love fantasy and all its trappings – quirky characters, wonderland settings and curveball-kind of plot turns – would surely be swept away. It is deliciously creepy to adults, and I imagine it to be scarier to the kids. But it never patronizes the young readers, like many YA and children’s books tend to do. It also doesn’t insult their intelligence and capability to handle strange and/or frightening story twists.

Many of the acclaims and blurb compared Coraline to the Narnia series and Alice in the Wonderland, of which Gaiman obviously borrowed heavily from (Hidden doors? Passageway to another world? Talking cat? A lost girl?). If the story isn't original, what made it a good read then? Well, to answer myself, Gaiman's cleverness springs from hpw he weaves these familiar threads into something that looks inventively new, even if it’s really is not. He is simply a very decent writer who knows how to control and discipline his work into a finely-tuned novel.

I really shouldn’t end this review without saying anything about Dave McKean. McKean and Gaiman had been working together since the Sandman days, and the comfortable relationship between the two shows in their output. While I don’t know the first thing about giving critiques on illustrations, I do like McKean’s quirky and messy style, which compliments Gaiman’s weird story.

Give this book all the stars that you can dole out – it deserves every last one.

Should be given more than 5 out of 5



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