Book Recommendation of the Month

July 2003 Book

--Posted by Riposte101 @ 7/21/03 20:12 PST.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

A one sitting read, in the space of a few hours, manages to capture your imagination and take it on a magical journey into a mystical land fraught with peril and full of grand adventure.

Few novels paint a setting that makes me envy the characters that dwell within it and convince me to give up the electronics driven paradise I currently live in for an imaginary land, but somehow Neil Gaiman manages to do just that in Stardust.

The story goes that across the wall from a small British Victorian village is an enchanted land. Many who pass through the wall are never heard from again. The villagers guard against others passing through the portal, the only exception is that once every nine years there is a fair that takes place where residents from both sides meet to trade. It is here that Dunstan Thorn meets a beautiful girl from beyond the wall.

Their union produces a boy and he arrives at Dunstanís doorstep in a basket with a note proclaiming his name to be Tristan Thorn.

Almost eighteen years later, Tristan, in his efforts to win the heart of Victoria Forester, makes a vow to bring her a shooting star and he sets off to travel past the wall in the search of the prize for his love.

On his adventure, Tristan is introduced to a host of interesting characters, most benevolent and some quite the opposite. Much of the book is a moral tale, where one is rewarded for selflessly helping others and it is through this friendly assistance that he finds his star. As it turns out, the star is not a cold lifeless rock, but is instead a magical girl named Yvaine.

Although the novel is predictable, it nonetheless is relentlessly entertaining. I was surprised by the spectrum of emotions I felt during Tristanís journey. The prose is eloquent and never ceases to amaze me how well it seizes your imagination and convinces me of the existence of this fictional world. The best way to describe this book would be a Hayao Miyazaki flick without all that crap about the evils of man corrupting nature.

By the end of the novel I had a grin from ear to ear, but a little later that is replaced by a feeling of loss as it dawned on me that the book was over.

This book would be very appropriate and relevant to young children were it not for an errantly misplaced scene with a fairly graphic depiction of sex.

Words of warning: Do not buy the graphic novel of this book without first having read the version without the pictures. The paintings in the graphic novel, while pretty were unnecessary and actually took away from the wonderfully depicted characters and settings of Gaimanís writing.