Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cool Reading for Halloween Month: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

I'm sure I don't need to expound on how much fun Neil Gaiman's writer's voice can be for those of us who like dark humor and macabre fantasy goings-on.

If you liked THE JUNGLE BOOK as a kid, then you should have a good time with Gaiman's homage to Mowgli's tale.

In this story, we open with a family massacre. Yeah, really cheery, huh? And yet, watching the young toddler of the family escape the clutches of the assasin who's already murdered the mother, father, and sister, we see the gumption and smarts and adventurous spirit that will eventually bring this pseudo-Mowgli into his own years later, when he finally overcomes his foes.

The toddler wanders into a cemetery--an old one, a historic one, not very much visited anymore--and it's the ghosts and the lone outsider among the dead (named Silas, & you'll be able to guess what sort of creature he is in short order, though it's never said outright) who come to the boy's aid, essentially becoming his family, his community, his instructors, his mentors, and his protectors.

And he needs protectors, for the assasin intends to complete the job he was selected to do that fateful night when the toddler lost his kin to the killer.

The story follows Nobody Owens (his name, given to him by the dead denizens and his adoptive ghost parents, Mr and Mrs. Owens, dead for over a century) as he learns all the ins and outs of cemetery living and develops ghostly skills. His friendships with a living girl, a dead witch, and his run ins with evil humans and ghastly ghouls and a dread creature dwelling far below in a burial mound so ancient everyone's forgotten about it are exciting and fun in typical Gaimanesque delightfulness.

A quick read (a good thing, as my eyes can't read all that much these days),a fun read, and some of the chapters--like the one about the Danse Macabre--are amazingly moving.

The value of love, learning,courage, and community, as well as the role of destiny and prophecy, and the damages caused by avarice and evil--these all play their part in Nobody's story. The ending is bittersweet and very appropriate. I would love to read a sequel, though one is not needed. It's simply me.

Big Mir thumbs up.

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