Review: ‘Stardust’ by Neil Gaiman

I so wanted to love ‘Stardust’. Really and truly. It’s one of my favourite films that I could watch over and over without getting bored, and I honestly imagined that if I loved the film that much, the book would be stunning.

I was wrong.

It made me so sad. I kept trying to fall into the magic, but I failed, staying firmly grounded in reality (which is saying something when I read most of it on an aeroplane), feeling distinctly like I was reading an extended synopsis rather than a book. Besides which, I was distinctly uncomfortable at the blend of fairytale with explicit language and references – in fact, it wasn’t so much a blend as a clash, a road accident that just left me gawping at the side of the road rather than experiencing a new take on an old genre.

 

Tristran (what a name to try and say, no wonder they missed the second ‘r’ in the film casting) was a hero I couldn’t believe in. Ok, let me backtrack – he’s not supposed to be a hero, a knight in shining armour, just a boy on a silly quest that becomes something significantly more. But even with this amendment, I didn’t believe in his growth. And to his credit, Gaiman didn’t have this boy settle to the throne readily – he took the time to learn who he was and live before settling into who he had become.

 

I never quite believed in his relationship with Yvain either. I suppose it was meant to read as though they just fell into it as lovers do, but it seemed more shoe-horned in that anything, Yvain not seeming interested in Tristran until the very last moment when ends needed to be wrapped up and the damsel needed saving.

 

I clearly went in with false expectations and paid the price for this. There are very, very few instances where the book has failed to outdo the film in my limited experience, but this is one of those times where the fantasy of ‘Stardust’ didn’t so much sparkle as fall to the ground without a trace.

Review: ‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

I’m pretty much a complete novice to the fantasy genre, and had never read anything by either of these authors before – this is definitely something that will change in the future.

Although it took a while to get into, ‘Good Omens’ was wickedly funny. It made me laugh out loud, think philosophically about the state of the world, retribution and blame, and – most importantly – have a fiendishly good time reading it. As I said, it took a while for me to settle into this, and I was doubtful I would because the characters and situations are introduced so quickly and in such a complex riddle of words that it’s all a bit much to digest: in this respect, it is worth starting this when you have the time to devote to engaging with the first chapter/day, in order to get your head around the muddle of characters and situations.

However, once past this barrier this book is difficult to let go of: each story seamlessly weaves into another, until events come to a thrilling climax, with each plot detail linking intricately back to earlier moments to bring the novel full circle. What was difficult to deal with were the couple of tangents that events went off at in places – the introduction of aliens and rogue Tibetans partway through seemed a bit false, which is quite something in a fantasy novel! The focus was diverted unnecessarily, which slackened the pace and left the reader running to catch up with the focal events.

It is Aziraphale and Crowley I want to focus on though: proof that the boundaries between good and evil are practically non-existent, and each intersects the existence of the other, for better and for worse. I loved how these seemingly contrasting figures – a wonderfully eloquent angel and a stereotypically demonic lord of hell – were clearly bonded beyond the text on the page. Their relationship was inherent in their actions and their coexistence, illustrating that fighting is pointless when the aim is unfounded. Besides this rather philosophical view, they were so much fun to invest in – never have I laughed out loud at a book as much as I did with ‘Good Omens’! In this way, they pretty much represent Gaiman and Pratchett – two similar men, collaborating for the benefit of mankind (which might be stretching it – for the good of their readers at least!).

As such, this is a definite must-read for anyone wanting to dip their toe into fantasy, as well as die-hard fans of the authors. A book that, quite literally, won’t spoil the ending for us…