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Wandering

Stardust

Posted by aurillia on 2007.08.30 at 15:15


I'll be honest: the only reason I read this was because it was voted as the September book. I didn't vote for it, but I'm always happy to read a book I wouldn't otherwise have picked up. Lots of people on the Lj book communities have recommended Gaiman, and others weren't too impressed. I find I've fallen into the second category, and I still don't feel inclined to read anything else by him.

The movie's out at the moment, and a preview I saw at the cinema was the first time I'd even heard of this book - I guessed it was a book, since adaptations of fantasy books is very popular at the mo. I saw loads of ads for it before I read the book, and have to say, first off, that there seem to be few similarities.

Tristran Thorn is the son of Dunston Thorn and a woman-cat-person-thing from Faery, which lies beyond the wall which gave the village of Wall, in England, it's name. There's a gap in the wall, which they take turns to guard, to stop people from going through into Faery. Every 7 years there's a market held in the meadow beyond the wall, the only time the villagers go through the gap.

While trying to woo beautiful Victoria Forester, Tristran promises to bring back the star they just watched fall over the mountains in Faery. So begins his journey to find the star, which, because it fell in Faery, is not a lump of rock but an equally beautiful young woman with a bit of a temper.

Also looking for the star, called Yvain, are three sister witches who use the heart of the star to give themselves youth and beauty; and the sons of the 81st Lord of Stormhold, who threw his amulet at the star which is what made it fall in the first place. Because he has three remaining sons when he dies (they had already killed the other four), the one who gets the topaz stone back will become the 82nd Lord of Stormhold.

Naturally, Faery is populated by all sorts of creatures, including sinister woods, hairy little men, unicorns, the usual. And because Tristran is half-Faery himself, he fits right in.

Stardust is written with a light touch by British-born and raised Gaiman (now US resident), that reminded me - as it was probably meant to - of Douglas Adams and William Golding (Princess Bride), but the humour, the wit, the irony, isn't really there. The tone and style and pacing makes you expect more than it delivers. It's called an "adult fairy tale", but I don't think including a weak, rather embarrassing sex scene and several references to relieving yourself make it adult, and I didn't find it particularly insightful or allegorical. The ending is rather unsatisfying, being anticlimactic, long-winded and dull. 

The quality of the writing didn't strike me as very inspiring. It's very "this happened then this then this", almost a kind of pain-by-numbers. And predictable, very predictable.

Maybe I'm missing something. I know there's a lot of people who will totally disagree with me, but, for me, it was too lacking in so many areas. I don't think reading the original, graphic-illustrated version would improve things much, since it's the quality of the story itself that I'm disappointed with. 

X-posted to  epicfantasyand bookshare

Comments:


Kiwi Maria
kiwiria at 2007-08-30 19:21 (UTC) (Link)
It's called an "adult fairy tale", but I don't think including a weak, rather embarrassing sex scene and several references to relieving yourself make it adult.
LOL! That's exactly how I felt! If it hadn't been for the sex scene (which I didn't find embarrassing as much as unnecessarily explicit) I'd have called it a children's book.

And I found it really amusing how it was called "relieved himself" or "urinated" when it was a good guy doing it and "peed" or even "pissed" when it was a bad guy doing it! ;-)
Shannon
aurillia at 2007-08-31 12:50 (UTC) (Link)
Oh my god you're right! I didn't notice that before but now you've pointed it out ... I wonder if that's deliberate? Whether it is or not, it's pretty low-brow.
Kiwi Maria
kiwiria at 2007-09-02 17:45 (UTC) (Link)
I thought so too - it's taking the symbolism just a tad too far.
mayakda
mayakda at 2007-08-30 19:22 (UTC) (Link)
I love the graphic-novel -- it is beautiful. Really magical illustrations, imo.
Kiwi Maria
kiwiria at 2007-08-30 19:25 (UTC) (Link)
I tried to find it when in London last week, but couldn't see it anywhere unfortunately :( The disadvantage of living in Denmark - we're at the mercy of booksellers with regards to which books they import. *huge theatrical sigh*
Catherine
catlily at 2007-08-31 07:39 (UTC) (Link)
Neil Gaiman isn't one of my favourites either. I have read Stardust and found it pretty derivative - if I want to read an adult fairy tale I'd probably go for some of AS Byatt's short stories, or Angela Carter or even more recently Amanda Craig or Alice Hoffman (bizarre they all have first names beginning in the letter "A"!).

But two books of his I thoroughly enjoyed were two of his children's books - the picture book, "The Wolves in the Wall", and particularly "Coraline" which still sends shivers down my spine when I think about it. Button eyes. Ugh.
bound to obey and serve
elfundeb at 2007-08-31 22:21 (UTC) (Link)
The tone and style and pacing makes you expect more than it delivers. It's called an "adult fairy tale", but I don't think including a weak, rather embarrassing sex scene and several references to relieving yourself make it adult, and I didn't find it particularly insightful or allegorical. The ending is rather unsatisfying, being anticlimactic, long-winded and dull.

This is exactly how I felt. I know many people who rave about Gaiman, so perhaps I was expecting more, but I was really disappointed with it. I felt that he put his characters through their paces without feeling (Yvaine was especially cold), dragging every fairy tale cliche out of his hat. He could have made a very clever satire, but he didn't.

At least he avoided one cliche: the wicked stepmother. Dunstan's wife was a loving and caring mother to Tristran, and she obviously knew full well how he came into being.

I was going to give up on Gaiman, but perhaps I'll try Coraline.
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