Wednesday 16 June 2010

Stardust – Neil Gaiman


 star1 star1star1half star

Genre: Fantasy
Published: 199
Pages: 200

In the town of Wall, which lies on the otherside of Faerie world, Tristran Thorn sees a star fall and promises the girl he loves that he will find it and bring it back to her in exchange for his heart’s desire. So he crosses over into the fantastical land of Faerie to fulfil his quest…

I have read  American Gods Gaiman and I was not very impressed. I found the writing flat and the story seemed to float around in the middle of nowhere. However despite all that, a part of me felt like I wanted to like it more then I did, so I said I’d read one more of his books and give him a second chance.

Here it is, the second chance and it succeeded in a fashion. I did enjoy it. It is a quick, easy read that I find myself breezing through. In short, it is an entertaining story.

Gaiman took a big fantasy world, containing wicked witches (sweet, harmless old biddies who wouldn’t harm a fly, if you’d believe that…) airborne pirates, seven lord of Stormhold on the quest to win their inheritance. He squashed an epic world into 200 pages and centred it around a fairly simple story.

I thought there were some brilliant ideas in Stardust that would make for a long series of short ‘fairytales’ I don’t know whether Gaiman intends to do this or not though. I can’t see myself going out of my way to read his other books but if he were to continue with this world, I probably would slip into it now and then.

The characters were not fleshed out enough – they fulfilled their generic roles. The story is simple and fast reading but I didn’t feel as if I was left with anything special to remember it by.

I’m not taken with Gaiman’s style of writing – it just don’t do anything for me. He definitely has an individual voice of his own, but it is one I can’t gel with, personally.

Gaiman set out to write a fairy tale for adults – because apparently adults lack all that magic and fantasy.

"As adults, we are discriminated against. As adults, we are an oppressed majority because nobody writes us fairy tales. I think the problem is not that ... we grow out of fairy tales. The problem is nobody writes us fairy tales; nobody gives us fairy tales that are as satisfying, as meaty, as filled with real people and real incident, as the things that we remember from when we were children,"

- (1999)

Stardust wasn’t meaty, satisfying or filled with real people. It has a rather boring sex scene at the beginning, nipples and breasts are mentioned, a man urinating and the word ‘fuck’ appears in small print.

The problem is, that children have a natural ability to just imagine and believe that this is real. It is something innate and magical. Stardust doesn’t take you back to this stage. If an adult wants to get back to that magical world they can dare enter the YA part of the bookshop and they’ll find plenty of books with real people people and real incident.

In fact, Gaiman knows this because he is best buddies with Diana Wynne Jones. I think you’ve heard me mention her before. It was Jones’ Eight Days of Luke that inspired him to write American Gods.

She has also written at least two books about stars falling to earth. Once in Howl’s Moving Castle – with a couple of similarities: the poem ‘Song’ by John Donne found at the beginning of Stardust and the ideas of the heart and youth in relation to capturing a star being found in both books. Secondly in Dogsbody where stars fall from the sky in the form of living creatures.

I find it difficult not to compare these books. Diana Wynne Jones is a fantastic fantasy author and when she writes she doesn’t sound as if she is trying – plus her stories, although based around familiar archetypes and fairytales, always feel utterly unique and different. Unfortunately, compare these two friendly authors and I can’t help but choose the one I prefer. Perhaps this is unfair of me to do so, but this is my review and how I feel.

I don’t really understand his reasoning for calling Stardust a fairytale for adults – it was nothing more then a YA fantasy with naughty bits in it. Maybe , I am missing the point – maybe that was, in fact, his point. He wrote a YA book, swore in it, urinated in it and sold it to the adult market.

Three stars because I enjoyed reading it and despite my above complaints I think it’s a well written, well imagined story.

The half star is because if he were to write any more set in this world then I would definitely read them. However after eleven years I don’t know if he will.


  1. I *completely* disagree with pretty much everything you said here :P But we're blogging friends anyway, of course ;)

  2. Isn't it funny? There's a number of Neil Gaiman books that didn't do much for me, but others I have really enjoyed. He's hit or miss for me, I guess. Although I do always enjoy his blog, and his twitter updates!
    I agree when you say that Stardust doesn't feel terribly meaty -- I actually (and this is pretty rare for me to say!) feel that the movie was better than the book. But then again, I do not generally have very high standards for films (because I'm more of a book person.)

  3. I've heard that the film is better then the book from several people. I haven't seen it yet but I can see how this might be... it has such a lot of parts - the stormhold lords, the air pirates and the witches that would make good fuel for films and the story is short and probably malleable enough to turn into a good film.

  4. I read the illustrated version with drawings by Charles Vess and got much more of a magical feel from the drawings than from the text... I agree that Gaiman's writing style and characterisation often feel flat, though I enjoy his imagination.

    People have such strong feelings about him as an author!



Related Posts with Thumbnails