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Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 2008

On the off chance that someone would ask me who my favourite author is, there have been a long period in my life when Neil Gaiman would have been an accurate (almost obvious) answer. I’ve never been a person prone to idolising other people, but Neil Gaiman is probably the only author to have come close.

I’ve read almost everything Neil Gaiman has published (and most of it has been reviewed on this website, have a look here) and I’ve seldom been disappointed. Therefore, I’m a bit sad to tell you that I did not find his latest novel, The Graveyard Book, to be even close to some of his earlier novels. It isn’t abysmally bad or anything, it’s just very disappointing.

The basic idea is interesting, however: an assassin is sent to kill an entire family, but the most important target, the baby boy, escapes and makes his way to a nearby graveyard, where he is taken in by the ghosts and protected against his pursuer. The child is raised by the late Mr. and Mrs. Owens, and protected by a shadowy figure called Silas. The boy is called Nobody, or Bod, and the narrative goes on to cover how he grows up among tombstones and crypts. In the background, the original story with the assassin also continues, because the man who killed Bod’s family did not complete his job and is still looking for the last victim.

As in all his other books, in the Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman lets his imagination flow, and although the various episodes are not as brilliant as some of the others he has written, they are still entertaining. There are  quite a few good adventures to find in a graveyard for a curious kid. The problem is that this book feels like a TV series, with each chapter having an independent plot, which is almost completely detached from the wider perspective.  Bod explores the Graveyard and grows up, but there is hardly any coherence in the sense that earlier episodes are necessary or prerequisites for later ones. There is the with the murderer in the background, but in my opinion, Gaiman lets it lie dormant for far too long before he really sets things in motion.

To be honest, I’m quite disappointed with this book and I can’t even give it three snails. The ideas are okay and the writing style is good, but it simply isn’t on par with Gaiman’s earlier performance. I still consider him to be one of my favourite authors, mostly because of Sandman, Coraline, Neverwhere and Stardust, but more recently, he’s been drifting farther and farther away from that idol status he was once close to ascend to. Before reading the Graveyard Book, I thought that Anansi Boys was a deviating low-water mark, but now I’m starting to doubt. Is the ability to write fiction that holds me spellbound, which I thought infallible in him, finally starting to fade? Neil Gaiman is still one of my favourite authors, but it would be a lie to say that I admire him as much as I did before.

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