Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy, Nouveau Fairytale.
Well, I love me some modern takes on the fairy tale and I love me some Neil Gaiman (Sandman is tha bomb!!!!) so this seemed a prefect choice. More tellingly, I love the movie based on this book. I thought I was set up to love this book but it left me lukewarm.
The book follows Tristran Thorn as he leaves the village of Wall on a quest to win his one true love’s heart. He has marvelous adventures in the land of Faerie and, it being a fairy tale, he wins through to his goal! This is all you really need to know before you read this book in terms of plot. Gaiman’s genius for unique characters is in full effect as he populates both Wall and Faerie with memorable personalities and conceptions of magic.
I didn’t expect the movie to have slavishly copied the book. That always blows – see my opinion of Harry Potter films 1 & 2. There was however a very strong tonal difference between the book and movie. I might have liked the book more if I had read it first. Having a different conception of it is really coloring how I feel about it.
The book starts to feel rushed about half way through. The author presents a cornucopia of ideas about the world he has created but doesn’t seem to really follow through on any them, including the main ones. The reader gets glimpses of fascinating beings, races and characters. Gaiman teases and tantalizes by presenting scenarios of immense potential and then never fleshing them out. There was a feeling of unfinished-ness. Like he wrote an outline and added a lot of broad strokes, some interesting details and then hit a deadline and shipped it off.
I am not one to take issue with Gaiman bringing a certain darkness and bittersweetness to the proceedings, it’s sort of his trademark. I guess i just wanted the fairytale to have a happily ever after and Gaiman wrote a sad ever after ending that left a very bitter taste in my mouth. A couple of the subplots end either abruptly and/or with a less than satisfying resolution. There isn’t a whole lot of lasting happiness in Faerie as the author makes it a point to remind us that nothing good lasts.
I’d say that unsatisfying sums up my response to this book. A great start, fertile ground, multitudinous ideas, all underdeveloped and topped with sour cream instead of whipped. And read it before you see the movie!! (which I liked way better).