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Customer Review

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant read, but reliant on cleverness and short on substance, December 30, 2008
This review is from: The Graveyard Book (Hardcover)
I can't imagine anyone saying they're not a Neil Gaiman fan. He is an exceptional storyteller, and a master at infusing the novel, the unique, and the off-skew into his stories.

The Graveyard Book has all of the elements of Gaiman's unique abilities embedded within the story. I marvel at the breadth of his originality and imagination. I found The Graveyard Book to be a great literary snack, no matter that it is essentially a children's fantasy novel. It is also, however, devoid of weight.

As the story of the novel's genesis goes, the idea that inspired Gaiman to write the book was one long in incubation. The actual writing, however, began in Chapter 4, according to the author, and the book reads exactly so - like it was begun in the middle, with numerous clever novelties sewn together by a master storyteller, but at the end of the day lacking in the sort of coherent gravity that makes a book great - and in my case, that garners a 5 star rating.

I would encourage anyone to read the book. It is, as I said, a great snack. Gaiman's imagination and imagery are worth a look every time, but this book is a sitcom. It's a neatly packaged riff. But even children's books can have gravity, and in fact one might argue that they, more than any other, should.

The Jacks of All Trades, as they are described in the book, have no apparent reason for being. They're a serviceable boogeyman, but no more. The convenience of a certain ritualistic trio of artifacts at the end of the book goes unexplained. The whim of the Sleer at the end is a bit like having a Mack truck take out the bad-guy at the end of a story rather than the creativity, ingenuity, effort, or sacrifice of the hero. The artifice of the Sleer is too apparent, its convenience too great to create a compelling conclusion.

Short of the novelty of a vampire, werewolf, and mummy, what is the nature of this Order counter to the Jack of All Trades? What is its purpose?

The relationships between all the moving parts are just a little too tenuous to build the suspense, drama or caring that could take a novel idea, and a great character in Bod, to the next level.

By the end of the book, most everything that Bod needed to do was done for him by others. What are his great lessons? What is he carrying into the next phase of his life except a novel childhood? "The girl" will have no memories of him. He no longer seems to have any of the attributes his "Run of the Graveyard" gave him. His enemies were defeated for him so he no longer has that purpose. It doesn't seem like much. Thus, it doesn't leave the reader with much either.

I liked the book. It was fun. The imagery, dialogue, and characters amused. I might even read it again. But even this novel has the potential to be so much more - to mean¬ so much more. For those books that do, I offer 5 stores. Neil just wasn't trying that hard this time. Due to the opportunity missed, I grant 3. Still, heartily recommend the read.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 3, 2009 8:26:36 AM PST
N. C. Smith says:
You ever get the feeling people say your review is "unhelpful" because they just don't like the # of stars you gave, and in fact never took the time to read the review at all?

I hate people like that.

Posted on Jan 9, 2009 2:14:57 PM PST
techmannn says:
I liked your review quite a bit. You asked questions about the text that many folks never bother to ask because they werent reading all that carefully.

Posted on Jan 19, 2009 4:19:24 PM PST
The title of this review, " Pleasant read, but reliant on cleverness and short on substance", sums up Gaiman's work in general for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2009 9:30:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2009 9:32:19 AM PST
It's always been like that. A long time ago, Amazon just let you vote on whether the review was helpful or not. Then someone decided that they should also let you choose Unhelpful, immediately guaranteeing an atmosphere of semi-hostility. In some of my reviews back then, I'd say how dumb this new Helpful and Unhelpful thing was, but Amazon would edit that part out. It still seems dumb to me even now. There wasn't enough bickering on the Internet? An insightful, honest, articulate review will often get more Unhelpful votes than Helpful if the author has a lot of fanatical fans. And that, again, is dumb, Amazon. Dumb.

Posted on Feb 14, 2009 11:10:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2009 11:12:38 AM PST
B. Kilburn says:
I haven't read this book but I want to thank you for what seems an excellent (and very helpful) review.
I agree with you on Gaiman's work in general. He is without a doubt a very talented author, possibly the best fantasy writer in 30 or 40 years. (The fact that he isn't writing Tolkien rip-offs goes a long way toward securing that status though)
I'll always remember when I first read American Gods, that I was stopped in my tracks several times by the beauty of the language and had to read a passage over again because it was so GOOD!
And he certainly has no lack of imaginative ideas for stories. But where he sometimes lets down is in following through with his excellent ideas. I'm willing to forgive a lot because of the greatness of his language and the uniqueness of his ideas but if he would tighten up on the plot just a bit, he would no doubt go down as one of the all time greats of imaginative literature.

Posted on Apr 9, 2010 8:34:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 9, 2010 8:38:43 PM PDT
Thanks for the review, I just finished reading the book and absolutely agree with you. I'm not a reviewer so I couldn't quite put into words how I felt after I closed the book and this summed it up perfectly, "The relationships between all the moving parts are just a little too tenuous to build the suspense, drama or caring that could take a novel idea, and a great character in Bod, to the next level." It lacks depth somehow and found the most interesting character in the book for me was Liza Hempstock, because I was emotionally more involved in her plotline than any others in the rest of book.
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