Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK: Neil Gaiman’s best book so far

After his family has been killed by a man named Jack, Nobody Owens is forced to live in hiding in a graveyard. There are a lot of adventures in a graveyard for a boy -- the Indigo Man, the gateway to the city of ghouls, among many. But little does he know that the man Jack is still on the hunt for him, and the man is not alone...

The first thing that captured my attention is the illustrations, which were done by Dave McKean, a name that is very familiar to Sandman readers. For obvious reasons, illustrations make books, particularly children books, more entertaining to the eyes. But Dave McKean’s illustrations are not childish-looking at all. They have a unique style that makes them look dark and mature, but not enough to make it unsuitable for children. The style is rather funky.

The writing style is another department that really caught me. The prose is the smoothest I’ve seen in Neil Gaiman’s works. I also enjoy the omniscient yet limited perspective (We’ll get to that later). The Graveyard Book feels almost entirely different from the author’s other works. The writing stands out.

Another thing that makes it different is how the chapters are divided. The book is about 300 pages long, but there are only 8 chapters. This means that the chapters could be rather long for those who have shorter attention spans. The reason why this book has been divided this way is that the book feels like a collection of story arcs. Each chapter is a story of its own, but somehow, there is still an overall story that binds all of them together.

This overall story, I must admit, has been executed ridiculously well. That is thanks to the omniscient perspective that is not so. The storytelling is in third person, but it doesn’t follow a singular character. It jumps from one character to the next, giving the readers the best perspective of the current situation. This jumping has been used to present and conceal certain plot elements, which is actually an effective tool to keep the readers entertained and intrigued.

In truth, there are actually a lot of plot points that are not fully expanded, like the organization that wanted Nobody Owens dead. What are the Honour Guards, exactly? Who is the Sleer? There are so many things that need exploration. But the fact that they are mysterious actually contribute to why they have been effective elements of the book. It gives the readers room for imagining things. Besides, Neil Gaiman has told the story he wants to tell. He just leaves us to fill in the details of the ghostly world he has created.

Speaking of this ghostly world, I admit that its ghostly inhabitants are really well-crafted. From the souls in the graveyard, to the mystical beings like the ghouls and the hounds of God -- all of them have distinct characteristics that make them unique and entertaining.

Overall, I think The Graveyard Book is Neil Gaiman’s best book yet. It is infinitely inventive with its haunting story, which is of course told masterfully, and characters, which are actually well-moulded and not just paper cut-outs. But like any book, the most important part of The Graveyard Book is its underlying messages, and what I like about the book’s underlying messages is that they fit the overall theme very well -- Life, Death, and everything in between.

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  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, I LOVED it. Outside of the Sandman series, this is Neil Gaiman's most well-written story, in my opinion. I'll be looking for A Monster Calls soon, and other titles recommended by others.