Stardust, Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess Review from April 17th, 2009
I just finished rereading Stardust, this time in the illustrated edition. The art is all by Charles Vess, and it’s gorgeous. He has his own style, but the art is all accessible and pretty. I particularly liked the illustration of Tristan and Yvaine kissing, on page 202, and the design of Lady Una. I like the way he’s portrayed all of the characters, really. It brings them to life in a lovely way, and the art is arranged nicely — not distracting from the story, but adding to it.
I’ve always loved the book, and the movie is the movie I watch when I need comfort, so rereading was a happy occasion. I forgot how different the book and the movie are — the movie is definitely an adaptation. Not that it’s a bad thing: the way things happen in the book simply wouldn’t translate to the screen.
The best things about Stardust, the book, are the tone in general and Yvaine’s voice. The tone is kind of dryly humorous, gently mocking the fairytales it comes from and improves on, with fun conversations and great lines. Yvaine herself is awesome, with her grumpy sharpness and her angry obligation and her not-at-all-saccharine love. Compared to the movie, the realisation scenes are maybe a bit dry, and I wish there had been more with the boat in the sky, as in the movie, but all in all, I do love the book so much, and I think it’s one of my comfort-books the same as the movie is my comfort-movie.
Perhaps my favourite part of all is the note Tristan and Yvaine leave, though: “Unexpectedly detained by the world.”
The Sleeper and the Spindle, Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell
The Sleeper and the Spindle is a gorgeous book: the illustrations are all in black and gold, and there are some really beautiful pages. Riddell was just the right illustrator to bring the story to life, I think. The copy I have is really great: the dust cover is transparent, with the pattern of roses on it; the cover of the book itself is the sleeping woman.
If you know Neil Gaiman’s work, the rest of this is perhaps not surprising. It takes both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and puts them in a unified world that is a little darker, a little different, a little more mature than the sanitised stories we see so much of now. This ain’t Disney. It’s still a fairytale, but it’s something different, too — something a little bit creepy, even.
The LGBT representation that I have seen this book being lauded for is… not exactly. There’s one kiss which appears to be so if you see the illustration on its own — and it’s a gorgeous illustration — but it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean, in context. Which is a little bit of a cop-out, really, since there’s excitement around this book on the back of it.
But really, romance isn’t at the heart of this fairytale. A search for autonomy is really what’s going on; a shrugging away from the familiar fairytale ‘happy ever after’.
It’s been a very acquisitive week for me, even though I keep telling myself I mustn’t go over 365 books bought this year. Not that my book-buying urge has ever listening to such logical things, so there y’go. There’s been a fair amount of yarn buying, too, so I am predictably pretty broke already, even though it’s just the first week of November. Anyway! Some awesome stuff, this week.
I was actually kindly lent a print copy of The Just City, which is in my Top Ten Books I Don’t Own and Want To Read post, by Robert. Then naturally Tor approved me for the ARC on Netgalley as well, even though they’ve never approved my requests before… Ah well, I’ll probably read the print copy anyway. I’ve heard mixed things about Robin LaFevers, but I thought I’d try. And queer fairy tales are right up my street.
I couldn’t resist getting The Sleeper and the Spindle, especially because of some of the art I’ve seen inside it. Claire North is apparently another pseudonym of Catherine Webb/Kate Griffin, whose work I’ve been following since she published her first novel. Excited! The other stuff is a mixture of random choice and stuff I’ve been meaning to pick up. I had an ARC of Elizabeth of York, and my guilt induced me to finally just buy it…
Anyway, as this goes live I’ll be heading out to the local Comic-Con. Looking forward to seeing what the dealers have! What’s everyone else been getting?
What have you recently finished reading? Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, which I mostly enjoyed with some mixed feelings, and The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman, which has really beautiful art. Reviews of both will, of course, be forthcoming.
What are you currently reading? The Just City, by Jo Walton. I’m about a third of the way into it now, and very engrossed, although it is driving me to want to find my old copy of The Republic and read up on what it says about art, given the art-focus of several characters. (I mean, I distinctly recall it being rather dismissive of any mimetic art, and sculpture and painting of the human form are definitely that?) Also, I keep peeking at the back for the list of who the characters were as historical figures, and poking through their Wikipedia pages. I feel rather history-deficient about some of them, and I studied Classics and Philosophy!
What are you going to read next?
I should get on with Mary Stewart’s Merlin books, so that’s The Hollow Hills. I’ve also got endless amounts of ARCs to catch up with, of course, so there should be something from that list — Alan Bradley, perhaps.
Comics-wise, I still have Ms Marvel: No Normal and Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further, More to read, so I’m sure they’re coming up soon. And the Black Widow comic, and the Kate Bishop as Hawkeye comic, and… yeah.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit (whether fictional or real)”. I suspect we’re going to see a fair amount of agreement on this one? I’m betting there’ll be plenty of “Hogwarts”, “Middle-earth”, etc.
Middle-earth (The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien) — imaginary. I didn’t say I was exempt from that.
Tywyn (The Grey King, by Susan Cooper) — real. And Cadair Idris, and… everywhere else that Will and Bran visit.
The Lost Land (ditto) — imaginary. It sounds so amazing, and I want to look in their library.
Fionavar (The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay) — imaginary. Okay, it’d be a little bit like Middle-earth, really. But still.
Camelot (Arthuriana) — somewhere in between. Possibly even both the imaginary courtly version to see the knights of legend, and the nearest real equivalent to see what it was really like.
Scotland (Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers) — real. My mother has actually traced the whole route of solving that mystery. I wanna.
Everywhere (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor) — real. All the travelling Karou does…
London (Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman) — real and imaginary. Okay, London Below sounds pretty dangerous, but also really cool.
Wherever Moomins live (The Moomin comics/books, by Tove Jansson) — imaginary. Because Moomins are cool.
The Clangers’ moon (Clangers, by Oliver Postgate) — imaginary. Because I can totally communicate in whistles and I wanna know what blue string pudding tastes like.
It’s been a while since I read Good Omens, since I rather overread it when I was about seventeen. It kept my spirits up during boring free periods at school, and let me feel like I was really cool by reading it (as cool as I ever got at school, which wasn’t very, because I read too much and answered questions in class — you know the type). It was fun returning to it now: the jokes and puns are familiar by now, and I greeted each character like an old friend. I still adore Aziraphale and would now like to crochet him a sweater, and perhaps I would give Crowley a pot plant to terrify.
Generally, this is an inventive and funny novel, and I love the way they choose to portray angels, demons, and the general struggle between them. I also love the way they choose to wrap things up: Adam’s moment of choice is perfect, his decision, the small ways the world changes afterward. The two authors worked well together, for my money, and created something that is more than either of them would be apart. Some parts are obviously one or the other, but not many.
In the latest ebook edition, there’s also a short interview with them and a piece from each about how they met the other. They didn’t write those blind, without talking to the other, and so somehow those bits still have a bit of the style of the other, and they tend to agree on events. I love the image it gives of them, though, ringing each other up excitedly to contribute bits of the story — there’s a kind of joy in creation here that I find it impossible not to appreciate.
Maybe one thing I could do without is the constant harping on Aziraphale being ‘a Southern pansy’ and the like. It might be funny once or twice, illustrative of the type of person (angel) Aziraphale is, but this time through I started rolling my eyes at the gay jokes. Particularly as I recall Gaiman and Pratchett kind of denying the undercurrent between Crowley and Aziraphale that becomes completely apparent if you start taking notice of how often everyone assumes it.
It’s like someone said to me in university: “You know when people keep saying, ‘oh, if we keep doing this people will think we’re a couple?’ Most of the time, it really means, ‘I wish we were a couple and I want people to think that’.” Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship is highlighted so many times that that’s the effect, for me.
This week’s top ten list prompt from The Broke and The Bookish is “Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list”. Which is a little difficult for me, because I don’t really sort my books into appropriate seasons or anything. I just have a perpetual, massive, glorious to read list. But here are some books I’m looking forward to getting round to…
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal. This is actually a reread of a book I wasn’t wild about the first time round, but now I have this urge to reread it and read the rest of the series, and I suspect I’ll like it more this time around. We’ll see, but I’m hopeful.
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. This is a reread, too. I know I’m going to love this one because I always have before, though I somewhat over-read it so that I could virtually quote it, and thus have given it a couple of years’ rest.
River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve had this since it came out, but it’s at the end of a long list of rereads of GGK’s work, so I can watch his craft developing. I started pretty well but stalled on A Song for Arbonne, which is funny, because I do like that book and it covers exactly the sort of historical period I’m very familiar with and have done work on. So hopefully I’ll get through them all and get onto this new one sometime this fall.
Friday’s Child, by Georgette Heyer. Because I haven’t read it yet, and it’s Heyer.
Blindsight, by Peter Watts. Because it’s been recommended to me a couple of times, I got a free copy, and it’s been mentioned quite a bit in one of my book groups.
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Because it’s about bloody time.
Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. Ditto. And the opening, with starting at university and settling in and all of that, it seems a good time of year for that, even if I’m not a student this time.
Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Speaking of scholarship and stuff, I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time.
Little, Big, by John Crowley. I’ve had this book around far too long, and I’ve been meaning to read it. I just… never seem to have found the time. About time I fixed that.
Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. I generally enjoy Sanderson’s work, and this one includes superheroes. So very sold.
What about everyone else? Comment, link me, you know the drill.
I have lots of excuses for a big haul this week, I promise. Reacquiring books I want to reread but have given away, ARC requests being granted all at once, book vouchers, etc. I won’t bore you with the excuses, but I promise, I’m still actually 0/10 on my until-November acquisitions allowance, and even my partner agrees. I will probably ruin that tomorrow, going shopping with my sister. Ah well!
Because hey, Georgette Heyer. I’ve actually read two of these already — The Wild Girl is the only one I haven’t touched yet.
A very mixed batch, I know! Some of them I really didn’t expect to be approved for, like Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters. I still haven’t read The Shining Girls… ach. But yeah, some I’m very excited about here: Josh Lanyon always works as brain candy for me, though I need to pick up Fair Game first… Such a hardship, heh.
Reacquired to reread
I’ve enjoyed Trudi Canavan and Maria V. Snyder’s work as light reading whenever I’ve tried it, but I gave away all my copies a while ago. Now I have them on my Kobo! And Robin Hobb, well, I haven’t given away my copies of her books, but I haven’t got the heart to get my dad to drag them all down from where I grew up to where I live now, either. Besides, having copies on my Kobo is no bad thing. Ditto for Good Omens, plus, I was reading my paperback copy to bits.
And finally, what you were all waiting for…
Yep, I finally gave into the hype. Sarah J. Maas and Stephanie Perkins better be as much fun as you guys tell me! Mind you, Throne of Glass was only 99p on the Kobo Store, so it’s not like it was a major investment, particularly for a book everyone seems to adore.
What’s everyone else been getting their hands on? Link me, chat to me, let me know what you’re thinking. (Aside from the bit about my blatant addiction to books. You don’t know the half of it, guys.)
I picked this up to read a couple of chapters, and ended up staying up to finish it. It’s deceptively simple to read, to just race through: epistolary novel, check; unreliable narrator, check; creepy twins and doors to Faerie, check. It’s Gene Wolfe, though, so you can bet it’s not as simple as that, and reading other reviews — particularly Neil Gaiman’s, to whom the book is dedicated — showed me I missed a few tricks. Which is fine: I like books with rereadability, even if I’m not really inclined to reread this one in particular. If you can craft a book so it reveals more of itself over time, that’s good going, in my books.
Obviously, everything I said about the narration is true. It is an epistolary novel, with a central character who has a very distinct character-set. He can turn his life story around so that you pity him or hate him, cast him as the villain or pity him as one who has been cast in that role, and I think that’s entirely intentional. It’s not that he’s unintentionally creepy. I actually found the character to be more so than the supernatural events around him — a certain lack of affect, the feeling that something’s come loose inside this guy.
I’m not overwhelmed with the treatment of women in this book — every woman wants to sleep with Our Hero, for example, and quickly opens up to him, and I don’t see why. He’s not charming, he’s unsettling. But maybe that’s because we see him through his own report of himself to his brother… I don’t know. I’m not a fan, anyway. Even if it works for the character, I could have done with a female character who really stood out.
I do think the narration is very clever, the way Wolfe makes the epistolary novel work for him, and works around situations where there might be some difficulty with the form in a way that… well, it seems contrived, but it also fits the world and characters.
Worth a try, I think, though I probably agree with other reviewers that it’s not Gene Wolfe’s best.
So, time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews! You know how I keep saying my haul post is going to be smaller “next week”? Well, next week it will be. I think? That’s the idea, anyway. Part of this I blame on going to Rainbow Rowell’s signing in Waterstones with Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts. I’d pick something up to look at it and she’d chip in with “that one’s good!”
Or I might just have no restraint. There’s always that explanation. Anyway, to kick off, here’s me with Rainbow Rowell!
If you look closely you can see a little frog in the picture. Which means this is a good time to plug my friend’s art project: basically, she’s made a hundred of the blighters and over the last few months, she’s been ‘releasing’ them into the wild, a few at a time. If you find one, take a picture of yourself with it and then move it to somewhere new! Most are in England, West Yorkshire area, but I know some have gone to London, some have been released in Cardiff and Swansea, and some are travelling round the world. If you’re going to Loncon, I have two to release there, so keep your eye out for Sad Frog Project!
My copy of Fangirl was signed, of course. I still need to finish reading it… But I loved the way Rowell spoke about it, spoke frankly about Cath’s social anxiety, spoke with enthusiasm about fandom. So I’m very glad to have a signed copy. As for the others, some I’ve been planning to get for a while — Two Boys Kissing and Code Name Verity. Leah forced Take Back the Skies on me, and we talked about the others enough to get me interested.
It’s a rather mixed bag, isn’t it? The first three were mentioned in books of essays I’ve been reading recently; I’ve enjoyed some of John Connolly’s other stuff; The Queen of the Tearling is getting interesting reviews; I thought my sister would like Premonitions but I’m gonna try it first; Permanent Present Tense is non-fiction and was mentioned in the neurobiology MOOC I’m doing; Liars and Thieves is a short by Karen Maitland, who I’m a big fan of!
An interesting bunch — I’ve been interested by The Copper Promise for a while!
I think I’m in love with Bookbridgr. I’m certainly super happy about getting The Vanishing Witch! I don’t think I’ve crossposted any of my Karen Maitland reviews here so far, but I’m definitely a fan.
Mostly non-fiction this week, as you can see; all my Steve Jones reservations came in, and I had a browse in the 610s-620s in the non-fiction section of the library. (Well, also the 560s, because dinosaurs.)
I didn’t actually magically get my hands on the second TPB of The Movement, but I thought it’d be silly to put up the cover of every single issue. So there y’go. And I imagine there’s no mystery as to why I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy.
Okay, I can’t believe how long this post has got, and I need to do a ton more things before I go to bed. When this goes live in the morning, I’ll already be out at the Race for Life, volunteering at a 10k event. And then on Sunday, I’m running in the 5k event. So I may not be very active this week, but I will visit back anyone that comments here, of course! Have a good week.
(Oh, and if you have some spare cash, sponsor me, please?!)
ETA: Except I can’t volunteer today due to travel problems, wah. But at least I’ll be around to chat to people!