For the last week or so, I’ve been throwing my own private Neil Gaiman festival. Fondly nicknamed “Neil-a-palooza” for the sake of giving this post a funny name, this festival involved me scouring the LA County Library Catalog for all of their available Neil Gaiman books, checking them out, and reading them in rapid succession.
So much fantasy in so short a time is a little, oh, muddling. Still, as someone who considered herself a Neil Gaiman fan without actually having read more than three of his books, I believe it was worth the experience, just to familiarize myself with the Gaiman canon. Too bad the man is insanely prolific, or I’d feel more accomplished. Still, for those of you who are looking to expand your Gaiman horizons, the books below are a good start:
Good Omens: Apparently this joint venture has been a bit of a cult classic since its publication in 1996, before Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett were quite the phenomena they are now. The story is a mix of Left Behind parody, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, spot-on social commentary, and British humor. Due to a hospital mix-up, the son of Satan has been misplaced and Armageddon is not going precisely according to plan. One angel, one demon, one witch-hunter and one descendant of a prophet attempt to find the boy, who is not precisely as evil as one might expect.
Marvel 1602: It’s been a while (last…March?) since I’ve read a graphic novel, and Marvel 1602 was the perfect one to break my comic-related fast. Essentially what Gaiman has done is transpose the classic superheroes of the Marvel Universe, including Peter Parker, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Captain America, into the Elizabethan Age. In addition, he’s made Virgina Dare (the first child born in the Roanoke Colony) into a superhero in her own right. Even though I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe, I greatly enjoyed this comic as a story in its own right.
Anansi Boys: This was my favorite of the bunch, a follow-up to Gaiman’s American Gods. The story is about a man named Fat Charlie who discovers that not only was his father the god Anansi, but he has an odd brother named Spider who appears to have a great deal of power over everyone he encounters. If you liked American Gods (and I LOVED American Gods), you should love this novel as well.
Coraline: Following the great fairy tale tradition, Coraline seems designed to scare the living daylights out of every child who reads it. The titular character moves to a new home and discovers a door leading to an eerie mirror-world, where a woman who claims to be her “other mother” tries to keep Coraline from ever leaving. This creepy tale seems to be Gaiman’s answer to Through the Looking-Glass, and while it remains to be seen whether Coraline will still be considered a classic 100 years from now, it’s a must for any children’s fantasy fan today.
There are about four million Gaiman books I didn’t get to this time around — but hey, at least if I decide to make this an annual thing, I have plenty of fodder for next year’s “Neil-a-palooza”!