Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Deal Alert: Humble Book Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase presented by SFWA

Hey, just wanted to let you guys know that, for those who enjoy good sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction, Humble Bundle is currently hosting a bundle feature Nebula Award winners and nominees, as well as a few other collections and such thrown in. Several of the stories certainly looked interesting, including The Last Temptation by  Neil Gaiman and Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen. If you’re interested, you can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/super-nebula-book-bundle. As of when I’m writing this post, the deal’s good for 12 more days. Enjoy!

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M Is for Magic

Author: Neil Gaimanm is for magic

Illustrator: Teddy Kristiansen

My rating: 4.5 of 5

A hard-boiled detective investigates the legendary case of Humpty Dumpty’s murder. A boy wanders off along the railroad tracks and has a close encounter with a troll under a bridge. Another boy finds himself at the wrong party, where the guests talk about the strangest things. An intergalactic scam artist tells the tale of one of his greatest cons. And a group of jaded epicureans bemoan that there’s nothing new for them to taste . . . until one of their members mentions the legendary Sunbird. In other words, pure literary magic.

In the spirit of Ray Bradbury’s classic children’s book R Is for Rocket, Neil Gaiman pulls together a collection of his short stories that seem well suited to a younger audience, and publishes them together in one neat volume, M Is for Magic. I love it. These tales are some of Gaiman’s best short stories, whatever the age of the reader. They evoke the things I love best of his writing–the wit, the magic, the amazing literary style that is both captivating and easy to read. One thing I found unique about this collection (as compared with his adult short-story collections) is the picture it gives of growing up in the sixties. Probably an unexpected but natural result of most of the stories being written in respect to the author’s own childhood, but there’s an authenticity to the feel of that era as demonstrated in these stories that’s really neat to read. I do have to warn: while a more child-friendly collection than his others, there are still a few things in these stories that might be a bit old for some children. Generally speaking, I’d say this collection would be best for a 12 and up audience. Whether you’re looking for a fun fantasy/sci-fi short story collection for a kid you know or you’re interested for yourself, I think M Is for Magic is a choice that’s, well, magical.

 

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Neverwhere (TV series, 1996)

BBCNeverwhere TV

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Richard Mayhew had a nice, normal life with a steady job and a fiancée ready to order every aspect of his life perfectly. But one evening on the way to an important dinner that all changes as Richard stops to help Door, a young girl who is clearly injured and frightened. Following that moment of doing the right thing, he finds himself suddenly unnoticeable and unmemorable to everyone in normal London society. Thus, he is forced to seek Door and her strange companions in London Below, a strange world that he had never even been aware of previously. And somehow, Richard finds himself caught up in this huge adventure to find who murdered Door’s family and to get her safely to the Angel Islington. All poor Richard wants is his old life back, or so he thinks.

So, I’m pretty sure I came at the Neverwhere TV series completely backwards. I mean, the Neil Gaiman book Neverwhere is based on the TV series, but I read the book first, ages before I was even aware that there was a TV show. Having read the book first, I was expecting to be a bit disappointed in the screen version (I usually am), but I  was willing to give it a try since it was also written by Neil Gaiman. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the TV version is actually quite good. I think the actors picked for the characters are excellent. Richard and Door are absolutely perfect, as is Hunter. The Marquis was . . . well, I was expecting someone a bit more Johnny Depp, but Paterson Joseph’s portrayal of the role definitely grew on me over the course of the story. And seeing a younger Peter Capaldi as the Angel Islington was fabulous (although I hardly know what to make of him without a Scottish accent and a gruff attitude). The plot is concise (there are only 6 episodes of 30 minutes each), but it feels complete; I was actually quite impressed by how much story was fit into such a brief series. I would say that comparing the book and the TV show in terms of plot, they are remarkably consistent. One of the things I loved best about this show was the wonder and magic that was expressed in such simple ways. While a modern story would likely use sparkly lights and huge special effects to express these ideas, this show uses mystery, blurred graphics, and a lot of subtle suggestion to get the idea across. There’s a dark Alice in Wonderland feel to it all that’s absolutely perfect. Basically, Neverwhere is a great show that I highly recommend to anyone who likes a good urban fantasy.

Created by Neil Gaiman & Lenny Henry/Directed by Dewi Humphreys/Music by Brian Eno/Starring  Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Hywel Bennett, Clive Russell, Paterson Joseph, Trevor Peacock, Elizabeth Marmur, Tanya Moodie, Peter Capaldi, & Earl Cameron

 

 

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Doctor Who, Series 7

BBCdoctor who series 7

13 episodes + specials

My rating: 5 of 5

*SPOILER ALERT*

The Doctor has left Amy and Rory to their own devices for too long, as is rapidly clear to him when the three of them are kidnapped by the Daleks to clean up a mess the Daleks made for themselves–and unsurprisingly, the Doctor is as worried about “fixing” Amy and Rory’s marriage as he is about surviving this mess. Obviously, he succeeds on both counts . . . with a little help from a mysterious souffle-making girl by the name of Oswin Oswald. The Ponds are naturally swept up into the wonder of traveling with the Doctor again, while still trying to balance their normal life as well, which isn’t the easiest of tasks. But seriously, how could they choose one or the other? Years later (well, it’s hard to tell, with a bunch of time travelers), the Doctor is on his own again (vowing never again to get involved or care) when he once again encounters Miss Oswald–living a completely different life with no knowledge of their former encounter (nor of the fact that she had died then). Tragically, Clara Oswald dies this time also, but the Doctor is left with the niggling feeling that something impossible and wonderful is going on, a feeling that is remarkably confirmed when he receives a phone call on the TARDIS line–from Clara Oswald, living in the present day with once again no knowledge of their former encounters. Well of course the Doctor has to get her to travel with him then, doesn’t he?

I enjoyed the 7th series of Doctor Who so much! Although it really felt like 2 series kind of smooshed together. The first 5 episodes with Amy and Rory (and River, some) are fantastic, very much tying in with the former series involving this wonderful family. I really love the vibe between them all, the way they really are family; it’s different from any other Doctor/companion relationship I’ve seen, and it’s wonderful. I think the way Moffat tied up the Amy/Rory arc of the story was very well done, especially in how true it was to the character of all the individuals involved. There was an inevitability about it, and a rightness as well, that made the ending of their story satisfying, even though I was very sad to see them go. They might be my favorite group in Doctor Who to date; maybe even one of my favorite character groups period. The special episode between the two parts of the series, “The Snowmen”, is one that you really need to watch to get a full appreciation for the story as it goes ahead from there, even though seeing the Doctor (especially Matt Smith’s Doctor who always seems impossibly chipper) being depressed and lonely is pretty depressing to watch. Which is probably why perky, demanding Clara Oswald is a welcome new companion. It’s hard to understand exactly how she and the Doctor relate to each other, possibly because she’s sort of a chameleon, changing to suit the occasion a bit. Whatever the case, the dynamic between Jenna-Louise Coleman and Matt Smith works really well. The story writing for this part is mostly episodic, although there is an overarching plot. The scripts are interesting (including a fantastic episode written by Neil Gaiman!), and they highlight the characters effectively; I don’t think there was one episode this series that I didn’t enjoy.

Created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, & Donald Wilson/Head Writer & Executive Producer Steven Moffat/Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Jenna-Louise Coleman, & Alex Kingston

 

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Chu’s Day

Author: Neil GaimanChu's Day

Illustrator: Adam Rex

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Chu is a little panda with a big problem: every time he sneezes, disaster ensues. As he’s out around town with his parents, they’re always worried that something’s going to tickle his nose and make him sneeze. They’re really very careful. But one evening while the whole family is at the circus, Chu’s mom and dad get so wrapped up in watching the show that they forget about Chu’s sneezing . . . and you can guess what happens from there!

I usually absolutely love Neil Gaiman’s books, so I’m really sad to say that I was a bit disappointed in this one, mostly because (sorry, spoilers) essentially the entire plot line is summed up above. It’s really simple, and kind of silly. Reading it for the first time as an adult–having come to expect insight and wonder from Gaiman’s books–I found the story to be a letdown. Having said that, I think that for younger kids, especially in the 3-4 age range, this story would probably be fabulous. It’s got a great buildup, and the denouement is really impressive. Plus, it’s funny–in a way that kids are likely to find a lot funnier than I do. If nothing else, I think kids would love it for the illustrations, which really are the best part of the book. There are big, bright two-page spreads of anthropomorphized animals of all sorts doing all sorts of normal people things. The settings are rich with design and color, and the creatures themselves full of character. You could probably spend a lot more time poring over the pictures than you could reading the actual text. Overall, in spite of not being what I expected or hoped, I do think Chu’s Day is a fun, silly book for younger children, and one with some really awesome art, which is why I still gave it a 3.5 (which is actually still pretty good, if you check out my rating scale). So yeah, if you’ve got younger readers, this would be a fun read-together story; I just wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a grown-up read-alone story.

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Blueberry Girl

Author: Neil Gaimanblueberry girl

Illustrator: Charles Vess

My rating: 5 of 5

Blueberry Girl is a prayer (to the fates, I think? Doesn’t really matter here.) for a not-yet-born baby girl. And it is absolutely gorgeous in every way. When I usually think of this sort of book, I think of something dull and stereotypical, wishing for sunshine and ease and, well, nothing really likely or meaningful. This book is something else; it’s a prayer for wisdom, for joy in spite of sorrow, for truth, for a myriad of experiences. It’s a prayer I would love to have prayed over me. I was crying by the time I finished reading it. And the wonder and beauty of the text is emphasized by Charles Vess’ incredible illustrations. It’s neat seeing his work in this sort of context, where there’s no precise story to follow. The pictures are really breathtaking. Highly recommended to all, but I would especially note that Blueberry Girl would be a fantastic gift for expectant parents.

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A Fall of Stardust

By Neil Gaiman & Charles Vessa fall of stardust

My rating: 4.5 of 5

A Fall of Stardust is a unique little collection that I got as part of Gaiman’s recent Humble Bundle. It’s kind of a reader alluding to his (incredible) novel Stardust. Remarkably, it’s only about 14 pages long, including the cover, yet it packs quite the punch. The majority of the volume is a short story (almost more of a vignette) about a girl named Jenny who watches as magpies gather around her, recalling a superstitious poem about them and truly experiencing that one precious moment of her life. It’s a truly beautiful piece. The remainder is a short group of poems that somehow or another connect to the world behind the Wall. My favorite is the last, which is a pantoum–making the repeating lines actually work in context and make sense is somewhat mindblowing to me. And of course, the whole collection is illustrated in Charles Vess’ skillful hand, which I always enjoy seeing paired with Gaiman’s writing; it just fits. So yeah, if you’ve enjoyed Stardust in the past and get a chance to read A Fall of Stardust, I think you’d likely find it enjoyable (plus it’s a quick read).

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