Hanging Around With Neil Gaiman

I took my ten-year-old daughter to the Bloomington, Illinois, Barnes and Noble today so that she could use her hard-earned money to buy a Hermione Granger replica wand.  I live in Bloomington-Normal and actually did a signing at this store recently, so I thought I’d take a look in the science fiction section just to … you know.

First all, imagine my joy when I saw several copies of Andropia sitting on my local Barnes and Noble’s bookshelf.  That was pretty cool.

Then, to make it even better, I saw one of my literary heroes–Neil Gaiman–on the shelf below me.  To see my book in proximity to his work … it gave me chills.

Of course, while Neil Gaiman seems incredibly polite and genuinely kind, I’m sure his excitement regarding this occasion would not match mine.  I’m definitely getting the better deal out of all this.

Take a look at the picture below.  Cool, right?

By the way, my daughter was not impressed by any of this.

Ah, to be humbled.

20190210_111703.jpg

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

Advertisements

The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe – A Book Review

This particular book has been on my “to read” list for quite a while after I saw that Neil Gaiman recommended it.

The plot revolves around a man named Bax — a scholar many times over, a cheat, a sometimes fraud, and a recently released convict.  He has no money and so, after drifting a bit, takes up residence in what he presumes to be an abandoned house.  He soon discovers that the house has claimed him as its own, and so he must deal with all the sorcery, monsters, mystery, and family lineage that accompanies it.  The only question is to whom the title refers.  Is it the previous owner of the home … or Bax himself?

This book is unusual in that is is comprised of a series of letters written mostly by Bax himself.  Due to this method, we get to know Bax very well, or at least the persona he wishes to display to the recipients of his letters.  These letters make for a very fast, entertaining read.

However, because Bax is essentially a first-person narrator, I sometimes found myself distracted by his near omnipotence.  It’s a tricky thing to write a book in this manner, and, at times, Bax seemed to know too much which resulted in the letters feeling less like correspondence and more like actual chapters.

Even with that being said, I did enjoy the story’s trajectory.  It felt different in that it did not conform to the typical third act showdown.  Characters came and went without much fuss, which is how I would describe this book as a whole — it doesn’t make too much of a fuss.  It handles some rather epic concepts humbly and without much of a to-do.  I found that restraint rather charming, actually.

I’m glad Neil Gaiman, a literary hero of mine, thinks so highly of The Sorcerer’s House.  I apparently did not enjoy it as much as he, but if you think highly of Gaiman, I urge you to give it a try for yourself.

Image result for the sorcerer's house gene wolfe

 (Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

Neil Gaiman has written an incredibly engaging account of the Norse gods in this slim book.  Often seen as lesser than the Greek gods, I believe the Norse deities are enjoying a resurgence of late primarily thanks to the Marvel Thor movies.  Has Loki ever been more popular than during the last several years?  However, the Thor of the Marvel Universe is most definitely not the Thor of Norse mythology.  Not at all.  If you’re looking for a quick read to gain familiarity with these fascinating beings, Greek Mythology is the book for you.

Though all the names remain the same, Gaiman has written their tales in a more contemporary fashion, one that our modern society will find fluid and easy to comprehend.  Gaiman focuses on the most relevant of the stories, and so you can expect to learn about the major events and figures of the Norse pantheon.

Readers will be surprised to learn that Thor is something of a meathead in his original incarnation, Loki is actually Odin’s blood-brother, and Odin himself is far more dangerous than the movies ever depicted.  You’ll experience trolls, frost giants, serpents, dwarfs, monstrous dogs, and Ragnarok – the fall of the Norse gods.

A quick read, I would have no problem putting this book in the hands of my eight-year-old daughter.  It is not a children’s book, but it’s also not inappropriate for children to read.  As I already said, I can’t imagine a better book to provide a basic knowledge of the Norse gods.

Gaiman is no stranger to Norse mythology, by the way.  Odin is a major player in his novel entitled American Gods (which is soon to appear on STARZ as a television show).  He also uses Thor, Loki, and Odin in his seminal comic book series called The Sandman.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean – A Book Review

Originally published in the early Nineties, Black Orchid is an early work of Neil Gaiman.  It debuted long before his rise to fame as a novelist, a children’s author, and a luminary within the comic book industry.

True to form, I just now read it in the year 2014.

Decades later, Black Orchid still impressed me as a comic book unlike anything I’ve ever read (which is quite a statement as I’ve been reading them since the early Eighties).

Gaiman wrote a super hero comic that mostly breaks with the clichés and tropes of the genre yet still somehow adheres to it.  Though the character seems to have returned to her more conventional super hero roots in the present, this Black Orchid is a vegetated clone created from the DNA of a scientist’s troubled best friend and, consequently, only love.  Black Orchid retains some knowledge of her human source, but is also a blank slate in many ways.  Furthermore, she’s not the only clone.  A story ensues, as one would hope, and in many ways it is more a path to self-discovery than it is an adventure.

That is not to say it’s perfect.  Batman appears and utters some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever experienced from the character.  Lex Luthor is a major component I also could have done without.  There are other characters more regulated to the Vertigo universe, which is this book’s imprint, and they feel far more organic.

To be honest, Dave McKean is the true reason this book flourishes.  His surrealistic style molds this book into something unique, something original, something that has already withstood the test of time.  His Black Orchid is creepy, moody, and without the usual methods one expects from a comic book.

If you consider yourself a Neil Gaiman or Dave McKean fan, I urge you to add this to your collection.  Black Orchid is early proof that both men deserve every accolade bestowed upon them during the last two decades.

 

The Truth Is a Cave In the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell – A Book Review

Written by the renowned Neil Gaiman, this small picture book is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  Perhaps picture book is too simple a phrase, for that conjures up something meant for a child, which this book clearly is not.  At seventy-three pages, I read this tale in less than an hour. Every page is comprised of paintings, drawings, and even photography that weave in and out of each other and provide endless opportunities for inspection.

The story itself is something of a mystery, something of a fairy tale, something horrific, and something also amusing.  It satisfies on every level, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately reread the beginning to find the clues I’d previously ignored.   The signs are there.  The omens are given.  The fortunes read.

I don’t want to reveal much more about this story, for I think the less known the more fulfilling it is.  Just know that it is masterfully written, with just enough dialogue, description, and narration to ignite a spark within your imagination not easily forgotten.

And, just as Gaiman created a provocative short story, Eddie Campbell delivers artwork no less significant.  Like the story itself, the art of the book is multifaceted and unlike anything I’ve ever quite experienced.  As already stated, Campbell sometimes works photography into the illustrations, sometimes creates beautiful paintings, and sometimes scribbles simple line drawings with a touch of color.  Sometimes the prose and dialogue are placed within a traditional comic book sequence of panels, and sometimes they adhere to the traditions of a picture book with the prose within the illustration or juxtaposed to it.

I’ve read much of Gaiman’s work—comic books, children’s books, and novels—and I assure you that this is one of his most gratifying efforts.

 

Upon Completion Of Reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Series

In early December, I decided to reread Neil Gaiman’s entire The Sandman series.  It marked the first time I reread the series since my initial read of the collected editions nearly ten years ago.

There isn’t much for me to say that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief.  The series, as a whole, is literature at its finest.  The problem with comic books, for the most part, is that they are serialized.  They expect to run perpetually, and they often change hands as new writers and artists come in.  Superman, for example, has been published monthly since 1938.  It is hard to do anything too substantial with a character expected to appear continuously.

The Sandman, however, does not suffer from such a dilemma, which is what makes the series so enjoyable.  Though it got off to a inconsistent start due to the fact that it tried to exist within the same universe as Superman, The Sandman soon broke away into a world largely its own (thanks to its own publishing imprint).  As a result, Gaiman was free to create worlds, mythologies, and, as a consequence, quality stories.  Best of all? Gaiman alone wrote the series, and Gaiman clearly worked to an endgame.

That’s right.  The Sandman has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and Gaiman executed each stage thoughtfully and with purpose.  Lord Dream, or Morpheus, is an eternal character that impossibly changes throughout the series, and, as a result, evolves into something completely unexpected.  The series is character driven—not plot driven.  Gaiman had something to say, to do, with his main character, and when it happened, the story ended.  Simple as that.

Literature.

The scope of this series will mesmerize you.  The characters will leap off the page and into your heart.  The intricate plots that seem unrelated only to finally connect near the end will captivate you.  The dialogue will give you chills.  Honestly, nothing quite compares to The Sandman, and nothing ever will.

Sometimes horrific, sometimes hilarious, always enlightening, The Sandman will always live on in your imagination once you’ve experienced it.  Whether you think you enjoy comic books or not, if you like a good story, I implore you to give this finite series a read.

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams – A Book Review

Though I have enjoyed comic books pretty much since the age of three (I am currently 36), I have not bought a single-issue comic book since 2006.  I largely wait for the collections’ debut, and, because these collections often come out a few months after the end of a storyline, must work diligently to avoid spoilers.

I could not risk such a thing with The Sandman: Overture.  I adore everything about Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series, and when I heard he planned to revisit the mythos, I knew I had to be right there in the thick of things.  Furthermore, J.H. Williams is an artist in the truest since of the word, from Promethea to Batwoman, his work is both beautiful and frenetic.  Only Gaiman and Williams could bring me back to the single-issue format.

And I am glad they did.  Though I am out of practice with reading such a small installment of the story compared to the collections I typically read, I am no less contented with the first issue of The Sandman: Overture.

Gaiman says that Overture is meant to answer some questions about those first few issues of the original series, and, quite honestly, I cannot wait to see what tribulations Morpheus must endure before his eventual capture.

Overture is beautiful to behold.  Gaiman includes several of our favorite characters along with Dream, a mystery develops, surrealism abounds, and it concludes in such a manner that waiting for the next issue will be a maddening, exuberant plight.

I suspected that waiting for the collected edition of this series would be a mistake, and Gaiman and Williams proved me right.  They make the single-issue experience satisfying again.  I am thrilled to read it as it unfolds.