The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman's newest novel The Graveyard Book is coming out this September, and I think we should throw a party. I am not sure if I've ever read anyone as boldly imaginative as Neil Gaiman. And when I say bold, I mean stand-in-front-of traffic-and-wave-your-arms bold. Except not as stupid.
Maybe I should start over. Neil Gaiman has written several novels that have been received with wide acclaim from young and old readers alike. His children's novel, Coraline, had me shivering in my seat with spine-tingling fear - the most delightfully enchanted fear I have ever felt. (Perhaps the only enchanted fear I have ever felt.) He co-wrote the screenplay for Beowulf (2007), introducing a startling perspective on the ancient hero with intelligence and sympathy. His novel Stardust was hilarious and riveting and curious and new and old. As was the film, which he also wrote. Everything I have read or seen of his has been a brilliant fusion of novelty and familiarity. His is the stuff of fireside tales on cold winter nights, legends laughingly told in a pub, anecdotes that cause conversations to come to a standstill.
And The Graveyard Book is no exception. It is, in fact, just what we would expect from him - something entirely new. It is the story of Nobody Owens, a young boy who grows up in a graveyard, the adopted son of a happily dead couple from the 17th century, and the godson of the resident vampire. His school lessons consist of haunting, fading, and guarding against ghouls. The local witch (dead and buried some four hundred years before) just might have a crush on him. But he is alive. Very much alive. And someone, for some reason, doesn't want to keep him that way.
After reading this book, you might find yourself preferring cemeteries to playgrounds. You will wish your teachers were werewolves. Shadows and shades, ghost stories and ghouls, will seem rather... fun. If you ever thought there was a limit to the powers of fiction, ideas too unrealistic, premises too unlikely, you will find yourself happily humbled. Gaiman has broken all the boundaries between real life and every other-world - and we are pleased to be so easily convinced, to find our disbelief so quickly and joyfully suspended.