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Grey

Grey

Casual reader and reviewer of fantasy, science fiction, comics, and graphic novels.

You can also find me at ignoranimus.tumblr.com

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

(SPOILERS)

 

Well, this is the first Gaiman book I've read apart from Coraline, and, I liked it. Not loved it, but it was enjoyable.

 

One thing that bugged me during the first half of the book, and I'm surprised that not many other reviewers picked up on this, was the odd pacing. We follow the day-to-day life of Bod in the graveyard, but until about halfway through the book, nothing really happens. There are no real consequences, it was more episodic than a cohesive narrative, really. Not to say it wasn't enjoyable, I liked learning about all the characters Bod interacted with, I just wish they'd stay for longer than their respective mini arc instead of being thrust into the background with only the occasional reference (cough, Liza Hempstock) and then maybe brought back for the climax. 

 

One example of the book's meandering nature was the Hounds of God section. Bod (in an annoyingly out-of-character moment) decides he doesn't actually like his family, and joins a trio of night-ghaunts into Ghulheim. He's rescued by Miss Lepescu, learns a lesson, and the ghouls and the Nether world are never brought up again aside from a convenient way to banish three of the five bad guys at the end. 

 

Silas was a good character, mysterious and distant. Although, in my opinion, the book would've benefited without the reveal near the end that he was a vampire, because, after that, all the intrigue was dropped. When he was simply a strange being inbetween life and death, it kept you asking questions and making up your own story for who and what Silas was. When it was revealed "Oh, he's a vampire, then", the intrigue was lost.

 

And that's where the book faltered, in its inability to end the story without explaining everything. It had to let you know where Silas and Miss Lepescu were on their adventures, it had to explain exactly who the five Jacks were and why they killed Bod's family (which, frankly, was ridiculous and seemed to be pulled out at the last second with no foreshadowing), it had to neatly wrap up Scarlett's problem by wiping her and her mother's memory and having then sent back to Ireland. Why couldn't Scarlett have remembered Bod, but be made unable to return to the Graveyard? It would've been a bittersweet ending to her arc, but I think it would've had more impact than "it's all good, everything's erased and back to the status quo". 

 

On the topic of Scarlett, I liked her and Bod's relationship as children before she moved away, but once she was in her teenage years and returned, they never really shared any sentimental moments together. The importance of their friendship seemed forced at that point, and it seemed a little awkward at the end when the book tried to raise moral questions by having Scarlett accuse Bod of being "Just as bad as that are!", even though that argument falls apart instantly. Did Bod kill people for selfish, power-grabbing reasons and not in an act of self-defence to the people who had hunted him for his entire life? No? Okay, moral dilemma solved. 

 

Even with these issues, there were many parts of the book I did like. I liked the old English folklore, and Gaiman's spin on ghosts, ghouls, witches, and werewolves. I liked the ending. Not the climax, but the very end, where Bod finally ventures into the world, with nothing but a little money in his pocket and some clothes in his suitcase. It was bittersweet, seeing as he couldn't return to see his parents, lifelong friends, or his home, but it was still a happy ending (see, book, this is what you should've done with Scarlett. Imagine how lessened the impact of this ending would've been if Bod had had his memories erased and convinced he'd been a regular boy his whole life). 

 

All in all, I'd recommend it to someone with an interest in the macabre, who doesn't mind a slow pace and slice-of-life nature. I didn't love it, but it's persuaded me to look into more of Gaiman's bibliography.

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

[This is a copy of my review on Goodreads, just to fill some space on my page]

 

I actually read this a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to add it on Goodreads, so here we are. Being the lazy hack I am, I'm gonna write my thoughts in dot points. Even though I genuinely want to express my thoughts on this book, I can't be arsed to write a properly edited, good review, so this'll probably be rife with mistakes and waffling sentence structure.

Observations:

-Three pages into this book, you're already hammered over the head with the societal parallels a little. Okay, I get it, the Firemen are society, and the girl is you, Ray Bradbury. Firemen = stupid, sheep-like, unquestioning. Clarisse = free spirited, avid reader, questioner of facts, all knowing goddess*.

-What I found most interesting about this book was how little has changed in regard to our attitude towards "high-brow" and "low-brow" culture. Even in 1950, when Bradbury wrote this book, he was dissatisfied with the state of intellectualism in popular media, wishing he could go to back to a time of betterculture, and more intelligent people in general. Yeah, the guy really had a thing against the arrival of TV.

-The prose was well-written enough to not be distracting, but nothing special. The constant exclamation marks in the narration were a little annoying, though.

-The book came off a little preachy, in general. Also, comics and sports are stupid, worthless endeavors? I'd have to disagree with that.

-The change in Montag's personality was a little abrupt. One second, he's a bumbling sheep, content in his existence of following instructions and not asking too many questions, the next, he's quoting Shakespeare and the Holy Bible. It's just not believable.

-Removed from the ultimate message, the plot was a little boring. Not many things happened, yet it managed to fill over 150 pages. There weren't that many locations visited in the book, either, which added to the dullness. Montag went to work. Then he came home to his wife. Then he talked to Clarisse on the way to work. Then he came home. Then he went to what's-his-name's place. Then he went home. Etcetera.

-I disagree that television is an inherently toxic media. His arguments were that with the combination of the realistic visuals and surround audio, it's almost an impossible medium to critically analyse, since the experience is so vivid. I love analysing TV, and I think, just like books, everyone is capable of turning off the TV and thinking about the themes, messages, implications, and whether you agree or disagree with them.

So yeah, those were a few of my thoughts on the famous Fahrenheit 451. All in all, it was okay. The satire fell a little flat, but it was a good time sink when I was stuck in the library with nothing to do for a few hours.

*You know, if you think about it, Clarisse is almost the exact definition of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype. Yeah yeah, you're probably tired of hearing everyone slap on the MPDG label to any quirky female character, but this is the most classic example I've seen in a while. Think about it: after meeting our main character, she spends immeasurable hours with him, teaching him the real way to experience life, apparently putting just as much effort in making his life enjoyable as she does for her own, if not more. She exists solely for the benefit of our broody lead, with no actual depth to her character. As soon as she isn't needed any more, she's killed off, spurring narrative rationale for our hero to move into his fragile, emotional stage.

The Complete Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

The first time I started reading this novel, I put it down after a couple of chapters of Marjane's early childhood. I still maintain that the first chunk of the book was the boring part, full of long expository dialogue from the father educating Marjane and the audience on Iranian politics, and not much else. Once you get past that and into Marjane's teenagerhood, it gets interesting. The thing is, most people go into Persepolis expecting a political biography, but really, it serves best as a memoir of odd, quirky, funny, tragic tales from Satrapi's life.

Some people view the art as a turn-off, but I like it. Satrapi makes good use of the black and white style, although, there's no doubt it benefits from the additions to the palette in the movie (which is great, by the way).

The best thing about this book was Marjane herself, definitely. As a main character, she's one of my favourites in any medium - she's flawed, yet likable, grows and changes throughout the book, and has a good sense of humour. Her struggles in the book, no matter how stupid, impulsive or naive, are always relatable, and that's what I liked most about this book.

If you can't be bothered reading 340 pages, I highly recommend the movie, which, from memory, covers pretty much everything in the book.