Monday, August 31, 2009

World Fantasy Award Nominee: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman
Nominated for the World Fantasy Award: Best Novel

You know how a book (or anything) can receive an extraordinary amount of hype and buzz and good word of mouth and critical acclaim, so much so that by the time you get around to reading you wonder if it can possibly be that good? That’s The Graveyard Book. It has won the Newberry, the Hugo, is nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Can it possibly be as good as all that?

Well, yes. Actually.

The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody Owens. The novel opens with the murder of his parents and sister. The killer, Jack, would have killed Bod except that very young Bod managed to wander off and escape into the neighboring graveyard. The ghosts of the graveyard decide to take Bod in and raise him and protect him from the outside world, specifically from the man who still wishes to kill him. Bod is given the Freedom of the Graveyard, which offers him far more over the years than a simple permission to live there.

Through the eight chapters (and one interlude) readers will watch Nobody Owens grow from a toddler to a fifteen year old young man, have a variety of adventures both inside and outside of the graveyard, and face down the man who killed his family. This spoils nothing, this is implied throughout the novel.

The Graveyard Book is beautifully written, it is graceful and it is clever, and beyond all of that – it’s a hell of a good story. In short, it is everything you want from a story. It is quietly funny.
Really, he thought, if you couldn’t trust a poet to offer sensible advice, who could you trust?
There is tension, action, discovery, hidden plots and secret histories. There is a boy who lives in a graveyard and counts ghosts and his friends and family.

The Graveyard Book is the sort of book where you don’t talk about genre or publishing categories when you talk about it. You just hand it to a friend, your mother, your priest, your cabbie, a stranger and say “read this. It’s really good,” and expect them to thank you later.

Outstanding. Spectacular. Delightful. Wonderful. There are all sorts of adjectives to use when talking about The Graveyard Book. Choose one. I’ll probably have meant that one, too.

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