Monday, March 10, 2008

What Kurt Said

So Kurt Busiek wrote about Odd and the Frost Giants, and I linked to it here and he emailed me, and I needed to ask him if I could use a bit of something he and I plotted on a long car journey about 12 years ago for a mystery project, and he said yes, and I sent him The Graveyard Book as a thank you.

He wrote about it, too:

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK's title is an homage to THE JUNGLE BOOK, since TGB is about a boy whose family dies, and who winds up being raised in a graveyard, by ghosts, and the other things that lurk there.

The boy, named Nobody ("Bod" for short), learns many things, discovers odd places and curious people, deals hesitantly with the world outside the graveyard and eventually has to deal with the forces that killed the rest of his family, and who are still looking for him. I won't say much more about the plot, because hey, it's not going to be out for months.

But I think it's likely Neil's best novel yet. It has a great deal of warmth, whimsy, dark fantasy (verging on horror), adventure, charm, suspense, monsters, ghouls, a witch, school bullies, policemen, ancient burial mounds, knife-wielding killers, dancing, mystery, trouble, a dash of romance, life lessons, and a creature named Silas, who is both what he seems to be and not. And the most endearingly dangerous and threatening ancient terror you've ever met. The story's engaging, there's a real sense of menace, and it builds to a strong and satisfying climax.

The ghosts are a delight, and the sense of magic and possibility and things happening in the shadows is compelling and attractive. The writing is quite good, but not showy -- the story and characters take first place, always.

It's a short novel, under 70,000 words, and it works as YA, provided you don't mind YA books starting with dead bodies (including a child), bloody knives and a toddler in jeopardy, but it's not limited to that -- it's a book that'll be as satisfying for an adult to read as for a young teen, but they'll get different things out of it.

It's more in company with STARDUST and NEVERWHERE, in that it's an occasionally-dark fantasy involving a world one step outside our own, than with AMERICAN GODS and ANANSI BOYS (which are more about stuff intruding from the beyonds into our own), but written by someone who's had that much more practice than any of those. I could say it's "like GOOD OMENS meets A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE" but, well, that's a facile and shallow comparison, so I won't.

In any case, this is a wholehearted recommendation. I like most of what Neil writes, but THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is very high up on the list, even so.

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