21 October 2007

Machiavelli in a Skirt

I recently vacationed in a wonderful little parcel of forestland here in the Hoosier heartland and it put me in the mood for a read through Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Unlike most of his books, Stardust slipped by me unnoticed when first published, so I had the unusual pleasure of seeing the movie before reading it.

I liked the movie quite well (see my Stardust movie review: but am delighted that I like the book better. In summary, the book and the movie are like to varied novels of the same subject and time; almost like reading fanfic by the original author, if that makes any sense. Gaiman himself said, "it's astonishingly faithful to the spirit of the book" and I have to agree that it was, without being redundant of the book, which was quite a trick to pull off for what I think was his first-ever adapted book.

In the book, the slave-girl Una comes off as much more of a mover and shaker than she does in the movie, where she only seems moved and shaken upon. And that's a pity; for she was one of the most marvelous of Gaiman's female creations, even better than the redoubtable Aunts of Anansi Boys. As the various plot threads came together in the book - in a way the movie bypasses - her subtle, subtle role as a shaper of the politics of Faerie and superlative schemer come to light. Only Morgaine of the Mists of Avalon has struck me in memory as more of a Machiavellian Faerie. On the other hand, the Captain Shakespeare's character was considerably more watery in the book; I much enjoyed the conflicts in the man as played by De Niro in the movie, and the interactions between he and his crew.

One pleasure I had in the reading was to get a peek into Gaiman's writing process, via his prologue that revealed that the story of Stormhold and Faerie was originally just a backdrop for a book he'd envisioned of the inhabitants of Wall, the faux-normal town at the edge of Faerie. I will look for this story to appear eventually, and hope to read more of this fascinating concept. Also, I'd love to get my paws on the Gaiman-and-Vess graphic novel adaptation to share with my sons.