Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stardust Revisited

(Quick note: I don't own a scanner so the images here are photos of the pages. Obviously that distorts them somewhat and there are shiny spots from the flash. Sorry.)

I wrote about Stardust months back when I saw the movie and only now finished with the novel, which my mother sent me as a present. The movie altered the plot of the novel in various ways to make it more exciting of course. That didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was the fact that the problems present in the movie are all there in the novel as well; the lack of magical feeling, the pallid characters, the dullness of it, are all problems that the movie was simply replicating. In fact, even the entertaining supporting characters from the movie are, well, less than entertaining here.

I realize that this might not be a popular opinion but I don't think characterization is particularly Gaiman's strong point. Oh, he's got some very appealing characters in the Sandman comics and in Good Omens, but for the most part his people tend to be a bit . . . flat. And that particularly hurts this story because the intermittent moments of inventiveness are so glossed over. There are clever bits as well:
Scaithe's Ebb is a small seaport town built on granite, a town a chandlers and carpenters and sailmakers; of old sailors with missing fingers and limbs who have opened their own grog-houses or spend their days in them, what is left in their hair still tarred into long queues, though the stubble on their chins has long-since dusted to white. There are no whore in Scaithe's Ebb, or none that consider themselves as such, although there have always been many women who, if pressed, would describe themselves as much-married, with one husband on this ship here every six months, and another husband on that ship, back in port for a month or so every nine months.
Unfortunately those clever bits are separated by periods of blandness. All in all, a disappointment.

The saving grace is the illustration work. They're not all wonderful illustrations, but there are many that contain the beauty and magic that the text is sorely missing. They possess a sense of otherworldliness. In short, what the illustrations do is what good storytelling should do: they create a sense of a completely-realized world in which the events can take place. If only the text could rise up to meet this.

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