I think that Stardust might actually be a more simplistic read than it was a film. There is something very simple about the experience of reading this book. Not that that’s a bad thing – on the contrary, it works very well, I think. I read the book in the space of about 24 hours and while I would’ve, perhaps, enjoyed a bit more detail into some of the things that are mentioned only in passing… well, Gaiman does a great job at giving us novels-as-starting-points for our own imaginations.
He also does a great job at taking something fundamental to “us” – be it the city of London and its Underground, the folklore of the American West, or nursery rhymes and tales of yore – and making it different. Unexpected. Surprising in the way that it suddenly, as an adult, takes on new life. There’s a throwaway line about the size of Faerie near the beginning of Stardust where he mentions how all of the places that disappeared from maps because explorers discovered they didn’t exist have ended up as parts of Faerie. That’s all that really gets touched on – one must assume Atlantis and its cohorts exist somewhere in Faerie, then – and the book is, perhaps, better off staying out of the areas that are already well-defined by societal consciousness. But the thought that, just around the corner, it might’ve been waiting – perhaps for a different story….
Gaiman’s writing is still that typically accessible form – a bit more arch, as he makes clear that this is a bit of a pastiche on olde stories, but still very easy to read. Yvaine and Tristran were good characters but mostly one-dimensional, as really most of the rest of the characters in the story were as well. This was a grown-up fairy-story in the sense that it didn’t need developed characters. It simply needed that sense of magic and wonder and for our characters to fit in alongside that sense. Would I’ve enjoyed seeing a bit more battling happening? Yes – but I can go to other series for that. The best thing about this book is that it makes the reader feel like a young child again, if only for a few moments. I mean, I read a third of the book sitting in Times Square after having seen Next To Normal – and I was transported away from my surroundings and remembered a time when things were easier and simpler and the village of Wall might’ve indeed existed.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Magic fades from this world every day. It slips away, faster and faster as we continue to increase our dependence on technology and we become more self-centered individuals. Authors like Gaiman – indeed, he’s leading the charge, I’d say – are the few who remember that not only does magic exist but it was something we all accepted as children and we could do a lot worse than to remember it now.