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Coraline
Neil Gaiman
HarperCollins Childrens, 163 pages


Art: Dave McKean
Coraline
Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is the author of one of the most critically acclaimed comic books of the decade, the Sandman series from DC Comics. He is also the author of a collection of short stories, Angels and Visitations, and the co-author (with Terry Pratchett) of Good Omens. His first anthology was The Sandman Book of Dreams, edited with Ed Kramer. He is the creator and author of the BBC series "Neverwhere," which inspired his novel of the same name. Born in England, he now lives in Minnesota.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A Walking Tour of the Shambles
SF Site Review: American Gods
SF Site Review: Stardust
SF Site Review: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
SF Site Review: Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
SF Site Review: Neverwhere
SF Site Review: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
SF Site Review: The Sandman: Book of Dreams

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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Coraline and her family have just moved into a huge old house that has been subdivided into flats. One rainy day, out of boredom, she counts every door in the apartment, and explores behind each one. The fourteenth and the last door is locked. When her mother opens it, they find that it is bricked up solid. Her mother says that it used to lead to the empty apartment next door. One day, Coraline opens the door again to discover the bricks are gone, and the flat on the other side isn't so empty after all. It is inhabited by her other family and her other neighbors, creepy caricatures of their regular counterparts with black button eyes and pale doughy skin. The flat is just like the one she left, except her bedroom is filled with marvelous toys, wind-up angels that fly and similar delights that Wednesday Addams herself might have asked for. Her other mother is a slimy sweet woman with strange hair and finger nails like blood-tipped stilettos, and she wants Coraline to stay with her forever.

Advertised as "Neil Gaiman's first novel for children of all ages", Coraline certainly lives up to its promise. When I was eight (the book cover says that is suitable for ages eight and up), I probably would have loved Coraline's adventures, completely unworried about the consequences of her actions. Now that I am older, and know that bad things do happen, I end up turning the pages a little more quickly, worried about our heroine despite myself. My page turnings are helped on by the prose which flows smoothly from page to page, and by the nifty occasional illustrations that act as teasers. Dave McKean did a marvelous these pen and ink illustrations, managing to convey an Edward Gorey feel with out subverting his own interesting style.

There will be the inevitable comparisons between Coraline and Alice in Wonderland. While, in a way, they are both on the other side of the looking glass/bricked-up door/warped reality adventures, I think this is a bit like comparing chocolate toffee to strawberries. They're both good, and they're both food, but they aren't the same thing. I also like Coraline as a character better. I suggested earlier that she seems unaware of the danger she is in... I don't think that is entirely true. I think she knows, but she is a practical young miss and realizes that she has no choice. That, combined with a child's faith that everything will work out, keeps her calm during the dangerous quest in which she soon finds herself taking part. She's pleasant and just a little quirky, and I think children will want to be like her and adults will find her captivating. Also, if you're looking for a good book to read aloud, this one will suit beautifully. There are a lot of interesting character voices and cadence changes that will make this a fun read-aloud story.

Neil Gaiman is a master of creating worlds filled with an even mixture of the magical and the scary. Coraline is indeed a creepy and pleasurable read for anyone who has ever wondered what lay on the other side of the wall, what rats sing when you sleep, or what cats call themselves.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at www.apenandfire.com.


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