Review: Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline”

Another review, this time Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline”. I saw the film first, which is rare since I usually read the source material before hand. Neil Gaiman is a rock star when it comes to writing, his stuff is dark, twisted, and utterly wonderful. A fan of Sandman, “American Gods”, “Neverwhere”, “Anansi’s Boys”, this book was on my To Read list for a while. I should have got to it sooner…

Quick summary from Goodreads:

Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.

 

Great things come in small packages. Neil’s “Coraline” is an example of this. The story is short and its simple. That does not diminish its beauty nor its importance. “Coraline” is a story of a little girl’s bravery, her imagination, her strength. This is a modern fairy tale, about you or I stepping through the rabbit hole and into a fantasy world… a DARK fantasy world, a nightmare, and emerging stronger through the experience.

As children we all want to run away from the mundane world. We see our parents, stuck in jobs with little magic, and we want to escape from that inevitability. We want adventure. We want to seek Neverland, Wonderland. Coraline, the titular character of Neil’s story, wants that same escape. She gets it, and receives more than she bargains for. Instead of finding a place of fun and whimsy, she steps into a nightmare. Saying to much about this OTHER world would give away the story, so I’ll say this… nothing is as its seems, everything is a product of a malevolent force. Coraline must gather her courage if she wants to escape and rescue those she cares most for. What is great, is she goes about escaping using her mind to trick her way to victory. This is a create lesson. No swords needed. A sharp mind is more dangerous than the edge of the blade. This is Neil’s strength. All of his characters get out of tight spots by using their clever minds, which stems from their imaginations. Where an adult would use brute force to solve a problem, a child uses their imagination to come up unique trickery to move around the problem. Too often a character relies on violence to thwart the bad guy, none of Neil’s children do, Coraline is no exception. That is what gives his stories their charm.

Another signature of Neil’s is his colorful characters. And they don’t get as colorful as Coraline and the rest of the cast here. The villains are especially menacing and creepy, the kind of creatures you might find under a bed or inside a closest. Coraline defeats them, though, and even through the grim shines light. Neil writes dark better than anybody but he has that unique ability to retain the fun, the magic, the bright light that leads us to hope and happy endings. His adult work has that same quality. Smart characters winning the dark through their own wit and pluck. Love it!

What’s more, this is a fun read. It’s an instant modern classic in my opinion. One day I’ll read this to my future children. If you like Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” or remember the Grimes’ “Hansel and Griddle”, try Coraline.

 

Click here to visit Neil’s site and learn more about his wonderful works.

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