An Almost-Fireside Evening with
A review of his new book Coraline
Coraline is the newest book by author Neil Gaiman,
and, like all his work, it tells a disturbing story of
an off-kilter world thatís just familiar enough to
It is the tale of a young girl named Coraline who
lives in a big boring house, or at least, what she
thinks is a big boring house. When she stumbles into a
locked room that leads to an alternate dimension of
sorts, she quickly finds out that things are far from
boring. This other part of the house is filled with
excitement; toys are alive, the parents that inhabit
this strange world are kind to her (more so then her
real parents); cats talk and rats sing. Itís a
perfect - albeit extremely twisted - world and
Coraline is quite happy there - until she returns home
and finds that her real parents have disappeared and
that the mysterious dwellers of the other part of the
house are responsible. It is up to Coraline to save
them and to stop the evil lurking in her house.
Coraline is a groundbreaking work for Gaiman
because it is the first book heís written for ďall
ages.Ē On a number of occasions, Gaiman has said
that he wrote Coraline for his young daughters
and he has succeeded in crafting a book that children
could enjoy (although in all fairness, they might be
slightly disturbed by some material in the book), but
also spinning a tale that adults could read as well.
At times, Coraline is an incredibly creepy
book. Much of the horror in it young children probably
wonít pick up, reserving these frights for adults
who can understand the bizarreness of the world Gaiman
Ultimately, thatís what Gaiman accomplishes with Coraline.
He crafts a unique universe, where everything is
wrong, even when things are supposed to be right. Itís
a magnificent fairy tale that dwells in an obviously
fairy tale world. At the same time, itís an
unsettling place and Gaiman tightrope walks
successfully; he doesnít fall off to either the
too-enchanting side or to the too-dark side. Sometimes
the writing is scary, other times humorous. Thereís
a dry wit coursing through the whole book. Even during
the dark sections, Gaiman boldly strikes a match of
humor. It may sound tonally malleable, but itís not.
The world is believable and consistent throughout the
whole of the book.
The premise of Coraline isnít all that
original. The idea of an unhappy girl discovering a
secret room in her house where things are better and
stranger is far from new or novel. But the details
that Gaiman infuses this old clichť with are so
remarkably bizarre and imaginative the reader can
forgive the author for setting up the story in an
almost formulistic manner. After all, there are only
so many stories that can be told and therefore, itís
the way the stories are told that matters most. And no
one could do a better job revitalizing this classic
premise and making it seem interesting and fresh again
than Neil Gaiman.
Pen and ink illustrations are scattered
(periodically, maybe fifteen illustrations total)
throughout the book, drawn by long time Gaiman
collaborator, Dave McKean. McKeanís line work is at
its best here and perfectly compliments the story.
Similar to the story, McKeanís style is a
real-but-slanted one. Character line-work is
expressive but purposely sloppy. Lines donít connect
at a perfect point, nor are they totally straight.
Perspective is off in most of the drawings, tables
taking funny slants, glasses leaving odd shadows. All
art is done masterfully, of course, and the odd nature
of the drawings adds to the odd feeling of the book.
Next page: Slush reviews
the Coraline reading event...
this article on the Slush Forums!