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Neverwhere

Read Neverwhere and didn't like it on surprisingly many levels.
0) Imagery. Not the author to blame here. I like tunnels, rooftops, and urban decay. My idea involving them, however, is "nature vs. people" or at least "reasonable conflict"*, not "a random bunch versus another random bunch". Also, describing characters through eye and hair color? O-ok.
1) Plot. Dungeons & Dragons, with all the right clues provided by the game master in all the right places. In addition, what's up with escapism?
2) Characters. Ain't real. Especially not Jessica, but then again, maybe she is supposed to illustrate the nonreality of the real world (or something). Not Richard either, however.
3) Humor. Douglas Adams may be brilliantly funny when he says things that aren't smart. Neil Gaiman uses similar sentence structures, but I fail to perceive them as amusing and I'm not sure they are meant to be that way. Well, I did laugh twice.

Still.

* В связи с этими идеями я обычно привожу в пример "Пикник на обочине" - я их воспринимаю приблизительно так.

Anyone out there who likes Gaiman is welcome to tell me why I should reconsider :)

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
lambda_calculus
Sep. 5th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
You shouldn't like it. If the movie did the book justice, then it was rather pedestrian and the plot was too "Oh look, how convenient that your problem can be solved with this strange thing that just happens to be in my pocket!"

You should watch Stardust in theatres while you still can. It's the first moving picture adaptation of Gaiman that I genuinely enjoyed.
be_unafraid
Sep. 5th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
Going to a cinema may be a bit too much for me to handle, but I will keep that in mind, thanks :)
icedrake
Sep. 7th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
The movie was, shall we say... A less-than-stellar achievement. The production was done right after the Beeb purchased their first digital camera, and were still mastering its use. Not to mention, expending a good chunk of the budget on said camera. In Gaiman's own words, "they managed to make Trafalgar Square look like a cheap set."
confucius2
Sep. 5th, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
интересно
logan_cipher
Sep. 5th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Liked the book. Will have trouble explaining why, though. I guess I'm just a sucker for british fiction writers... Will probably have to concur on the points 1 and 2, but humour and imagery (in my humble opinion) were on the level. I guess it could be all but matter of (acquired?) taste.
icedrake
Sep. 7th, 2007 02:55 pm (UTC)
I see what you mean, now that you mention it. I loved the book, but for reasons entirely different from yours for *not* liking it. So...

1) "Show, don't tell." How many books have you seen where a kobold is a kobold or an elf is an elf, and that's all the explanation you get? What sort of creature was the Marquis? What is Door? Messrs. Croup and Vandemar? They're fuckin' terrifying, but *what* are they? In fact, that's part of the terror factor -- you don't know what they're capable of, or what they are likely to do.

Gaiman doesn't rely on the worn-out, cliched assumptions of the fantasy genre, but manages his own critters.

2) Humour. It's darker than Adams', it's understated... And it's really not a major point in this book. Neverwhere isn't supposed to be funny. I have a sneaking suspicion that the sentence structures you are referring to are an artifact of British writers in general. (If you want to see the same approach overused to death, pick up anything by Phil Janes.) But the thing is, Adams wrote a humour series (that happened to be set in an SF-like universe. Today, that'd be called a space opera). Gaiman wrote a fairly disturbing, transformation-focused urban fantasy. Humour has holds less importance in the latter than in the former. If you want humour, try Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Actually, just in general. Try Anansi Boys :)

3) It's interesting that you think the plot is D&D-like. See, I think that's largely the point. The whole mess is about getting Door to trust Islington. Richard isn't instrumental to that; he's a chance encounter who gets incorporated into the plan. Since the story is (largely) told from his POV, though, he gets insights when one of his companions stoops down to his level to share them. For me, it's interesting how Richard is transforming from a tag-along to an actual participant in the action. Not sure where you found escapism, though.

Кстати, я не понял. Ты Пикник не любишь, или Стругацких вообще?
be_unafraid
Sep. 8th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
1) I've seen a book where a hobbit was a hobbit :) I sort of see what you mean, but I also don't find the creatures themselves all that interesting. Then again, I don't think fantasy is my genre.
By the way, Croup and Vandemar would be much more disturbing if they weren't so theatrical and if they bit heads off pigeons a little less frequently :)

2) The structures I'm referring to are of this kind:

There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar's eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.

I *think* this is supposed to be one of the funny places. Can't be sure, though.

Also, I didn't want humor as such =) Just that what seemed to be attempts at it annoyed me.

3) If it's the point of the plot to be D&D, well... I stopped playing those games a while ago, but we used to generate lots of good, be it humorous or disturbing, stories :) I don't believe Richard's transformation; the test that he passes on the way to it is too artificial for the hype around it (you know, "lots and lots of people who have tried and failed"). Richard doesn't show anything in his character that would allow him to grow stronger. There is no development; he wins something set up especially for him by luck, supplied by the author, gets patted on the back, and feels a whole lot better about himself now that he is more accepted.

As to escapism... He goes back, and his reasons aren't entirely good. He is bored. Work, everyday life, a girl from Computer Services, I will go and do dangerous and exciting things instead. Again, I remember The Hobbit - now there is a character with no escapism whatsoever. He does what he should do, fights what has to be fought, comes back home after the battle is over. He would go again if he had to, and that wouldn't be because of boredom.

Пикник на обочине я как раз люблю. Там образы разрушения наиболее близки к моим. Атмосфера тоже.
icedrake
Sep. 9th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
1) Well, if Fantasy's not your genre, there's not much I can (or should) do to change your mind :) I don't agree with you on the theatrics part, esp. since there's exactly one pigeon-head incident in the entire book. But that's nitpicking, and thus is not much of a response. So instead, consider this: These two have been around since the fall or Rome and before. They kill and maim and mutilate, and... Well, not much else. They are, simply put, bored. So they try to have fun, while continuing to do pretty much the only thing they can: Killing, maiming, and mutilating. It's not theatrics for the benefit of the observer (of which there aren't any in the pigeon scene); it's idle entertainment for alleviation of their own boredom.

2) Oh, that? I found it bloody hilarious! I can't begin to guess why I find it funny and you don't; humour's not subject to objectvity, anyway. To me, this comes across as a very British, absurdist construction. You know the type: Шел дождь, и два студента. Один в пальто, другой в кино.

But this sort of thing is far more common in British writing that I've seen than North American or Rusian (in respective languages, of course). I don't think Adams has any sort of unique claim on it, though I agree he does it well. But I also don't think that Gaiman does it *badly*. Oh well :)

3) NOW we're talking about the same issues. I didn't buy Richard's transformation either... Which, I think, is the point. The entire thing is luck; there's no way he could've killed the Beast on his own, and the title awarded to him as a result is not deserved. But here's the key -- the readers know that. Richard, on the other hand, appears to not notice. He does, however, start behaving differently.

It's not until after the scene with Islington that he is being *treated* differently by others, but he's already doing things the pre-Warrior Richard wouldn't have dared. Being stubborn in the face of Vandemar and Croup? I have serious doubts he could've pulled it off.
He's not feeling better about himself because he's accepted. He is accepted because he's feeling better about himself.

And now, the escapism. Escapism is, according to googled definition, "The desire to retreat into imaginative entertainment rather than deal with the stress, tedium, and daily problems of the mundane world."

Setting aside the "imaginary" part, he does have to deal with tedium. But stress and daily problems? Quite the contrary; everything is going entirely too smoothly. Richard doesn't go back to escape, he goes back because he's no longer the same person, and the new Richard wants adventure. Wants challenges. Problems. Daily, if at all possible.
"Мы создаем себе препятствия, чтоб их потом преодолеть."
A very Russian approach, woudn't you say? :)

А Пикник я читал оооочень давно, так что считай совсем позабыл. А что ты вообще так заинтересована в образах разрушения, если не секрет?
be_unafraid
Sep. 9th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
With pigeons: yeah. The rest of the scenes are just too similar. I guess I just don't find the idea of those characters interesting.

With humor: fair enough. Just not my kind.

> He is accepted because he's feeling better about himself.
Possibly true. I never believed in him as a character, though. And if the premise is false, whatever it leads to is irrelevant :)
Remember him calling a certain rat "Ratty" in the beginning? I don't buy that.

Escapism: he wants adventure and to be a hero for the reason that he doesn't want tedium. This is escapism according to my definition, although I would, at the moment, have difficulties explaining why I feel that *escaping* tedium is wrong.

> A very Russian approach, woudn't you say? :)
Um... No? :)

> А что ты вообще так заинтересована в образах разрушения, если не секрет?
Смерть и разрушение - базовые и настоящие вещи (не все согласятся с пунктом 2). Существование - вещь вообще очень странная и маловероятная. У меня к этому очень детский подход, я думаю, но какой есть. Просто вопрос не разрешён, что я существую. Наверное.
syarzhuk
Sep. 20th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
Алиса, спокойно, а не будешь ли ты на чтогдекогдашной Онтариаде? Или в крайнем случае - просто в Том Ронто 6-7 октя?
be_unafraid
Sep. 21st, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
хммм... ну, на Онтариаде точно не буду. 6-7 октября - это, кажется, длинные выходные? точных планов ещё нет, но, скорее всего, куда-нибудь поеду. а что? =)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 21st, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
Hello
I'm new here, just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )