When I first picked up Coraline, I was pleasantly surprised at all the awards and reviews on the inside of the cover. But, as the book progressed, I was more and more disappointed. Neil Gaiman has the ability to weave together just the right words to create the most horrible images; if you are looking for a twisted and unnerving story, then Coraline is for you. But as this book is geared for children, I know if I had read this when I was younger it most certainly would have given me nightmares. Actually, the book sounds like it is based on a very bad dream, and the illustrations only add to the disturbing nature of the story. One of the most disquieting images Gaiman creates is that of the "other mother" who is unaturally tall, has skin as white as a spiders belly, sharp pointed teeth, black buttons for eyes, and worst of all, twitching hands with long red nails like daggers. Equally disagreeable, Coraline finds beings behind the mirror in the hall that were once children, only deprived of their souls and hearts by the other mother and then forgotten. There are several good things about the book, however, one being that Coraline shows real bravery and wit, and Gaiman is very talented in creating imagery that sticks in ones mind. But other then that, I would only recommend it to someone that is a fan of very scary, unnerving books, and certainly not to anyone older then thirteen. So, unless you are one of that select group of people, I would not recommend Coraline to you.
I know I'll get lambasted for this, but I'm having a hard time understanding Neil Gaiman's appeal of late. I know what he's capable of. I've read the Sandman series. I've read Neverwhere and Stardust and American Gods and Smoke and Mirrors, too. Neverwhere is unbelievably brilliant and creative. Stardust is cute, and clever, but not extraordinary. American Gods is clever, but undeveloped in its execution. I also have Gaiman's other works with illustrator Dave McKean -- The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch: A Romance...the Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish...Dustcovers: The Selected Sandman Covers and others. So I'm no stranger to Neil Gaiman. Neither am I devoid of ability to recognize talent, creativity and passion. That said, I must admit Coraline left me cold. Not much went on in the book. The characters were flat. And it seemed very dark for supposedly being a children's book. Frankly, the same problem that plagued American Gods seems to run rampant through Coraline: a good idea left undeveloped. Coraline starts out promisingly enough. A big old house. A curious little girl. A bunch of odd neighbors. And a locked door with a brick wall on the other side. Great premise. Lots of things could happen in such a setting. Things do happen, but too quickly without any character development. The stories goes from zero to 60 in a couple of pages and then wraps up -- before any explanation is giving as to why this other world existed, who or what those "other parents" are, who the strange neighbors are, and why the little girls seems wise beyond her years, able to face terror with hardly a blink of her eye. I think Neil Gaiman needs a hard-nosed editor, one who'll tell him, "Great idea, Neil. But it needs to be developed more." Or, "Good draft. Could be published as-is. But I think it needs a bit more fleshing out in these areas..." I said it in my review of American Gods, and I'll say it in my review of Coraline: Neil Gaiman is extremely talented and creative, but his best work is still ahead of him. I can't recommend Coraline.
Gaiman is up to his usual tricks in "Coraline": children more grown-up than grown-ups, his typical moral-- Adults lose their ability to "imagine things" (all adults except Gaiman of course), scary eye gimmicks (see the Corinthian in Sandman)and cliche dressed up in Gaiman's mannered prose (see the "what it takes to be brave" cliche in Coraline, all of "Stardust".) Perhaps I have just read too much of Gaiman's material to find this book entertaining or original. I had the same problem with "American Gods" which retreads the same anthropological theories and concepts that seemed so fresh in the Sandman series (at least I bothered to finish Coraline). Another problem with this book is that it is supposed to be for children, but, like "The boy who swapped his Father for two Goldfish", it is really aimed at Gaiman's established fan base who no doubt find some comfort in his predictable style and concerns. I added this book to my classroom collection (yes, I know-- those who can't teach) and it has remained untouched by my group of 13 year olds. I wasn't disappointed by Coraline; I knew what I would be getting-- but that's the problem; an author as talented as Gaiman should really try something different. The greatest joy of his comic book work was that it often managed to transcend genre, especially in works like "Violent Cases" and "Mr Punch" and even in the fantasy driven Sandman series. His novels just recycle in prose ground he has already covered in comics. The worst thing about my Coraline purchase is that it is unillustrated and although style wise Dave McKean is in the same rut Gaiman is, his art is always interesting. Gaiman's isn't.
Clearly Gaiman has a following, but I've never been able to fathom why. Perhaps it's the cult cachet sustained from his Sandman series, and the way he consistently appeals to the narrow reading experience of contemporary goth cyberculture and the like. So, being a fan of darkly twisted children's books that appeal equally to adults (Philip Pullman, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, etc), and having succumbed to the unusually hyperbolic back-cover blurbs of this work (c'mon, a ranking above Alice in Wonderland?), I plodded my way through this short novel to its ultimately prosaic conclusion. The image of black-button eyes is novel and resonates, but the rest is tired and contrived, with thin characters whose motivations and actions aren't properly established and don't always ring true (e.g., Coraline venturing through the trap door to the basement, knowing that it's a trap). I've never found Gaiman's writing particularly impressive, and this is no exception. The illustrations, on the other hand, are worthwhile.
Coraline had to have been one of the worst books Ive read. I dont know, maybe Im to old for this type of book but I am a huge fan of Gaiman and I read everything by him. Its hard to believe that Mr. Gaiman wrote one of my favorite stories, the Sandman, and turns around and writes this mess. Ive read American Gods wich was about a 3 star, Good Omens, wich I liked alot, probably a 4 1/2 star and every Sandman book out there. Mr. Gaiman really accelerates in the comic world. His death series, Murder Mysteries along with the sandman series are definetly looking into if you have not read them. Someone said on the back cover I believe that "Coraline will finally surpass Alice in Wonderland" must have lost his marbles. Not even close!!! If I wasnt such a Gaiman fan, I would have rated this a 1 star. Gaiman spends to much time building up the story only to disappoint you with a short plot. I could go on and on but like I said, not a book for adults.
I originally read a review of "Coraline" in an article posted on the web that sited itself as belonging to some magazine or other, such as "Time". The review gushed about Gaiman's brilliance, his ability to capture both adult and young audiences with the novel, claiming it was in the tradition of such greats as Dahl or Carroll, and might even rival the popularity of J.K. Rowling and the infamous "Harry". I found absolutely no cause for such praise as this. The book does not match, in my opinion, the captivating characterization of Rowling's Potter series, nor does it touch the surrealistic beauty of Alice's Wonderland. The oompa-loompa vibe is all that remains of Dahl's style, and even that is muted to the point of boring one to tears. Harsh words, but true, nonetheless. By the end of the relatively brief novel, I was skimming pages, anxious to have finished it once and for all.
Neil Gaiman is definitely a creative powerhouse, there's not questioning that. But this book really isn't worth all the hype surrounding it. Some of the imagery created by Gaiman is very clever and chilling, but the execution falls flat. It reads like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, and I never really felt the main character was in any real danger (just creepy circumstances). And even though the evil mother character is very well written, her actions and origins seem a bit vague so it all falls a bit flat. Although the book's jacket touts it as the next Alice in Wonderland, this book lacks the wit and charm to be a book for all ages. Kids will no doubt be frightened by by Gaiman's creepy imagery, but as they grow older, they'll begin to wonder exactly why as this book lacks the bite it's teeth imply... I'd stick to Road Dahl or The Brothers Grim...
Not to say that Neil Gaiman is a poor writer, because he is surely one of the most imaginative and talented writers out there, but Coraline falls flat and is definitely not his best work. It is an undeveloped story with characters lacking depth. The peripheral characters (Coraline's neighbors) seem be tossed in to add some fleck of color, but add nothing to the experience. I know Gaiman seems to be exploring the children's market with other books like Wolves in the Walls (which is only worth purchasing for the illustrations, really), but his talents lie in other genres and should stick with it. There were some moments that were creepy, I admit, but this story doesn't belong in book form. (It would've made a great Twilight Zone episode). All in all, stay away from Gaiman's children's books and read the Sandman series or his other works intended for grown-ups.
This was by far the most bizarre book I've ever read. I began reading it, expecting a dark fantasy similar to Garth Nix's work. I was obviously mistaken. What I really ended up reading was what could be passed off as a Garth Nix crack-smoking fantasy. It made very little sense, and in some places made no sense at all. It reminded me of the strangeness of Alice in Wonderland. Usually I keep an open mind about different styles of writing, but this was just plain weird. Many reviews said this book is frightening, so I expected to get some thrills and chills out of reading it. Neil Gaiman tries very hard to freak me out, but does not succeed. The most chilling part of the entire book was the illustrations, which were disturbingly creepy. By the time I finished reading the book, I closed it wondering what, exactly, had just happened.
If you're under 13, this book might be good for you. But the audience that enjoys Harry Potter will definitely not want to spend money at an overpriced bookstore for this book. I got it through my book club, so I can't complain, but it's just not that great. I'm sure by now you've heard the premise, but this book evidences something Gaiman once mentioned in his blog, "plot coupons". In this case, it's other children who've been caught by the Other Parents. The book is too straightforward and, while creepy enough to keep the interest of the target audience, is just not GOOD enough to justify Neil Gaiman's name being on it. I've enjoyed everything else Neil Gaiman has done (except Stardust, which really didn't do it for me), but Coraline just isn't that good. Sorry, Neil. Better luck next time.