Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, so I was really excited to get chance to see the man himself talking with Mariella Frostrup about his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, at the Apple Store on Regent's Street on Thursday night.
Tweet of the evening has to be this:
Arrived at Apple event for @neilhimself. Asked someone at the door which way for Neil Gaiman. He replied "Neil? Is he a Genius?"
— Isobel Akenhead (@isobelakenhead) June 13, 2013
Twitter!) then let me give a hearty recommendation. Gaiman first made his name with The Sandman comics, which are about Dream, an immortal being who rules over the land of dreams. Some stories are better than others, naturally enough, but overall it's an amazing series, a wonderfully allusive mix of myth and folklore and literature that's about the power of story and much more. I've got the deluxe hardback "Absolute" editions of The Sandman (which I started collecting after getting a bargain from Amazon) which really show it off at its best.
Neil also wrote Neverwhere, an entertaining urban fantasy about the magical and dangerous London Below, recently adapted for radio starring James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch, which I really enjoyed listening to - a top notch radio drama. The film Stardust was based on his novel of the same name, and is darker and more intricate than the movie.
I also love his children's books Coraline (also adapted into a movie) and The Graveyard Book, the story of an orphaned boy brought up by ghosts in a graveyard. My first experience of that particular story was the videos of him reading the entire thing from his book tour (watch here), though I subsequently bought the book both for myself and as a gift to various people.
One of the few books he wrote I didn't get on with was American Gods, which I gave up on when I tried to read it several years ago, back in my early or mid-teens. But it's one of his most popular books, and I might appreciate it more now, so I ought to give it another go. Also, I hated his short story The Problem of Susan, which relates to the fate of Susan in the Narnia books. I disagree fundamentally with the view of Narnia and of God suggested by that story. I don't normally mind reading views I disagree with - his book Good Omens, co-written with Terry Pratchett, has a similar outlook, and I really enjoyed that. But using the Narnia stories which I know and love so much as a vehicle to express these ideas really rubbed me up the wrong way. But it would be weird if you liked everything that someone wrote.
So as a fan, I was really excited to get to hear him talking about his new novel for adults, which sounds fascinating. It involves the characters fighting a creature that's a cross between a Lovecraftian monster and Mary Poppins, apparently! Neil was as erudite and entertaining as you might expect. He really seems to not just be a great writer but also a Top Bloke. The conversation should be available to download as a podcast from iTunes soon.
Questions were taken from the audience, and I was lucky enough to get to ask one to him. So I asked "what myth would you most like to come true, to be real?" He answered, "that very popular and widespread myth, even to today, that people get what they deserve".
It does sound good, a world where people get what they deserve. Or does it?
One of the other questions involved Neverwhere, with someone asking if the villain of that story was really responsible for destroying Atlantis. Neil answered that yes, he did, and that the character believed Atlantis thoroughly deserved it.
What do we deserve, and do we really want it? Would you like to live in a perfectly fair universe, or is there something better? As a Christian, I believe that we live in a universe that will ultimately be not just fair, but merciful, because God gives us grace that we don't deserve. What about you - what kind of world would you like to live in?