Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie
Written and read by Neil Gaiman
This is probably my second favorite work of Neil Gaiman. I’d place it after Good Omens and in front of(by a nose) various Sandman stories and American Gods. I have had several copies go through my hands and off of my bookshelves. I can think of at least two copies of the Charles Vess illustrated edition that I have gifted off (both signed copies). When my wife and I combined our bookshelves, Stardust was one of the only titles that we had duplicated. I think there are still more then one copy of the prose edition in some for or another in our library.
I like that it is a simple story, almost a pallet cleanser of a book. You can read what you want into it, and learn what you will from it.
I decided to get this (audio)book because Mr. Gaiman has a new collection of short tales out, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. I wanted to get back into fiction and Neil’s work before I picked that one up. Neil Gaiman reads the audio book, and does quite a good job at it. On the last disc there is a short interview between Mr. Gaiman and I presume the director. Neil talks about his liking of audio books because “it’s not the definitive version, but it’s the version that I [,the author,] hear in my head.” He also brings up a good point about listening to audio books; in reading text you might have the tendency to skip around descriptions to the next line of dialog. Listening makes this much harder, as you have to listen to every word.
As for the book, it’s a boy meets girl and finds himself kind of a story. Shop boy with a semi-mysterious past, Tristran, is infatuated by the girl (Victoria). To win a kiss he goes on a quest to retrieve a fallen star that has landed across the wall, in the lands of Faerie. He has adventures getting there and discovers that the star is not a hunk of rock or crystal, but a girl, Yvaine. She is rightly kind of pissed off, first at being struck by a flying stone, secondly by breaking a leg upon landing, and thirdly, by being chained to Tristran as a gift for Victoria. Other then Tristan, there are other parties that are seeking Yvaine for her heart (physical), or for the stone (important mystical artifact). They attempt to make it back to his home in the village of Wall, near the wall that is the boarder between our world and Faerie. They have adventures that involves, magic, a unicorn, a flying ship, assassinations, and witches of all sorts on their way.
This is an old fashion fairy tale for adults. I don’t think that it’s too much of a stretch that you could shelve it next to The Princess Bride thematically. There are some parts that may not be suitable for all audiences, but you could pull a Grandpa, do a “good parts version.”
I really enjoy this story, and am glad to re-read it again. It has been a few years since I last read it, and I had forgotten a few of the finer points. I have seen the movie Stardust, which Neil Gaiman is listed as producer, and The Art of Neil Gaiman talks about his involvement with that. Turns out he gave Matthew Vaughn the rights to the movie for free as he trusted him, in return Matt Vaughn offered to let Mr. Gaiman write the screenplay. Neil Gaiman turned the offer down, because he wanted it to be Matt Vaughn’s interpretation, or to “make it a good movie, but the book was a little bit better.” With another screenwriter (Jane Goodman), they reworked the story. They, increased the roles of Lamia, the witch, for Michelle Pfeiffer, and the sky ship captain for Robert De Niro. They also reworked the third act to improve the pacing, and changed the ending. Overall, I think that they did a good job. It’s a good movie, the third act is stronger, the love story is more natural and shown not told, but the book is a little bit better (more fluid opening, better resolutions with Victoria, & Una, more focus on the main characters, less on the supporting characters). In the end, both are good, each has their strengths, and are both a good medium for telling the tale.