Beyond Bestsellers: Neil Gaiman

By Craig B.

My first taste of Neil Gaiman was in the early 90’s when my cousin introduced me to The Sandman series. I was a borderline batcaver with a dark trench coat and an inelastic haze of Aqua Net. I tried to be a batcaver, at any rate: black clothes, hair dye, spooky music, ennui. The Sandman fit into my world like a dingy pair of leather pants. It rested in the twilight world between fantasy and folklore. It was rich with mythology and literary allusion, elaborate but not laborious, sarcastic but not caustic, grown-up but not mature. It was, in short, miraculous. I fell in love with Neil Gaiman.

Then I learned that Gaiman had thrown a wide artistic net: graphic novels, nonfiction biographies, companion manuals, books. As the years went by, his net grew wider: short stories, radio, children’s books, mythology, plays, movies. Sometimes, he even mixed and matched mediums and genres. He was, and still is, hard to pin down. However, three things remain consistent in Gaiman’s art…a darkly affable sense of humor, an ear for lexical lyricism, and a love of lore and legend.

In this vein, I’ve decided to serve up a pu pu platter of delicacies from various genres and authors that will sate your appetite for the Dark Prince of Prose, Neil Gaiman.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

It’s hard to talk about Neil Gaiman readalikes without mentioning Douglas Adams. His Hitchhiker’s Guide series has become a staple for lovers of both sci-fi and the comically absurd. Adams loves a good yarn, poking at the establishment, gently ribbing philosophy and religion, and coining metaphors. And he does so with a distinctly British sense of timing. This is equally true of Adams’ second series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency I chose the second book from the second series. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, because it’s the closest to Gaiman’s art…brooding, dark, hilarious, and steeped in Norse mythology.

Dark Lord of Derkholm

If you want to read something that has fueled Gaiman’s creative furnace from his childhood, you couldn’t do better than the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Gaiman loved Jones’ novels when he was young, then met her when he was still a fledgling writer. They became fast friends. If you’re experiencing Harry Potter withdrawals (and who isn’t wild about Harry?) you could book a flight to Japan, or you could read Jones’ Chrestomanci Series. However, if you’re itching for something a little more Gaimanesque, might I suggest Dark Lord of Derkholm? I’ve gulped down both the novel and the audiobook, and I have to say, Jones (like Gaiman) is one of those rare authors whose prose should be heard to be truly appreciated. Plus, she’s marvelously witty.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Alan Moore is a legendary graphic novelist. He was among the first wave of authors who helped create the genre. He was also friends with Neil Gaiman, who apparently did a little side work to help Moore finish one of his masterpieces, Watchmen. However, if you’re hankering for something with a stronger Gaiman tang, you might want to sample The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It has intrigue, an intricate plot involving secret cults and world domination, heavy doses of local lore, and a ragtag confederation of flawed literary glitterati standing in as our protagonists. It’s also wickedly funny, though it doesn’t mix any sugar in with its humor. Parents beware…this is not for kids. In 2003, it was made into a movie that bares a passing resemblance to the graphic novel.

The Song of Achilles

If you liked the vibrant coat of linguistic paint that Gaiman used to freshen up the Scandinavian legends in Norse Mythology, you’ll be absorbed by Madeline Miller’s brilliantly reimagined Greek tragedy based on Homer’s The Iliad. Told from the viewpoint of Achilles’ best friend and lover, Patroclus, Miller’s novel seethes with eloquence, passion, and ultimately, tragedy. I may have known where the story was going, but Miller’s moving prose took me in directions I did not expect. In other words, if you’d like to cross off a good vehicular crying jag from your bucket list, you should really give the audiobook a spin. Bring your hankies. It’s worth it. And to the lady in the white Chevy Suburban who saw a middle-aged man sobbing inconsolably in the car next to her on the highway…there’s no need to worry. His life is fine. He just finished a really good book.

Please take a look at further readalikes in my list. Feel free to drop me a message with other fine suggestions!




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2 responses to “Beyond Bestsellers: Neil Gaiman”

  1. Rickey B says:

    I am definitely going to check out “The Son of Achilles” and the “Dark Lord of Derkholm”! Great Suggestions as always, Craig!

    • Craig Burgess says:

      Hey Rickey! I thought The Song of Achilles was awesome. It choked me up. Then again, I also choked up at the end of David McCullough’s John Adams, so maybe my trigger points are abnormal. Dark Lord of Derkholm is a hoot!

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