Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stardust Read-along, Part 1

I'm currently reading Neil Gaiman's awesome novel Stardust as part of a Read-along over at Carl's site Stainless Steel Droppings.  This is my third time reading the book and I still adore it.  I finally own a beautiful copy seen above.  The Read-along answers below are going to have major spoilers so go grab a copy of Stardust.  You could really read it in just a day or two. It's quite an addictive little book.

1. We have spent a little time with Tristran and even less time with the star. What are your initial thoughts/impressions of our two protagonists?

I sort of sped through Carl's responses (I usually read them after I write my own) and agree that this time I noticed a similarity between Tristran and Neverwhere's Richard Mayhew.  Tristran is quite young and naive - searching for the star for his "true love" Victoria who really doesn't seem to care about him at all.  He's quite blind to that little fact.  He also seems to not notice little things like when his father allows him to go beyond the Wall and how he's from there.  Did he grasp that?  I don't think so.  I remember when the movie came out and I was a little disappointed in the actor who was picked to play Tristran because he just seemed a little big eyed dumb - but actually it was a good cast because that is what Tristran is at first. This is a journey and a growing-up experience for Tristran...just like Richard Mayhew's journey transformed him.  I always loved Star.  I think it's awesome how Gaiman describes her and how she's acts.  During this part of the book we really don't get much into who she is but from the moment she lands I think we can't help but like and sympathized with her.

2. There are some very interesting potential villains introduced in this first half of the book. Do any of them particularly stand out to you? If so why or why not?

I love the lord of Stormhold and his dead and alive sons who are vying for the throne.  It's very Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings feeling except a bit more comical.  I love that the ghosts are kinds of hanging around and grumbling and mumbling to themselves. It's something I remember the movie doing really well.  The Lilim are so dark and creepy.  I love that after reading this book a few times I still get a creepy feeling when reading about the witch and what she's going to do.  I love their motivation for getting the Star too - beauty and youth.  Such a classic story line but Gaiman makes it fresh and new and super creepy. I like that there are more than one villain.  Gaiman always writes villains really well.  

3. In Chapter Three, just after the section with the brothers in Stormhold, Neil Gaiman gives us a description of Faerie that includes “each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there…”. What imaginary lands do you then hope are a part of Faerie?

Hmmmm.  Well since Gaiman is British and Wall has a very British feeling, I keep thinking that classic British myths and stories are there: Camelot, Robin Hood, older myths like Brownies, etc.  What I thought more about while reading the story though was how in a world like Faerie that is supposed to be huge - it doesn't feel like it at all.  The main characters mainly just keep running into each other, like there's really no one else there.  

4. We do not get to spend a great deal of time in the market but while there we are given a number of interesting descriptions of the wares being bartered or sold. Which if any of them caught your eye, either as items you would like to possess or ones you would most certainly hope to avoid.

For some reason my imagination doesn't really run that way right now.**  Although just like any other market/fair/store I am sure I'd beeline right to the book section.  I feel like you could find some kind of magical book.  Gaiman must like this because Neverwhere and Stardust both have pretty cool markets that play a part in the story.  Although it's not surprising really because back in the day before internet, telephones, etc that was probably how you got most of your news and stories and got to meet people outside of your small community.  **I think my crazy head cold thing I've got right now is really interfering with my imagination.

5. If you have read much of Gaiman’s work, particularly his short fiction, then you have come across some rather graphic and disturbing portrayals of sex. Gaiman offers up something very different in the way of a sex scene early on in Stardust. What are your feelings of the scene either in general or as a contrast to other Gaiman-penned scenes involving sex?
For being a fan of Gaiman, I really haven't read a ton of his stuff: just four novels, the first Sandman comic, and a few short stories.  From the Sandman that I remember, it was pretty dark and graphic (pun not intended).  I was impressed with his handle of describing the scene in Stardust: you know what happens but it's not too graphic.  I prefer this way really and I think it made the quick relationship between Tristran's father and mother even more intimate and special.  It made me feel like these two characters were meant to be together - a bit of Romeo/Juliet scenario. 

6. I suspect Neil Gaiman is influenced by a number of fairy and folk tales in Stardust. Are there any elements of the story that made a particular impression and/or reminded you of other fairy stories you have read or are familiar with?

The Lilim totally reminded me of Greek mythology although I had to Google them to remember what they were called: Graeae.  I mainly knew of them from the old Clash of the Titans movie.  Again, the Stormhold reminds me of something from The Lord of the Rings, not quite sure why.  In all honesty I didn't like the books when I tried reading them back in the day. It's been on my to-do list to re-read them to see if I still feel the same way...but I digress.  So far I think that's about it.

7. And finally, which of the many side characters introduce have caught your eye and why? Or what else about the story thus far is of interest to you?

I think if I was reading the story for the first time, I would be dying about now to know more about Tristran's mother.  Who she is, how she got caught, does she age?  Other than that, my brain is still in a cold/allergy fog so that's all I have.

Head over to Carl's post and check out what he and other people think about the first half of the book.  Cheers!


  1. This is a re=read for me too. I love how Tristran starts off all doe-eyed and innocent and grows by the end of the book.

    Ha! I love the Clash of the Titans reference. The Lilim do make me think of the Greae, all sharing that 1 eye. Here, the three sisters share hearts of stars.

    The Lord of the Rings is worthy, but you have to be prepared for lots of description of terrain and plant life. Perhaps try as audiobooks.

  2. 1. I think, if anything, the Tristran in the film is a little too bright for the one we are seeing in the book at the moment: naive is a bit of an understatement! :D

    2. It does indeed make A Game of Thrones look much more subtle in its politics, which is rather hard to do.

    3. I get the impression that Faery is huge, so perhaps the population is fairly well spread.

    5. There was a rather touching purity to the scene that I appreciated, and I did like the way that it conveyed Dunstan's astonishment at his first sexual encounter.

  3. I'm reading the same copy you are. Isn't it a wonderful book? I love it. The size is just so perfect.

    I like your description of Tristran, both as the character in the novel and the actor chosen. I actually liked the actor just because of what you mention but hadn't thought about how well he fits the Tristran that starts the story until you brought it up.

    Gaiman does do villains well and the Lords of Stormhold, or potential lords, are very Tolkienesque. I like them and agree that is one thing the film did well in regards to the ghost brothers.

    Oh, can you imagine the books you would get at a fairy market? Probably books that could get you into trouble though too. But oh, the stories!

    "Intimate" is a good description of the sex scene and that is what I felt about it too as opposed to some of the darker stuff present in Neil's short stories and in American Gods.

    Its really fun re-reading the book but I found it tremendously hard not to spoil things when writing my post and when responding to everyone.

  4. That's a gorgeous edition. And I really enjoyed reading your responses, knowing that you've read the book a few times (it was my first). I can imagine wanting to know more about Tristran's mother's story too. When I had read only the first part of the book, I was sure that information would come along, but of course I know now that her background is sketched very broadly and more details would've been nice (although I understand that, style-wise, it makes sense to brush across the specifics).