Wednesday 22 May 2013

Book Review: Neil Gaiman – 'How To Talk To Girls At Parties'

'How To Talk To Girls At Parties' 

Although this short story has been previously published in the collection 'Fragile Things', and therefore available for some years, the fact Neil Gaiman is releasing his intellectual property as a freebie on Amazon's Kindle software / hardware is nonetheless a nice gesture. Particularly as this also includes a prologue to his new novel 'The Ocean At The End Of The Lane'.

For those unfamiliar with Gaiman's work – which considering his hand has penned graphic novels, best selling adult and child fiction as well as blockbuster films – should be very few these days, 'How To Talk To Girls At Parties' is a fine example of the authors ability to meld the ordinary with the fantastic.

The story is a nostalgic look at teen awkwardness when matters of romantic interaction with opposite sex becomes the overwhelming urge of boys. Rooted firmly in 1970's south London, the story is a first person narrative told from the perspective of one of two friends on their way to a party. A fairly typical and recognisable situation that takes a bizarre turn as the protagonist, envious of his friend's ease at talking to girls, attempts to interact with those present at the party. Focussed on the end result of snog he fails to grasp what exactly he and his friend have got themselves in to.

It's a very quick and easy story to get into and is unfortunately over all too soon. But there is more.

The prologue to Gaiman's new novel 'The Ocean At The End Of The Lane', which will be released next month, is an intriguing mix of middle-aged melancholy and warm childhood nostalgia coming together to distort the present. The unnamed narrator traces his way back to a farm where slightly odd characters from his childhood reside. Gradually more and more comes back to him, but ultimately we are left hanging from a question mark.

It's a very effective introduction that makes you hanker after more... though anyone who has read the likes of 'American Gods', 'Anansi Boys' or 'Neverwhere' can attest to Gaiman's power for page-turning prose. Gaiman plays his cards close to his chest, but this is certainly enough to hook most people as his engaging and stimulating style is what really catches you.

Really, there is no doubt that this freebie will have the desired effect of not only turning new readers onto Gaiman's short stories in 'Fragile Things' and 'Smoke And Mirrors', but also tease the pre-orders for his new novel up a little more before its launch in June.

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