Reading works of Neil Gaiman, I’ve come to notice several intricacies in his writing that are admirable. The first of which is that he seems to resist well the temptation to write any sequels to his works (other than the Sandman, of course). Yes, some of his characters occasionally recur in his short works of fiction from time to time, but merely as a distant flash or strike of lightning. Some books are best when they stand alone.
A second observation could be that Gaiman’s knack for a good story hinges largely on how much he can keep you guessing, in the dark, as it were, for more detail about his characters and settings. As his stories unfold, there is always left a nagging sense of wonder about what he has deliberately left un-described, resting in the shadows, taking form within the reader’s sense of wonder.
Such is the case with The Graveyard Book. Admittedly inspired from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, this story concerns the life of a young orphan, Nobody Owens, as he matures in the graveyard that is his home. It is here that he finds family, knowledge, and ironically, a bit of shelter from the cruel living world beyond the locked gates of the cemetery.
Though considered a work of juvenile literature, The Graveyard Book is doubtless a cheeky, though spine-chilling, work for all readers. It is Gaiman’s puzzle for the reader to deduce which environment, that of the living or the dead, is most cruel and dangerous. More often than not, the choice is most eerily inconclusive.
At the very least, this is a wickedly and expertly told story; readers may wonder what life, or perhaps the lack of it, would be like on the dustier side of a ghoul-gate, compared to a chance meeting with an “Every Man Jack” on a cold, pitch-dark and misty street corner. At its best, The Graveyard Book is that plus more: growing up, the thrill of adventure, as well as living death, or perhaps even life, to the fullest.