Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Stardust trade paperback Stardust (1997,1998,1999)
Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie

Perennial trade paperback - 250 pages
cover photograph by Debra Lill (left)

Spike hardback - 235 pages (right)
Stardust hardcover

Characters list
Our book ratings
Aaron's Commentary
Neil Gaiman bibliography

From the back cover of the paperback (cover not shown):
       In the tiny village called Wall, things are not quite what they seem...
       In the sleepy English countryside of decades past, there is a town that has stood on a jut of granite for six hundred years. And immediately to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named.
       Here in the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. One crisp October night, he makes a rash promise that sends Tristran through the only gap in the wall, across the meadow, and into the most unforgettable adventure of his life.

Stardust comic 1 of 4 From the back cover of comic:
       Our story begins in Wall, a village at the crossroads bordering Faerie, where the mortal and magical mingle once every nine years in an enchanted meadow to exchange goods and services. When Dunstan Thorn goes to the Faerie market to find a token for his love, a chance encounter with one of the Fair folk changes his life and love...forever.
Eighteen years later when Dunstan's son, Tristran, rashly swears to fetch a fallen star for the village beauty, he embarks on a lover's quest that takes him into the deepest corners of Faerie, where he will find unexpected dangers and temptations, and where he will discover the truth about love...and about his own true nature.

DC Comics Vertigo 1 of 4 by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (above)
Winner of the 1999 Mythopoeic Award for Best Adult Novel

Read for group discussion on February 23, 2000

Stardust - list of characters:
Dunstan Thorn, a practical young man
Daisy Hempstock, the girl Dunstan is courting
Mister Bromios, owner of the inn the Seventh Magpie
Bridget Comfrey and Tommy Forester
A flower girl at the Faerie Market, bound with a silver chain
Tristran Thorn, a odd young man
Louisa Thorn, Tristran's little sister
Victoria Forester, the beautiful girl Tristran is infatuated with
The eighty-first Lord of Stormhold, who throws a topaz-stone
The fighting, living heirs of Stormhold, Lords Primus, Tertius, and Septimus
Three aging women, the Lilim, the witch-queen, seeking to become young
The Star, who breaks her leg, Yvaine
A little hairy man
Mistress Semele, Ditchwater Sal, a harridan traveling in a gypsy wagon
A unicorn
Mister Robert Monday, of the shop Monday and Brown's
Stardust comic 4 of 4
DC Comics Vertigo 4 of 4 by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (above)

How we each rated this book
Dan 5 Amy 7 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 1 Barb 5
Aaron 7 Cynthia -
Lindsey - Jackie 6
Kerry 6    

Aaron's Commentary   Neil Gaiman - Stardust

This is a good old-fashioned fairy tale, but not told in too old-fashioned a manner. Gaiman uses just the right blend of old-style storytelling (including some of the graphic scenes one could expect from a pre-Disney fairy tale) and modern cynicism, as in this passage where our protagonist encounters an irritable witch:

     "Thief!" shouted a cracked old voice. "I shall turn your bones to ice and roast you in front of a fire! I shall pluck your eyes out and tie one to a herring and t'other to a seagull, so the twin sights of sea and sky shall take you into madness! I shall make your tongue into a writhing worm and your fingers shall become razors, and fire ants shall itch your skin, so each time you scratch yourself--"
     "There is no need to belabor your point," said Tristran to the old woman.

Gaiman has a delightful sense of whimsy (for example, at one point Tristran is trapped on a cloud, shouts out, and is surprised to be answered by a passing tall ship) which, if anything, he uses too sparingly - many elements, such as the market at the wall, could have used elaboration. The story is involving and moves along at a brisk pace. My main disappointment with the plot was the meager efforts offered by the supposedly formidable brothers from Stormhold.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by Neil Gaiman
-- Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett) in May 1996
-- Neverwhere   in March 1999
-- American Gods   in June 2002
-- Coraline  in January 2004
-- Anansi Boys   in January 2007
-- Fragile Things   in March 2008

Neil Gaiman (1960-    ) is a writer of graphic novels, fantasy comic books, and fiction. Originally from England, Gaiman now lives in the United States.

1991 World Fantasy Award for Short Story (with Charles Vess) for "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
1999 Mythopoeic Award for Best Adult Novel for Stardust
2000 Bram Stoker Award for graphic novel The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel American Gods
2002 Bram Stoker Award for novel American Gods
2003 Nebula Award for Best Novel American Gods
2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella "Coraline"
2003 Bram Stoker Award for work for younger readers "Coraline"
2004 Nebula Award for Best Novella "Coraline"
2004 Hugo Award for short story "A Study in Emerald"

Neil Gaiman has written the novels Neverwhere (1997), Stardust (1998), American Gods (2001), and Anansi Boys (2005).  Stardust was published in comic form with pictures by Charles Vess.

He wrote with author Terry Pratchett Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter (1990), a fantasy novel about the end of the world.

Coraline (2002) is a young adult short novel illustrated by Dave McKean.  InterWorld (with Michael Reaves, 2007) is a young adult novel featuring travel between dimensions.  The Graveyard Book (2008) is a young adult fantasy novel.

For children (reading level ages 4-8) he's written The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish (1998) and The Wolves in the Walls (2003).  Both are illustrated by Dave McKean.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions (1998), Angels and Visitations: A Miscellany (1993), and Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (2006) are collections.  M is for Magic (2007) is a YA collection.

Gaiman's first graphic novel was Violent Cases: Words and Pictures (illustrated by Dave McKean, 1987). For DC comics in the US he wrote Black Orchid (#1,-#3, 1989).

Gaiman's gained success with the acclaimed Sandman series of dark fantasy graphic novels. Characters include Death, the dark maiden, and Dream. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (#19, drawn by Charles Vess, 1990) won a World Fantasy Award for best short story.

Sandman graphic novels:
1 - Preludes and Nocturnes (1990)
2 - The Doll's House (1990)
3 - Dream Country (1991)
4 - Season of Mists (1992)
5 - A Game of You (1993)
6 - Fables and Reflections (1993)
7 - Brief Lives (1994)
8 - Worlds' End (1994)
9 - The Kindly Ones (1995)
10 - The Wake (1997)
11 - Endless Nights (2003)
Dust Covers -The Collected Sandman Covers 1989-1997 (1998)
Death: The High Cost of Living (1994)
Death : The Time of Your Life (1997)

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (1999) is a cross between Japanese fables and Gaiman's Sandman universe. It's lavishly illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano, but it's not a true graphic (i.e., comic book style) novel. This volume grew out of research Gaiman did after accepting to write the English dialog for the US release of the anime film, Princess Mononoke.

Other graphic novels by Gaiman are Signal to Noise (illustrated by Dave McKean, 1992) about a dying movie producer; The Tragical Comedy or the Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994); The Books of Magic (1993); Spawn: Angela's Hunt (1998); Last Temptation (2001, illustrated by Michael Zulli, inspired by rock legend Alice Cooper); and Harlequin Valentine (2002, illustrated by John Bolton).  Eternals (illustrated by John Romita Jr., 2007) revisits Jack Kirby's Eternals Marvel superhero series.

Day of the Dead: A Babylon 5 scriptbook (1998) is TV media tie-in.

Nonfiction books he's written are Duran Duran (1985), Ghastly Beyond Belief (with Kim Newman 1985), and Don't Panic: The Official Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion (1988).

Our book club's page for Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Our book club's page for American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Our book club's page for Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Fantastic Reviews: Aaron's book review of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Fantastic Reviews: Jackie's book review of Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman - Wikipedia
The Dreaming - The Neil Gaiman Page
Green Man review - Neil Gaiman, Stardust
The SF Site: An Interview with Neil Gaiman (Feb. '99)
DangerMedia Innerview Neil Gaiman
January magazine: Interview Neil Gaiman
The Wake Information about Neil Gaiman's Sandman
The SF Site An Interview With Neil Gaiman (Aug. 2000)
The SF Site Featured Review Stardust
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Neil Gaiman (2004)
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Neil Gaiman (2001)

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This page was last updated October 19, 2008