Once again, Gaiman delivers an amazing tale. He picks
his target audience - a new one this time, a sort of pre-teen age group,
and hits a home run. His power lies in sticking to his strengths: horror,
fantasy, and myth. He consistently weaves his extensive knowledge of
authentic myths and cultural archetypes into a new, strikingly original
Coraline is a great example of a story that
seems fresh but familiar. It incorporates elements of Alice in Wonderland -
our heroine, young Coraline, discovers a mirror-world that is an exact
replica of her house, but creepy and sort of evil. Gaiman always creates
a great atmosphere, which is helped by his frequent collaborator, Dave
McKean, who here provides the cover art and some interior ink drawings.
I kept thinking of a Tim Burton movie. The "sets" here seem
really Beetlejuice-esque, especially since all of the action
is confined to a single haunted house.
The house seems innocent enough until Coraline steals
a secret key to a door in the den and appears in her mirror-world. Here,
her mirror-parents have buttons for eyes and seem overly eager to keep
Coraline to themselves. At first, the oft-neglected child is excited
by the possibility of more attention from her parents, but grows increasingly
suspicious of her other-mother's plans. Good thing, since, as we of course
knew all along, the other-parents turn out to be sufficently freaky and
This was an incredibly easy read, but it doens't pander
to youngsters. In fact, there are some truly horrible moments that some
might think are innapropriate for the youngest readers. But Gaiman assumes
the reader's intelligence, and the story is much better for it. As always,
he injects enough poetic language, charming dialogue, realistic everyday
details, and British wit so we don't dwell on the scary bits too long.
While Coraline doesn't have the in-depth character development
or layers of plot and myth of Gaiman's adult masterpieces, American
Gods and Sandman, Gamain has successfully created a fantasy/horror
classic for all ages.