There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife . . . The knife had done almost everything it had been brought to that house to do.
In The Graveyard Book, fantasy master Gaiman follows the adventures of a young boy named Bod (short for Nobody); his entire family is murdered by a mysterious man named Jack in the creepy opening pages (helped along greatly, as the entire book is, by Dave McKean’s beautiful illustrations) and he’s taken in to be raised by the ghosts in a nearby cemetery. The book is a bit more like a book of linked short stories for a while; in each chapter Bod is a year older and he has an adventure of some kind that’s fairly disconnected to the other events of the book. Some of these, like the particularly weird “goblin gate” chapter, just aren’t as good as the others, but mostly there’s a high level of quality. For whatever else you can say about Gaiman, he’s got an imagination like few others; I don’t think I’ll soon forget The Indigo Man and the Sleer, for example. Once Jack begins to reappear, at first only in reference, but soon enough in person, in the book, things get substantially better as the growing Bod and the murderous Jack find themselves on a collision course. Both are aiming to bring a little closure to the night Bod’s family was murdered, if you know what I mean. Jack’s a really great character, as is Bod’s main companion in the graveyard, the mysterious Silas, a man neither alive nor dead, but somewhere strange and in-between. But the real strength here is the bizarre, enchanting and compelling world-building; this is typically one of Gaiman’s strengths and this is a book that fires the imagination to think about what might lie just off the borders of the pages and starts the reader to dreaming on his or her own. What more can you say? 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Gaiman’s creepy, witty tale of a baby brought up by ghosts is imaginative, if rambling; the mysterious Jack is a great villain and his conflict with the growing boy feels suitably mythic. 3 ½ stars.