I recently read on someone's blog that it's not good for reviewers to review books without a knowledge of the genre, the author, the series, etc to inform their opinion.
While I can see why that would be beneficial, on one level at least, I mostly disagree with it overall. I think books can, and should, be judged on their own merit. I think that, if I pick up a book, it needs to stand on its own and not use my previous experience with the author's other books as a crutch. I think that books have a story to tell, and they should just tell it without me needing to know every other story like it before I can form an opinion on it.
I thought of that blog and the ridiculous message it was sending (that opinions of books are only "valid" in certain circumstances) after finishing this little graphic novel.
Why, you ask? Well I shall tell you!
I purchased this book sight unseen based solely on the fact that Neil Gaiman wrote it. I didn't even know it was a graphic novel until I opened it. I read this without having a single clue as to what it was about, because I never read the description. And, I read this entire story thinking that the antagonist looked an awful lot like Alice Cooper, only finding out that it was in fact supposed to resemble Cooper when I read the introduction... last. Well, next to last. I read the book description last.
According to that blogger, all of these things apparently make me a bad reviewer. Not that I really give two shits about what that blogger thinks, but it just made me chuckle thinking about how different people think the act of reading should be done.
I envision that blogger like this:
Anyway... So, yeah. I bought this book a while back knowing nothing about it other than Neil Gaiman wrote it. I guess in this case I meet ONE of the Her Highness The Blogger's decrees: I have read quite a bit of Gaiman's work. Not all of it yet, but enough. So in a way, this was predictable, both for it being a classic rejection of temptation tale, and for Neil Gaiman writing it.
But that's not to say I didn't like it. I have very shifty opinions on when 'predictable' is acceptable, and it mostly was here. I knew where it was going, but not necessarily how it would get there. And that's Neil's gift. The getting there is good.
I liked the little nuances of the story, the shiftiness of it, the "is this all in Steven's head, or...?" feel of the story. I liked the abrupt shift from the everyday to dreamlike surreality and back. I liked quite a bit about this story, even though I'm not usually one for "performance" fiction... Circuses, fairs, carnivals... not my thing. This was pushing the boundary being none of those things, but theater fiction doesn't really do it for me either. So I also liked that that wasn't really the entire focus here.
Definitely worth a read, and yet another proof that Neil Gaiman's pen could explode on paper and it'd be worth reading.
So, the short, bad reviewer version: "I liked it."