Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (William Morrow, 2013).

There's a part of me that felt some serious disappointment with Neil Gaiman's most recent novel, because it's just so very Gaimanny. You name the trope, it's in here. Young protagonist, very old magic, trinity of crone / mother / youngster, names having power, tempting from magic circles, mysterious creatures / forces from other realities crossing into ours... this is a story that he's told before, quite honestly.

I'm not sure that he's ever told it so well, however. It's a story remembered by a man in his late forties, who had forgotten most of the events, decades ago, that began with a boarder stealing the family car and killing himself, and ended with a childhood friend moving across the ocean to Australia. But when he revisits the rickety old farm where the girl lived, he remembers a much more vivid story, of some force from another world influencing ours, of a visit to that land in the company of his new friend to try and persuade the force to leave, and of what happened when the creature followed them back to our world.

It is whimsical and interesting, and just long enough to not overstay its welcome, but it mostly follows a very predictable path. Even the fate of his friend - "Australia," indeed - is unsurprising. Gaiman's prose is so darn fine that it mostly didn't matter that this was a story he's told in comics and novels before. The ending, however, does contain a few unexpected revelations and quite heartbreaking gentle little twists. I admire Gaiman's power, but I'm ready for him to blaze a few new trails. Recommended with reservations.

1 comment:

Urdu Shayari said...

Another great book from Neil Gaiman. For a moment I thought that it was a children's book, with the protagonist being a 7 year old boy. But Gaiman has a uncanny ability to mix fantasy and profoundness is such a way that a simplest idea can come to life in so many facets.