Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the Nebula Nominees for Best Novel, and it was conveniently available for loan in Kindle form from my library.

Neil Gaiman wrote this book to appeal to his wife, who "doesn't like fantasy." My knee-jerk response is that I would like to see what he had done writing for people who like fantasy.

It's Neil Gaiman, so the words are arranged consecutively in very pleasing ways. It's the story of a 7-year-old boy, as told from the perspective of his older self, and the various fantastical and fairy-tale things that happen to him. In contrast to some books where the magical elements are implied to be imagined by the child, here I think the implication is that the events of childhood really do have magic underneath them.

But neither the magic nor the characters are compelling enough for me to love this book, or even like it a lot. (Contrast Among Others, where the magic wasn't compelling, but the characters were.) Instead, I finished the book thinking, "Oh, that was nice enough."

It didn't help that I felt like I was supposed to find more inspiration from this book than I really did, with quotes like,
Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.
OK, a mildly interesting, but probably not strictly true, observation, dressed up with some beautiful language.

I suspect this will be one of the Hugo nominees, if not the winner. I figured I might as well read it now anyway, since it was available from the library. I did not end up nominating it for the Hugo.

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