Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is my favorite author that I can remember the least about his books after they're done. Perhaps it's the mythic elements and the simple, powerful, but common language he tends to use. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, forgetting the story is actually part of the story, so I have to assume part of this is what Gaiman is about. What's different about Ocean is its perspective, told as memory: it's remembered by a 40-ish year old from an experience when he was 7. Gaiman uses this perspective to enhance the mystery of what's going on and to introduce some dark, adult undercurrents very gently (for the most part, with one shocking scene that stands out all the more for that). No one can do this like Gaiman does. This may be the most nostalgic of his works, and possibly one of the most personal. It feels like a short story (and it started life as a short story that outgrew its own pages), but I can't imagine it being any shorter than it is. Gaiman's own stories contain the magic he talks about, magic of universal myth, the power of words, and the ultimate mysterious but good structure of the universe. (No wonder he keeps returning to Lewis and Chesterton!) That's why I'll read anything he puts out and remember enjoying it even after I've forgotten the details of the plot. Those details are not what matters with Gaiman, and what does matter, matters a lot.

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