The Alpha Reads: The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Well, I’ve just about had it. I mean really, this is the final straw.

How dare you write such a compelling story. What gives you the right to dominate my life with your unforgettable characters, your amazing prose, and your masterful blend of fantastical realism and childhood memories? I have a life you know, and when I read a book, I expect to be able to put it down between chapters so that I may pursue other activities. But this is just… a violation of the trust that I’ve placed in you. You’ve abused my time by practically gluing the book covers to my hands and only letting me get up to turn a page.

I simply will not tolerate this any longer. I demand a well written apology, spoken on camera for the world to see!

By now, I’m sure you took a look at the date of the post and realized that this is not to be taken seriously. Well, not the first part of it anyway. And I’m sure you, faithful reader, are amused enough that I am addressing the author who has been the target of my most recent literary binge as if he has nothing better to do than read my blog. The nerve of me.

Also, if you followed one of the many links I posted on various forums endorsing a certain presidential candidate, April Fool’s.

(But you know, since it is April Fool’s Day, I would certainly appreciate someone pretending that they were Neil Gaiman reading my blog. You know, just to show me your love. Effort does count. And if you’re reading this after April Fool’s Day, it’s too late to pull the prank on me.)

While shorter than the previous works I’ve reviewed, it was no less of a field trip. Notice, I said field trip and not escape. Because field trips weren’t always the most pleasant experiences for me when I was seven, especially when a big bumpy school bus on a hot day was involved.  And  getting into the mind of the main character as he narrates the bizarre tale of the beginning of his seventh year of life, I found myself identifying with him all too closely. The feeling of being a small and helpless child in a world of adults who can mostly do as they wish to you and then lie about it, knowing full well that no one will believe you, is something I am far too experienced with.

From the word go, I read and watch, feeling my heart skip beats as the main antagonist walks into the boy’s life and begins making him miserable. Rarely have I rooted for a character to get to safety as much as I did when he escaped from his bedroom and made the mad dash across the dark and wet country side, running for the safety of the supernatural women who inhabited the farm at the end of the lane.

Quoting TV Tropes:

A Spiritual Successor is a type of sequel that is not part of the same world or story as its predecessor, but is nonetheless considered to be a successor because it’s made by the same creators; shares common themes, styles, or elements; or, most likely, both. In other words, it’s a sequel “in spirit”.

With that in mind, it’s not too much of a stretch to think of The Ocean At the End of the Lane  spiritual predecessor to  NeverwhereBoth stories feature a character who is not entirely at home in the world, but is mostly unaware of the parallel world that they live next door to. In the case of the latter, it is about an entire world of people that our world chooses to ignore and dismiss, whereas the former is about a boy who is himself routinely dismissed and sometimes ignored.

Since the character is never named, you would be forgiven for thinking of him as a young Richard Mayhew, even if they are two wildly different characters. But then again, look at who we’re talking about. It’s even less of a stretch to imagine that the events of both books happened in the same timeline of the same scarily attractive, yet wonderfully imaginative universe that exists within the mind of Neil Gaiman.

Update: I found an interview with the author on this very book. Spoiler warnings: His reading about the kitten and how it dies struck a very personal cord with me. I was sad when I read it and sadder still when I listened to the excerpt in his addictive voice.

The Ocean At The End of The Lane Google Talks

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