Customer Review

39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but underwhelming tale by a usually fantastic author, 8 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Hardcover)
As a big Neil Gaiman fan, it pains my to say this, but if I were to sum this book up in one word, it would be "underwhelming." Or possibly "underdeveloped."

Don't get me wrong, it's by no means awful, and there are a few very good things about it. It's just that it's not a patch on most of the rest of his work and if it was my first exposure to this usually brilliant author, I don't think I'd be in a particular rush to try another of his books. It's definitely more reminiscent of the fairly homely Coraline than the epic American Gods or Sandman series.

First, the good. The prose is inevitably lovely. Gaiman surely has one of the best styles of anyone writing in genre fiction. The sense of creepiness, even terror, is wonderfully created. Parts of the book I found as psychologically terrifying as the most full-blown horror novel. Without giving too much away, there's a section where the narrator is trying to leave his house to get help and is constantly foiled which is just a masterclass in ratcheting up the tension.

To some degree, he also creates a good sense of time and place (rural Britain in the seventies) but I thought this could have been developed further. I got the impression that the story could have taken place anywhere and would have enjoyed a bit more linking to local myths and landmarks, in the way you get with Alan Garner or Susan Cooper, or to seventies issues, like in The Rotters' Club or Black Swan Green.

The book apparently started life as a short story and it really shows. Partly, this is a simple length issue. It can't have been more than about 60 000 words and while sometimes short novels can work (the Great Gatsby is this sort of length and an undisputed classic) in this instance I felt it was over before I'd really had time to bond with the characters.

One of Gaiman's greatest strengths is his ability to weave myths and folklore into his stories, but here, the mythos felt oddly superficial. I didn't quite get what the Hempstocks were meant to be (other than yet another example of the Mother/Maiden/Crone concept) or why, if they were as powerful as they seemed, they were living quietly on a Sussex farm. I'd loved to have had more of their backstory and perhaps a bit of their point of view. Having come up with what appeared to be fascinating and original characters, they are horribly underused, and I felt the same to a lesser extent about the two supernatural enemies.

In conclusion, this is definitely worth a read, but if you're a Gaiman fan, maybe adjust your expectations downwards a little and if you've never read him before, start with another book or you might wonder what all the fuss is about. It's an entertaining, well-written and scary read but it's lacking the substance that would elevate it above that. If nothing else, I'd wait for the paperback to come out and the price to drop as it's far too short to justify the current price-tag.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Jul 2013 18:26:26 BDT
Teleute says:
Thank you for articulating exacting what I'm feeling reading this. I'd been hoping for more American Gods, less Coraline. The prose is beautiful, but the voice just isn't working for me on any real emotional level. I'd also noticed the returned of the trinity - think I preferred it's incarnation in the Sandman. Perhaps I was expecting too much :(

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Dec 2013 01:14:36 GMT
S. Jordaan says:
Yes, exactly my sentiments. I have loved every book he has ever written. I pre ordered this one. However I was disappointed not because it wasn't beautifully written but because I didn't feel a connection with the characters. So much so that it took me a while to get into Neverwhere which I hadn't read before. I absolutely loved Neverwhere. It is definitely one of my top 5 books.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2014 12:25:11 BDT
michelle says:
I felt the same way - this is the first book I've read by this author and its almost put me off him. It's poorly written, there is no connection with the characters, nor did I feel any empathy for them There is no character development - It was all a bit of a mess, but could make a good horror film . I'm deeply disappointed by this book

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jun 2014 23:05:11 BDT
Georgiana89 says:
Michelle, gon't let it put you off completely, I definitely feel it's one of his weaker offerings. Try American Gods or possibly Neverwhere before giving up on Gaiman. Or Good Omens, though that's written by Terry Pratchett too, and I'm never sure how much each of them wrote.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details