Review: The Ocean At The End of The Lane

I recently had the opportunity to get an ARC copy of Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at The End of The Lane” which has just released in mass-market paperback. I’ve read a huge amount of praise for Gaiman, he is frequently touted as one of the top fantasy authors in the world.

I read a lot of books, so much that it’s a bad habit – a closet addiction. For example, this year I’ve read around 30 books so far. (That breaks down around 40% science-fiction, 40% fantasy, and the rest business books.)

But up until now I’d only read two books that Gaiman has written: American Gods – a Hugo and Nebula award winner – and Good Omens which was co-written with Terry Pratchett. I thought the latter was wonderful, the former interesting if not quite as amazing as the awarding bodies thought. I’ve always been a Pratchett fan so there’s a bit of bias there.

So I wanted to give Gaiman another go, and see if I could see  what everybody is talking about.

As it turns out, Neil Gaiman is just not for me.

I’m not sure exactly how to review this book. I can see how it might appeal to some people, his use of language is superb, scenes are well written, and the concepts are very interesting. But I found it quite underwhelming, when it wasn’t being dark and nigh on depressing.

This is certainly a “dark” fantasy – in some ways Game of Thrones is more upbeat! The plot moves at a fairly quick pace – and it’s a short book – but I don’t think that it’s a plot driven story. I wasn’t surprised to find out that it was originally written as a novella and expanded upon. There’s a bit of flashback/flash forward with a little mystery and intrigue to make you wonder what actually happened, reminiscent of a David Lynch movie.

When reviewing a book from a well established author like this I think that it’s a bit like the fourth or fifth book in a series – it doesn’t really matter what the reviews say, if you like the author’s other work you’re probably  going to like this book, and if you don’t then you probably won’t like this one. So if you like Gaiman: 5/5. If you don’t: 2/5.

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