I adore Neil Gaiman. I hadn’t read any of his books until early last year, and still haven’t read many of them, but every one I have read has been everything I’d hoped it would be. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the plot of this one. Some of the reviews I read prior to diving in to this book revealed a big part of the story that I wish I had been able to discover myself, so I am going to be careful not to give anything away.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a beautiful story about a man who returns to his childhood home (or where it used to be) and is drawn to the old farmhouse at the end of the lane where he remembers playing as a boy. He finds the house still inhabited by the Hempstock women and begins to recall the strange events that took place when he was seven years old, many years ago. The man’s memories come flooding back to him when he makes his way to the pond near the farmhouse, or what his childhood friend Lettie Hempstock referred to as “her ocean.”
The thing I liked best about this book is how imaginative it was. It was written beautifully and I could picture every event that took place without it seeming too much like a fantasy. While this book is definitely categorized as fantasy, nothing seemed over the top or ridiculous. If I had described the entire plot to you, you would say, “that sounds completely ridiculous,” but The Ocean at the End of the Lane is written in such a way that you are seeing the world through the eyes of a seven year old boy. Even things that don’t seem real can still make complete sense, and sometimes it’s the not making sense that makes them more real. Things just are. A major theme that stood out to me in this book was the mind of a child and how different it is from the mind of an adult. One quote in particular was my absolute favorite:
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.”
I’m not sure what else to say about this book, but I think that quote really sums it up. It’s a quick read, only 180 pages. I easily could have read it in one sitting had I not had to go to work. If you like fantasy, or if you aren’t sure you like fantasy but are a little intrigued, give it a try.
“In the near future, somewhere in rural Colorado…
If Zoey Ashe had known she was being stalked by a man who intended to kill her and then slowly eat her bones, she would have worried more about that and less about getting her cat off the roof.”
That is the first sentence of Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. It pretty much sums up the vibe of the entire book. Zoey Ashe is a 22 year old barista living in a trailer park in Colorado. When her estranged billionaire father dies and leaves her his fortune, she has no idea what to think and even less of an idea of what to do when she ends up in the lawless city of Tabula Ra$a, a futuristic Las Vegas where there is no government, everything is legal, and everyone is trying to kill Zoey in order to steal her inheritance. While all this is happening, Zoey and her late father’s closest colleagues find themselves in the middle of a battle between good versus evil.
This book has a lot going on.
I think it probably would make a great movie. Tabula Ra$a is like an even more futuristic version of Dubai, filled with skyscrapers covered in video skins, drones that deliver tacos to wherever you’re standing, and bridges that you can swim across. The world that David Wong builds is really, really cool and a lot of the more action-packed scenes played out in my head like I was watching the movie Transformers if Transformers didn’t suck. That being said, I also felt like this book really dragged on and repeated itself. Thing happens. Thing leads to bigger, more dramatic thing with a twist. Thing is resolved. Slightly different but mostly the same thing repeats. There were several moments when I thought for sure I was almost done with the book and then when I checked where I was on my Kindle I was only at 30% or 50% done.
I would recommend this book for people who aren’t so much into science fiction but rather are into the whole superhero/Marvel Comics type thing. Sure, there’s some futuristic tech that basically drives the entire plot of the book, but the main focus is definitely on the idea of being a hero or a villain and what that means. It’s funny and crude and not the most reverent story, and Zoey’s character reads a little more like a 15 year old boy than a 22 year old girl, but all in all it was pretty solid. It might have felt like a long read, but it definitely wasn’t a boring one.
Also, I feel like I should mention that Zoey’s cat is named Stench Machine.