The end of the world a.k.a Armageddon is finally scheduled. The evil against the good, global cataclysms, wars, famine, the Moon looking like blood and so on. In order to do it right the son of Satan has to be born and brought up among humans. A demon called Anthony Crowley, working more closely than he should with an angel called Aziraphale, is supposed to ensure the boy goes to the right, influential American family ( a kind of parody of a very old thriller “The Omen”). Things get tangled up because of his clumsiness, one chattering nun, an ordinary Englishman expecting his first newborn baby and a bunch of other strange events. While both Heaven and Hell are in a race to make sure he does what THEY want the devil’s spawn ends up being named Adam (not Damien or Warlock or anything evil) and happens to be raised in a provincial British town by ordinary lower middle class people. It is not exactly something good for his devilishness or the plans of the mighty forces above and below. Even his hell hound turns into an innocuous mongrel who loves chasing cats. The four riders of Apocalypse have obtained their orders though and are determined to carry them out. What will happen to all these people? Will anybody be able to locate the boy and start the end of the world properly? Perhaps a witch or two will come in handy; them and some witchfinders, their natural enemies…and an unusual book with deadly precise prophecies, written by the late Agnes Nutter. (more…)
Two confessions. I am a Neil Gaiman fanboy and love everything of his I have read. I also have a history of overrating books immediately after reading them, and only upon reflection do I rethink ratings. (I don’t change ratings though; A. they are not that important and B. books deserve the rating I give from my immediate emotions).
So keep that in mind when I say that I loved ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and would recommend it to everyone (but then I recommend American Gods at every chance I get, and am flabbergasted that some (i.e. my wife) don’t like it. Different strokes and all that). A plot synopsis would be impossible; the book is so short almost any synopsis would be spoilerific. Nothing will come as a surprise, and ordinary person (this time a young boy) is taking from the mundane into the incredible.
Hell if I know what it is about. Early reviews said it was about longing for home, so why not? Let us go with that. I do know that the whole book was a short dream-like journey that had me captivated. Likewise I have no idea what the influences were for the rather unique mythology of this book. The Maiden, Mother, and Crone was the obvious one. But whether or not the flea or the cleaners represented an unknown to me tie to existing myth I regret to say I do not know.
But readers of Gaiman should be well used to the style, and as strange as all the new unknown elements were to me I never felt any disbelieve. This to me is the author’s genius, taking the unbelievable and making it real. He has been doing it for years, and in my mind succeeded once again.
If I had to nitpick I would point out that at times I felt I was reading a gritty remake of Coraline, if not in substance in style. But that could be attributed to being a bit too familiar with Gaiman’s style, after all I have read each of his books several times.
Not my favorite book by any means; of the adult novels by the author it is firmly third on my list. But when it comes to Gaiman most people have their minds made up already. People are going to read it or not, and my opinion is just one I a vast sea of them.