It's been eight years since Gaiman last wrote a novel for adults; the sort-of American Gods sequel Anansi Boys. That kind of wait ups the anticipation for more and sets the bar even higher for satisfying readers. When you have to wait eight years for the latest thing, you tend to expect it to be even better. Luckily, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an enjoyable novel that will please the droves of fans.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane has the typical Gaiman fantasy edge, but he is genuinely seems to be trying something new in terms of writing style. His narrative voice is different than anything he has used in previous works, and it makes for an overall fresher experience. American Gods is a modern masterpiece, but he doesn't need to write it again, and clearly knows this. The lines seem to go on forever in this new novel, as Gaiman writes the kind of sentences that would make an English teacher's teeth itch. They're not run-ons, though, just long trains of thought that suit the way the story is told perfectly.
This novel is about sacrifice and memory. The narrator is middle-aged at the beginning of the novel, but tells a story about his childhood. It involves a strange house guest and a little girl a few years older than him who helps him ward off an unwelcome evil entity that seems to just want to make the hero miserable. Gaiman does a wonderful job of immediately making you care about the protagonist, as he has such a sad little childhood and it makes the reader really want him to have a better future. His family are essentially unlikable from the start, and it makes you root for him.
Although the writing is a bit different from the usual for Neil Gaiman, the story feels very familiar. It has some similarities to Coraline, but is genuinely creepier and frankly down right unsettling at times. It’s not the kind of thing that will have you sleeping with the lights on for the foreseeable future, but it definitely has moments that make you go “Eeek.” Those who enjoy their fantasy with a touch of horror will find this most pleasing.
Ocean isn’t an epic masterpiece like American Gods, but it's still a better than decent read. While it might not turn the uninitiated into Gaimaniacs (It’s a word, I swear!), if you already love Neil Gaiman’s work, you'll really enjoy this book.
What's your favorite Neil Gaiman story/book/script?