Halt, the contrarian approacheth! Hey, now, I take offense to that moniker. I can’t help it if I happen to disagree with public opinion more than your average person, especially when it comes to Neil Gaiman. And it’s not for lack of trying. According to Goodreads, Neil Gaiman is my third most read author with 20 books, behind only Stephen King (39) and Kurt Vonnegut (21). It’s easy to like Gaiman the person, despite his pairing with Amanda Palmer defying explanation in my opinion, but liking Gaiman the author is more of a challenge.
He’ll forever have my respect and admiration for having written The Graveyard Book, but everything else pales in comparison. The first couple volumes of the Sandman series are honorable mentions and that’s all. Gaiman continues to let me down one way or another with each book of his I read not named The Graveyard Book, yet still I keep coming back and my expectations remain higher than they rightly should be based upon past experience. Gaiman is the king of geekdom, according to Pajiba, so of course I expect more of him than I would of most authors with so disappointing a track record. Anyone and everyone I see talk about Gaiman can’t say enough good about the man. I only want to see, if only for a brief moment, what they see.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, unfortunately, allowed no such glimpse into their minds. As with most of the later entries in the Sandman series, I found the prose dull, and the fantastical plot not very fantastical. Perhaps it’s because I’ll forever hold up any “adult” work of fantasy up to the essentially unattainable standard set by Pan’s Labyrinth, but nothing in The Ocean at the End of the Lane struck me as fresh or particularly imaginative. Gaiman seems to make a living leaning on genre tropes, on retelling stories that’ve already been retold in various forms. For some, that’s a positive. Clearly, I’m not one of those people, and I’ll leave it there, lest I incur even more wrath from the Gaiman faithful.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.