The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

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by Bridget O’Flynn

The world of Neil Gaiman is a dark one. He regularly and skilfully employs the themes of desperation, danger and deception in his novels. Sheer terror can be found in the lines and spaces of every page. And, if you thought that this master of the craft might have grown a little rusty in the time since the release of his last adult novel (Anansi Boys, 2005), you, I am pleased to report, will be proven wrong.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane does not disappoint.

The story begins in the present, with our narrator returning to his childhood home for a family funeral and unearthing while there a series of events from 40 years ago that are probably best left forgotten. As he recalls the excitements of these events, we are thrown into his past. We meet the three Hempstock women, whom he enlisted in his youth to help him unravel certain mysteries. (Gaiman aficionados will relish speculating about whether or not this Hempstock clan can be tied to Stardust’s Daisy Hempstock or The Graveyard Book’s Liza Hempstock.)

The Hempstock women are charming and peculiar in the way that only Gaiman characters can be – the eldest insists that she can remember the Big Bang – but none more so than the youngest, Lettie. Charismatic and willful, she becomes our narrator’s closest companion in the fight against corruption, greed and power – everything that is wrong with the adult world, in short.

Apparently emulating the peculiarities of her elders, Lettie claims that Continue reading

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Joyland – Stephen King

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It’s tough to take a whodunnit seriously in this day and age. The days of noir and pulp print are long dead – relics of the 20th century, unfortunately moving ever closer to becoming kitsch (God forbid). With this sad decline in mind, I’m always happy to see a good mystery novel step up to the proverbial plate and… well… not quite hit a home run, but round third base pretty effectively, scoring one for what I like to think of as the plucky Little League kids against the tremendous, ‘roided-up Yankees team that resides in the top 10 list at any given time.

Now, Stephen King gets a lot of shit from the sort of fancy folks who read ‘literature’. I think this is because he represents pop-literature, and there is a sad, snivelling satisfaction to be gained when you deride the mainstream and rave about the underground, the unknown. I remember being at a party once and this chick asked me what I was reading. I said I’d just finished Duma Key (10/10, would read to naughty children). She looked at me much as if I’d said my holiday read had been the extra-Aryan print of Mein Kampf. “Oh, God! You don’t like Stephen King do you,” I believe suffices as a decent approximation of her shitty, smarmy response. Now at the time, I mumbled and stuttered and lit a cigarette and tried to forget my faux pas. But the older, wiser writer of this piece is here now and, before I tell you that Joyland was actually pretty good, I’m going to make a case for Steve.

Stephen King is an American hero. He’s prolific, and he has, to a large degree, kept the horror genre alive in print all but singlehandedly since he managed to get Carrie published back in the 70s. He’s arguably the author who has had the most film adaptations made from his work, and he even directed one of his own, Maximum Overdrive – a film so insanely bonkers it could only have been Continue reading