Gaiman’s latest is a bit of a puzzler. It was intended to be a short story originally and then ended up being a novel but, in the process of becoming a novel it has ended up feeling a bit stretched and threadbare. It might have worked better, in my humble opinion, as something of more moderate size but I imagine it’s harder to sell smaller books – even for Mr G.
The story follows the misadventures of a young boy (in what seems to be the 1960s) in rural England. He’s drawn into things beyond his understanding, a victim of circumstance and curiosity and the strangeness that follows it.
For those of us brought up in rural England (in the 70s and before) – and on a diet of weird Children’s television that the BBC sought to fuck us all up with – the book is rather nostalgic. Filled with little familiarities. Neil’s a little older than me though and not all of it quite jibes, though there’s a bit of a feeling that it’s a Famous Five book that’s been given an heroic dose of mescalin.
It’s weird, strange, unusual – even for Neil – otherworldly and trippy but somehow also unsatisfying. There’s an adventure, but it’s a memory and the protagonist is largely a helpless pawn in the affairs of other, incomprehensible things. There’s touches of Lovecraft as well as Blyton, hints of science, allusions to the confusing world of quantum mechanics, a subtle reference to the triple-goddess. It’s a lot of things.
The naive, child’s viewpoint cushions the blow a little – because to a child a great many things are incomprehensible but it can’t save the feeling, by the end of the book, that everything in it might as well not have happened.
I’m glad I read it, but it’s a bit personal feeling and a bit self-indulgent.
Also something nasty happens to a cat early on, and I love cats.
So apologies to Mr Gaiman, but I didn’t like this one that much.