If you were to ask me my top 3 favorite authors, most likely the off-the-top-of-my-head list would be
1) Stephen King
2) JK Rowling
3) Neil Gaiman
So when I heard that Neil Gaiman had a new book coming out, I was really excited. Really, REALLY excited, to then learn that this was to be a new book for adults. Don't get me wrong, I like his YA books, as I've liked everything that I've read of his. But I love
his books for adults.
American Gods is one of the absolute best books I've ever read. It's layered, compelling, intricate, and just plain good
. I recently started reading it again, but when I realized that I couldn't really devote the time to it that I wanted, I put it aside. I'll pick it up again one day when I can dedicate my full and devoted attention to it. It deserves it.
So, that being said, I pre-ordered the signed hardcover edition of this book. I don't regret that decision, though I will admit that I am a little disappointed in the story itself. I think that this is a case of unmet expectations, though. Perhaps if "Ocean..." hadn't been advertised as a book for adults, I wouldn't feel this way.
I was expecting something along the lines of a "Neverwhere" type story, (while hoping for American Gods quality) but what I got reminded me very strongly of "Coraline". I enjoyed "Coraline", and I enjoyed this, but I wouldn't call it an 'adult book'. It's told, almost entirely, from the perspective of a 7-year-old little boy. And while I have read adult books that have been told from the perspective of young children, this just didn't have the same feel. The adultness of it was missing for me. That's a very intangible thing, and will be dependent on each reader to define for themselves. I don't know if I can even describe it myself... I just know that I would have no problem at all recommending this book to children of the narrator's age. There's nothing in it that they would find too hard to understand, except for perhaps the single vague and distant sex scene that even the narrator doesn't understand... and is not meant to. As adults, we know what our narrator is describing, but this does not transform this story from a children's/YA story into an adult one. Nor does couching it between first and last "adult perspective" chapters. At least not to me. It just feels like a story told by and aimed at children.
I also just didn't get a very dire sense of danger from this story. Since the story is told in flashback, you know that the main character made it through any mortal danger he may have faced. Likewise, I never felt that Lettie was in any real danger either, since, apparently, she's immortal - or as close to it as possible. The Hunger Birds definitely evoked more of a response from me than Ursula Monkton did... I just couldn't be concerned about her at all. She reminded me quite a lot of the Other Mother from Coraline... but in Coraline there was a sense of tension because it's real-time, so nothing guarantees safety, and aside from the cat, Coraline is on her own. She has help, yes, but it's not the same. Here our main character is rather pathetic, aside from his one act of naive nobility... the exact opposite of interesting, intelligent, and courageous Coraline.
That's not to say that this wasn't a good book. It was. I did enjoy reading it, and I liked the Hempstocks old world Fae feel. There was also quite a lot of quotable goodness in this little story, and the writing was, while simple, quite beautiful. I liked that the main character remained nameless here. Usually I don't really care for that, as it makes it harder for me to identify with a character, but somehow with Neil's stories, it just works.
Anyway, overall, I liked this story, but just liked it. I wanted to love it, but it just didn't quite live up to my expectations. I would still definitely recommend it though, as I would with any of Neil's work.