If you check out the current list of Amazon’s top science fiction and fantasy titles, a lot of the titles are more fantasy than science fiction. This list evolves from hour to hour, but it was difficult to find my version of science fiction that contains aliens, spaceships, or transhuman protagonists. There appears to be more stories along the lines of the contemporary fantasy tale, or contemporary supernatural on this particular list.
And media has a heavy impact on the choices. Currently, number one is George Martin, number two, Orson Scott Card and number three Toiken….all have a movie now showing or an upcoming T.V. series… Game of Thrones, Enders Game, and The Hobbit.
Some names on the list I recognize, while others appear new and interesting.
Number five is Neil Gaimon and his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I was over number 100 on the library list for this one, but finally got it checked out and just finished reading it. I am amazed at the over 2,000 Amazon reviews, of which 1000 were five stars. However, eighty-five were only one star, and a large group gave him only three. Still, that’s awesome.
Just shows that we’re all individuals with individual tastes.
As for me, I didn’t know what to expect…and I was surprised. First off, the prose broke several rules for writing being handed around my current critique group. Gaimon is not afraid to use “was” or “had” and several of his paragraphs start with subject verb, many with “I” and a verb, even several paragraphs like that in a row. He uses flashback, first person viewpoint and never reveals the name of his narrator.
All that said, his writing flows and the story captivates.
The story is about a fiftyish year old man who returns to his hometown to attend a funeral and starts randomly driving around, but ends up at a neighbor’s farm near where he grew up.
A grandmother, mother and eleven year old girl lived there when he was a boy, befriending him, and as he shows up to visit, the grandmother warmly greets him, having not aged at all.
He asks to sit by their duckpond, which the young girl, Lettie, used to insist was an ocean. She has gone away and is not there, and he misses his childhood friend. There he reminisces over a pivotal event in his childhood where innocently he became a nexus and doorway for an evil creature bent on taking over their world. Through subtle hints and innuendo, Gaimon paints the three residents as immortals living here on Earth in order to protect humans from malevolent entities that try to invade and inhabit our world.
For some reason, the young narrator totally trusts Lettie, and doesn’t blink when she reveals supernatural powers or calmly shoos nightmare creatures that show up occasionally.
The narrator leads the reader to suspend his or her disbelief and become immersed in fantastical events that sometimes turn dark…especially when evil invades the boy’s family and tries to control them.
I am surprised at the overwhelming popularity of the book, but I did finish it and was intrigued by Gaimon’s world. He has a big fan base and uses social media, tweeting often. (I follow him, Scalzi and others) The story walks a fine line between adult and YA fantasy. If you consider the grandmother, mother and Lettie as aliens (and Gaimon does hint that) then it has a bit of a science fiction slant. If you see them as the crone, the mother and the child, then there’s more of a mythic/legend quality to it.
Meanwhile, I am developing my reading selections for 2014. Some I will select from various “best lists” while others will be requests by new science fiction writers that appear interesting to me. It will be strictly personal taste.
And maybe we’ll visit a few of “the best of 2013” lists of science fiction along the way and talk about the choices there.
And BTW wish me a happy birthday today. I came down the chimney in a sack, it seems.
A New Year approaches, a package of wonder to unwrap and enjoy. Hope yours is a good one.