Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a modern fairy tale that’s sure to become a classic. I have extremely high expectations for Gaiman’s work, as his American Gods is one of my favorite books, and I was not disappointed. The Ocean at the End of the Lane delivers everything a reader could want from a fantasy novel: adventure, mythological creatures both good and evil, mystery, suspense and a glimpse at worlds unknown.
The unnamed protagonist of the story is a man who travels to his childhood home for a funeral which leads him on a trip down memory lane. As he visits the Hempstock farm at the end of the lane, he begins to remember the adventure he had the spring he was 7 years old. Most of the story is told from the point of view of the 7 year old boy, curious and introspective, an avid reader. His life is simple: a younger sister, mother and father; his parents have fallen on hard times and have to rent out the boy’s room to tenants to help pay the bills, and his mother has to begin working outside the home as well. This change in the family dynamic is what starts the adventure for the boy. (more…)
Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld, has a population of two. Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife, is no stranger to characters dealing with inner turmoil and struggling to be accepted by others, and the characters in Sisterland are no exception. Twins Kate and Violet (Vi) share a lonely childhood, with a largely absent mother and a father who is loving but distracted by work and his depressed wife. Added to normal teen angst and a dysfunctional family, the twins have a secret: they are psychic.
The characters are at the heart of the novel. The story is told from Kate’s point of view, in both the present timeline and in flashbacks to various times in the girl’s lives. Kate is the sister who longs to fit in with the other kids at school, who wants a normal family, who doesn’t want to be psychic… Except when she does; when it can help her get what she wants. Vi is wild, rebellious and welcoming of the “senses” that give the girls the ability to have premonitions through dreams and visions. (more…)
I have a soft spot for short stories. I think an entire, fleshed out story in one small dose is worth reading. Short story collections are also a great way to get a sampling of the different voices one author can use, and the collection Last Summer at Mars Hill and Other Short Stories by Elizabeth Hand is no exception.
Hand’s writing falls into the genre of speculative fiction, which is fiction that is so different that it can’t just be labeled fantasy or sci fi. Speculative fiction comes from a place of no rules; in writing or in the universes in which they take place. It’s a fun if sometimes challenging genre. A collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to the genre, and this collection by Hand encompasses speculative fiction in all its weird, fantastic glory. (more…)