Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It did have an end, sort of. I vaguely remember bits of the second movie in this, but as I'd blocked that one out, I can't say how well it compares to the book. This is an odd story, but I liked it.

So, this is a story within a story, with two distinct adventures built in. Then again, hints would have the reader believe they are also part of the story in a never-ending cycle of storytelling and belief that fuels the good in our world and keeps the fantasy land of Fantastica whole and healthy.

First, the story of Bastian stealing the book and hiding away in his school's attic to read it takes center stage. For those who have seen the movie called The Neverending Story, this part of the book is the source of that movie. I must say this is the part that I liked the most. Following Atreyu in the book as he tries to solve the mystery of The Nothing and save Fantastica. It kind of surprised me that his horse talked and that the big guy from the movie who sent him on his quest was supposed to be a centaur. Other things were also nice surprises, like the Childlike Empress taking a more active hand in saving her world than in the movie. Then again, I think the movie was fantastic: scary and awesome, adventurous and whimsical.

The second part of the story picks up after Bastian is pulled into Fantastica and begins making his wishes. This part corresponds to the second Neverending Story movie, which was aweful. The book version is ok and shows Bastian wishing and building Fantastica and its history up. The only problem is that he only has as many wishes as he has memories, and if he runs out before he can return to the real world, he'll be trapped in Fantastica forever.

So, there's some plot here, but the story just bounces along and starts many smaller offshoot tales that are for another day (If you remember the first movie, that's how it ends. Turns out that's a rather common theme throughout this book). On the good side, the two main stories do resolve, quite well, and the rest, well, they leave plenty of room for the reader to imagine their own outcomes.

And, perhaps the best part, is I finally learned what Bastian named the Childlike Empress. I was never able to make it out in the movie. Then again, it was a stupid name in the book, and unlike that which was implied in the movie, it wasn't his mother's name.

So, overall, it's a good story, highly whimsical, with two distinct plotlines in one overarching one that implies the reader is also included. The nature of wishes, of selfish philanthropy, and learning to love who you are are all explored through Bastian's journey. And the idea that losing yourself in the book is not only an escape for you but of benefit to mankind is also nice.

I'd recommend this to folks who enjoyed the movie and to folks who love to read, particularly fantasy books.

I borrowed this book from the local library.

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