WOW! Just wow! This book completely took me by surprise! I was impressed by the movie version of The Neverending Story as a child but it didn’t move me enough to warrant repeated viewings or motivate me to seek out the source material.
For nostalgia I recently re-watched the movie and was disappointed by how poorly it had aged. This time, however, it DID inspire me to give the book a read and I’m so glad that I did! It turns out that the movie really comprises only the first act of the much longer book.
This book is, literally, fantastic. It is a sweeping epic journey with enchanted worlds, magical characters, and mythical creatures. Most characters are fleeting yet the book is written such that you still care about them even without pages and pages of development. Somehow The Neverdending Story manages to use these brief encounters to build a much richer universe, leaving the reader’s imagination to fill in the details with, “But that is another story and shall be told another time.”
The epic story is underpinned by themes of self efficacy, self image, and destiny. In many ways it reminds me of a much longer, more detailed version of Coelho’s The Alchemist. It goes a step further, though, and adds “meta” themes of human fantasy and escapism. This meta commentary doesn’t QUITE hit its mark for me – I think its reach exceeds its grasp a little – but it doesn’t in any way detract from the rest of the story.
The most impressive aspect of The Neverending Story for me is that it is translated to English from its original German. It features so many charming character descriptions, clever turns of phrase, and even rhyming verses of poetry/song that its translation must have been an incredible labor of love. The end result is, well, fantastic, but I admit that it has me yearning to learn (I feel the yearn – the yearn to learn!) German just to be able to read the original source material.
Bryan’s great adventures learning German . . . but that is another story and shall be told another time!