Author: Michael Ende
I first encountered The NeverEnding Story as a kid, borrowing the movie from the library and enjoying it over and over again. I loved the story and the characters, and I remember that I used to swing at school while pretending that I was Atreyu riding across Fantasia on his trusty steed Artax. Later on I would also watch the second film, The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter. It wasn’t nearly as good as the first, but it did have Jonathan Brandis in it, and he was my hero. So I grew up knowing the movies well, but I had no idea that it was a novel. I’m not sure how I missed that, but one day I was out shopping and stumbled across one lone copy of the original book. I, of course, bought it right away, and have now read it aloud to my daughter. Nothing will ever replace the first movie in my heart because it’s a definite part of my childhood, but I was happy to read the book as an adult and get a new perspective on the story.
In the book, the fictional land that the story takes place in is called Fantastica, not Fantasia. The book was originally written in German, but the translation soon makes you forget that fact. The main character of the story is Bastian, a boy who doesn’t feel like he belongs in his boring world of school and home life. When he finds himself in a strange bookstore one morning, he discovers a novel that is almost calling for him. Surprising even himself, he steals the book, hides in his school’s attic, and begins to read the book, deciding that he will never go back to his old way of life. As he reads, Bastian finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into the unfolding story. He learns of Fantastica, its Childlike Empress, a horrible Nothing that is eating up the world, and a brave young man named Atreyu who must begin a quest to save the Empress’ life. His mission is to find a human child, for only someone from Earth can heal the land. Bastian begins to suspect that this is no mere book, and as he begins to read about himself he knows that he is in too deep to escape.
I was surprised that the book actually covers both movies. The first half of the novel is almost exactly like the first movie, the second half of the novel is only slightly similar to the second movie. And I understand why they split the films up this way; because The Neverending Story is almost two books in one. The first half is Bastian reading about Atreyu’s adventures, and the second half is Bastian’s own adventures. Unfortunately, the first part is exponentially better that the last. I was invested, engrossed, and having a great time. There was a climax, I felt good about it, and then there were still 200 pages left. I was disappointed that the book got progressively slower, less interesting, and began to ramble on. That said, the story as a whole was very interesting, and maybe the second half was meant to be read philosophically, rather than as part of an action/adventure plot. Overall, it was a great book, especially if you loved the movies as a kid, but be prepared for a bit of a drag near the end. If you’ve bought into the characters up until then you may forgive it, but if you weren’t hooked you could be tempted to put the book down.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰