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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Neverending Story

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

Author: Michael Ende
Narrator: Gerard Doyle
Duration: 13 hrs, 38 mins
Publisher: Tantor Media
Source: Library

Description from Goodreads:
In this classic fantasy novel from author Michael Ende, small and insignificant Bastian Balthazar Bux is nobody's idea of a hero, least of all his own. Then, through the pages of an ancient, mysterious book, he discovers the enchanted world of Fantastica, and only Bastian himself can save the fairy people who live there. Shy, awkward Bastian is amazed to discover that he has become a character in the mysterious book he is reading and that he has an important mission to fulfill.

I probably should have seen this book's title for what it is: a warning. This audiobook really did feel like it would never ever end. Though I pretty much hated it from the beginning, I felt so strongly that this story is one that I ought to like that I just had to push through. My friends' average rating on GR is a 4.36, and I have friends with standards as high or higher than mine. This may fall into the category of things that don't have charm if you didn't first discover it in childhood.

So far as the story goes, the only part I liked was the frame story. In this part, Bastian, a fat, bullied boy, runs away from school and hides from his tormenters in a book shop. This is Bastian at his most sympathetic. Once in the bookshop, he interacts with the child-hating bookseller. When the shop owner goes to answer the phone, Bastian shoplifts a mysterious, fancy old book, and absconds to school with it, where he proceeds to shut himself up in the attic to read. These sections couched firmly in the real world highlight the power of a story to carry one away, and the strength of imagination. These are great themes. I only wish the others were not so upsetting.

Set up in the attic, Bastian begins to read the story of Fantastica. He learns about the Nothing, eating away at this world, and that the Childlike Empress is sick. She needs a new name or she will die, and Fantastica with her. Atreyu is enlisted to go on a quest for the person that can give her a new name. Along the way, his horse Artax dies in the Swamp of Sadness and he meets Falcor, the luck dragon. The quest is, however, unsuccessful, so he and Falcor go to the Childlike Empress to apologize for failing and dooming her to death. At which point, she tells them that they didn't and the human who will name her has been watching all along, effectively meaning that she doomed Artax for no reason whatsoever. At this juncture, I decide that the Childlike Empress is a bitch.

Because you killed my horse, bitch.

In the movie, at least when I was a child, I remember Atreyu's journey being so much more epic, and him being a much stronger figure. In the book, he seems completely unimportant to pretty much anything that's happening, a mere placeholder for Bastian. Oh, also, the wolf that haunted my dreams as a child is not nearly as intimidating.

The terrible effects just make him scarier.

The book then proceeds into a meta-fiction spiral, because Bastian will not say her new name out loud, even though he knows what it is. The Childlike Empress goes to some guy who is writing The Neverending Story as it happens, the same book Bastian is reading. She orders him to begin reading the story, thus dooming them, and the unfortunate reader, to an eternal cycle of the same events over and over until Bastian names her. At this point, more of the story is repeated than I deem acceptable, considering it wasn't even interesting the first time.

Anyway, he finally says her name, giving in to the repeated non-subtle entreaties that got Destiny's Child firmly stuck in my head for days. So, then, Bastian comes into the book and the Childlike Empress is all "take this bling as a reward." That may not be a direct quote. Maybe. She gives him the amulet, Auryn, and it will grant his wishes. What he doesn't know is that every time he makes a wish, he loses memories and becomes less human. Way to warn him, Childlike Empress. See what I said about her being a bitch? I'm supposed to be worried for his fate, but instead I just wanted Bastian to die a slow, painful death.

Every time Bastian didn't die.

However, don't feel too bad for chunky Bastian, because he doesn't exist anymore. He immediately wishes himself fit and begins to lord over all of the residents of Fantastica. His adventures are basically a study in subjugation. You might think that the fact that he was bullied might make him more sympathetic to people, but he just wants to be adored and pampered. Everyone he meets, he feels infinitely superior to, including Atreyu and Falcor, even though they're the only ones that know what's up. Even worse, most of the Fantasticans are THRILLED to be his doormat. He's Robinson Crusoe to their Friday, and it's creepy as hell. The whole thing sends terrible messages about humans being the best creatures and entitled to dominion over everyone and everything on the earth.

What really kills the story is not the insufferable main character or the questionable messages it's sending to a young audience. No, the big problem is that it's boring. Neither Atreyu nor Bastian ever has any agency. Throughout the whole book, they never learn anything for themselves or accomplish anything on their ow. Everything they do, they're told to do by some adult along the road. The Childlike Empress tells Atreyu where to look, he goes there and finds a creature who tells him where to go next, so he does that, and on it goes. The same is true of Bastian. This story doesn't empower children and lacks any real momentum since everything they're doing feels so arbitrary and staged.

On top of that, the storytelling is very detail-oriented, going for a classic style, only the details are repetitive and needless. He gives information to make the book look fancier, but it doesn't matter at all. For example, there's one scene where Bastian sees some ex-humans playing a mindless game with letter blocks where they write down the letters that come up. Anyway, the narrator was reading out random letters for at least a full minute. Sure that would be less obnoxious in print, but this had no freaking impact on the plot of the book, so why the fuck did it even happen? Stop wasting my time, Ende. Readers only want their story to be neverending if it's actually good.

The only reason I'm giving this book 1.5 stars is the narration. All of those go to him for making this slightly more tolerable than it would have been. He does a great job, managing to keep the humongous cast of pointless characters distinct with ease. So, good job, Gerard Doyle. I hope when we meet again you're reading a book I actually like.

Rating: 1.5/5

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Blogger Elena said...

Mmm maybe the problem with this book is precisely that you listened it and not read it. Maybe you'd have enjoyed more if you'd read it because the book has a lot of pictures and Bastian's story is written with red ink and Atreyu's story is written with green ink which it's one thing I liked.

February 11, 2013 at 4:56 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Maybe so. I do like the set up of the book. However, I also DNFed it 2 or 3 times during college. My favorite part of it was the audio, but maybe it would be different had I read it, even though my problems were not with the audio.

February 11, 2013 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

For the sake of my childhood nostalgia for the movie, I won't be reading this.

BUT I do have a question! When Bastian names the princess, what name does he give her (does it say?)

That part in the movie always bugged me - I could never make it out!

February 11, 2013 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I totally understand that.

He names her Moon Child (or Moonchild). I'll tweet you too, since people ask questions and forget to check back.

February 11, 2013 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Julie@My5monkeys said...

I have seen the movie many times so I don't think I will ever read this book. wow thanks so much for the honest review :)

February 11, 2013 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The movie's definitely better imho.

February 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Lynn K. said...

I've never heard of this book or movie. /childhoodfail orz
Must check out the movie!

February 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh wow! I don't know how you missed it!

February 11, 2013 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

This movie is one of my best childhood memories and I've never read the book for that reason. (And yes that wolf haunted my dreams as well.) I will stick to that plan.

Also I'm now singing Destiny's Child. Thanks for that.

February 11, 2013 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Good plan.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Mischief managed.

February 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Lenore Appelhans said...

My favorite part of the whole saga is the SONG, the cheesy song from the 80s. Sometimes it will come on when I'm in the grocery store and I'll stand, rooted to the spot. My eyes go glassy and I'm transported to another land ....

February 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

From the movie? Or the song in the book? Because there was a song towards the end. This poor narrator had to do so many things.

February 12, 2013 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Lenore Appelhans said...

The movie, silly! I never read songs in books. Never.

February 12, 2013 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Do you just skip them? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql1IFJwF0SQ

February 12, 2013 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Bibliosaurus Text said...

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. However, I put this book with The Princess Bride as two movies that are SO MUCH BETTER than the books. It's rare, but just watch the film.

I got to the middle of the book, and that's where it really started to lose me. That's also where we got Jonathan Brandis as new Bastian in The NeverEnding Story II movie. And don't even glance at The NeverEnding Story III. I stumbled upon it once on television, watched five minutes, then wept for my childhood.

February 12, 2013 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I barely remember the first movie, and I have no memories of the second, even though I know I saw it. Pretty sure I never saw the third one, which sounds like a good thing.

February 13, 2013 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger LisaILJ said...

Your review is so funny. I loved this movie when I was a kid, but it's very good to know that I need to stay, far, far away from the book and the audio! Lol, never ending audio...

February 16, 2013 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

That would be my recommendation. I loved the movie too, even though the wolf haunted my dreams.

February 18, 2013 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've never read the book version of this, but I did see the movie!! A couple of times actually, and I really liked it!! But I can imagine that listening to the audiobook version might be a little rough to get through... At least I know to stay away from that now though!! I may check out the print version though, because it sounds like its written in a really cool way with the pictures and the different colour inks!

March 1, 2013 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I really could not believe how awful this book was. At least in print you can skim or something, though I did think the narrator did a great job. But yeah, the printing of the book is gorgeous.

March 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh wow, this sounds messed up! I remember picking up the book around age 11 and I got through most of it, but then just stopped. I didn't remember all these weird details. That's a long audiobook!

I think the story works much better visually and the way the film maker adapted sounds much better. I LOVED the first two movies as a kid (and I still watch them on TV when they are on). That wolf terrified me, LOL!

March 7, 2013 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Vivien said...

Hmmm....I'm going to have to read this one. I seriously cannot believe I haven't read this one yet. Seriously. It's disappointing to hear you didn't like it. But I just have to read for myself.

March 14, 2013 at 8:52 PM  

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