03 May 2016

Book Review: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

TL;DR: The Neverending Story is an incredible tribute to storytelling and to mythos—a fanciful, heroic tale full of sehnsucht.


Right from the start, The Neverending Story is quick moving, which I appreciate. Yet even though its pacing is quick, the first scene gives a distinct notion of what Bastion and the old man are like as characters. That impressed me. The book continues in this style, and the rest of the story is told from a very high level, always treating scenes briefly, and never getting into visceral details (the direct opposite of my style of writing). This aspect reminded me of The Silmarillion, where sometimes a single sentence feels like a whole legend. And, by the way, I love the word neverending!

The first two-fifths were great, and I enjoyed the rapid, brief episodes. Then SPOILER ALERT when Bastion enters Fantastica, it began to feel even more whimsical, where all his wishes just happened, which meant no stakes and no drama. This eventually evens out in the end, but it was a tad tedious through the middle, and I found myself wishing for more depth and less breadth. But overall I liked it. And the story within a story is a great concept. 

Favorite quotes

  • “Only search and inquire, never judge.” — Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
  • “The world is full of things you don’t see.” — Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
  • “What you don’t wish for will always be beyond your reach.” — Michael Ende, The Neverending Story

The mythos

A few parts unexpectedly reminded me of SONG OF LOCKE. The will-of-the-wisp at the beginning is like Picke. A lake vanishes too. The Childlike Empress was my favorite—so cool, and what a name! The narrator says she never gives orders, only asks, which reminded me of the Goddess, somehow.

Fantastica is similar to Neverland, a concept I love. It’s an enchanted land without borders and with no measurable distances. This is whimsical in a way opposite to Brandon Sanderson. I love Sanderson’s style and how his rules are like science—with periodic tables for magic and such. But the rule in Fantastica is that you can’t know it all—can’t comprehend it all. And that’s really cool too.

In the end SPOILER ALERT Bastion has to forget himself to be able to love and to therefore drink from the waters of life and escape Fantastica. It’s a pretty epic story in the end. As a writer, I feel like it can inspire a thousand other stories. It’s chock full of pixie dust.

As a weird side note, I was surprised to discover that my birthday makes me a “moonchild” (anyone born in the Cancer horoscope, which was the first time I saw this as a good thing). A moonchild, they say, believes in integrity, love, and unity; he also feels more than other people. This was just a fun personal connection I made. I won’t spoil how this connects to the book, but if you’re a moonchild, read The Neverending Story!

(P.S. Btw, haven’t seen the movie since I was a tiny kid and don’t really remember it… but I know the description in the book is not quite like the giant-white-dog puppet.)

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— J