Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I finally read another "classic". I've probably heard about this ten thousand times in school and on the internet and all that, but I never picked it up. Until now, when I was on my last library trip, and decided that it was time to read the book.

The Neverending Story is about Bastian, a shy, awkward and overweight bookworm who isn't happy. His dad has been distant since his mom died, and his classmates bully him. One day, he finds a book called The Neverending Story, gives in to the impulse to steal it, and starts reading. What he first thought was a great book staring Atreyu, a character Bastian wishes he could be slowly starts to mention another little boy - him. As he reads on, Bastian eventually becomes a character in The Neverending Story; and an important one at that. But, the more he wishes for things in the story, the more of himself that he loses.

First things first. This book reminds me of the anime/manga Fushigi Yuugi, where the heroine Miaka and her friend Yui end up in an old book that they're reading, and go through a bunch of adventures. The starting concept is the same, but everything else is different. Fushigi Yuugi is set in an ancient, clearly oriental world, but The Neverending Story is set in a fantasy world. The trials the two main characters go through are very different as well, in terms of plot. (Although if we're looking at theme, they're both pretty much a bildunsroman to me)

While I loved the story and the language, I found Bastian to get steadily more irritating as the book went on. I could partially understand it, because the un-cool kid is finally a hero and has the adoration of people, but as the story went on, he actually became even worse. And the loss-of-memory thing makes it hard for me to figure out if he really changed, or if he just forgot to be an awful little boy. I will say this though, if you read the ending, then go back and re-read the beginning, he is better, so clearly, losing his memory before regaining it had a positive effect, even if during the process of losing his memory, he got worse.

Apart from Bastian, the other main character in the book are Atreyu, the character that Bastian admires, and Falkor, the luck dragon. There's also the Childlike Empress, but she mainly appears in the beginning of the story. Atreyu and Falkor were basically what got me through the "Bastian is being irritating" section, and I really admire their friendship towards Bastian.

I saved so many quotes from this book (they might appear on the right, in the Goodreads quote widget!). The prose is lovely, and the story is interesting. I wasn't too happy about Bastian during the middle section of the book, but he was more mature by the end, and anyway, there was always Atreyu and Falkor's friendship with Bastian, even when he didn't appreciate them, that kept me going to the end.

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