The Neverending Story seems destined, by dint of its advertising budget, for financial success. Since, in addition, it is an import from Germany and will therefore automatically be embraced by those who ride the bandwagon of reverse cultural chauvinism, I must confess to a certain initial prejudice, which redoubled when, on reading the first few pages, I found out that this was yet another book about an alienated person who falls into a fantasy universe. Any fantasy enthusiast will probably be able to rattle off a hundred titles of novels, from Lewis Carroll's all the way down to Stephen R. Donaldson's, which have made use of this plot. With competition like that, a novelist would have to be a consummate genius to bring it off completely.
That Michael Ende has taken this bewhiskered plot, endowed it with a certain amount of originality, populated it with characters who do not appear to be entirely stolen from the works of predecessors … is indeed an achievement to be proud of, and for this reason alone his novel is worth recommending. However, the reader will need perseverance because the book doesn't really get going until about page 160, and in general its pacing is not quite what Americans are used to.
What's more, the book's opening will seem to be dreary and cliché-ridden. We meet the young and preciously named Bastian Balthazar Bux, who is having soap-operatic father-relationship problems and has run away from school into a weird antique bookstore. The mundane root of his alienation is that of being too fat. Bastian...
(The entire section is 647 words.)