Cover Chat: Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

Next year Neil Gaiman will be releasing his highly anticipated first full-length adult story since his 2007's Anansi Boys. For those who haven’t been keeping count, that’s eight long years. Gaiman fans can expect The Ocean at the End of the Lane to hit shelves June 18, 2013, and although the story clocks in at a mere 192 pages, putting it in novella territory, I predict it will be a complete and satisfying read.

If you’ve never opened up a Gaiman book or graphic novel before (maybe you have American Gods marked as “Want to Read” on Goodreads, or a friend has been bugging you for ages to borrow their collection of Sandman comics … ), know this: A Gaiman story will often involve a young protagonist, non-human characters and is often split between two distinct worlds. Gaiman pens fun, unique characters and his stories are adventures that aren’t held back by the weight of said characters, who typically rise up to take center stage. If I had to sum up your average Gaiman story (that statement in itself is kind of an oxymoron, but I digress …) in one word, it would be hopeful. They are truly stories that will resonate with readers emotionally.

The June 2013 release date for Gaiman’s upcoming story gives newcomers a chance to catch up by settling down with a few Gaiman titles, or, if your TBR pile is a monster, films based on Gaiman’s work. So, where to begin?

If you have time to dedicate to a few full-length stories, start with Neverwhere, a story that, like The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also stars a young female protagonist. When Richard Mayhew, a typical businessman with a dull life, helps a girl he finds bleeding on the street, she transports him into an alternate reality made up of a series of underground tunnels, called Neverwhere. Gaiman’s Stardust is also another must-read novel for those new to the author. An exceptional fantasy tale about a boy willing to do anything for the girl he loves, including give her a star from the sky. But on his quest to capture the star, he discovers that the world beyond their small village is a world full of things beyond the boy’s imagination — including Faeries! A word of advice: Avoid the 2007 film adaptation of this book, which includes a very unfortunate scene with Robert De Niro in drag.

But just because the film version of Stardust was a bust doesn’t mean that all film adaptations of Gaiman’s work are bad. If you don’t have time to commit to a full novel, try the film version of Gaiman’s Mirrormask. Produced by Jim Henson Pictures, this live action flick follows a young girl who’s sick of her family of circus performers and finds herself transported into a fantasy world where she must prevent the unique world from being taken over by evil shadows. (Noticing a theme among Gaiman’s work here?) Whether it be through book or film, tackling any of these stories is a surefire way to get you ready for Gaiman’s 2013 The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Gaiman says this story is very "personal," and offers some details on his blog. Here’s the official back cover blurb:

“They say you cannot go home again, and that is as true as a knife . . .”

A man returns to his childhood village seeking comfort in memories of his youth and the friend who long ago transformed his life.

Once upon a time in a rural English town, an eleven-year-old girl named Lettie Hempstock shows a little boy the most marvelous, dangerous, and outrageous things beyond his darkest imagination. But an ancient power has been disturbed, and now invasive creatures from beyond the known world are set loose. There is primal horror here, and menace unleashed—within the boy’s family and from the forces that have gathered to consume it.

Determined to have their way, these otherworldly beings will destroy a meddling little boy if he dares to get in the way. It will take calm, courage, and the cleverness of the extraordinary Hempstock women—Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother, to keep him alive. But his survival will come at an unexpected cost. . . .

Storytelling genius Neil Gaiman delivers a whimsical, imaginative, bittersweet, and at times deeply scary modern fantasy about fear, love, magic, sacrifice, and the power of stories to reveal and to protect us from the darkness inside—a moving, terrifying, and elegiac fable for every age.

We can also make some predictions about the story based on the cover. Much like many of Gaiman’s previous stories, which are usually split between two worlds, the girl submerged under icy water can be interpreted as either rising to the surface or sinking to the bottom. The chunks of ice that stud the water’s surface, paired with the girl’s sparse clothing, also tell us that this story might have an unusual setting (and that the girl pictured is very chilly). Additionally, with the cover’s fresh, cool tones and overall design, this story doesn’t exactly scream “fantasy.” The cover looks like one that would appeal to mainstream readers as well as genre fans.

So what do you think of the cover? What are you hoping Gaiman delivers with The Ocean at the End of the Lane? And what’s your favorite Gaiman story? Let me know in the comments!

You can expect The Ocean at the End of the Lane to hit shelves June 18, 2013. For more genre news and coverage, visit our Everything Science Fiction & Fantasy Page!