The Neverending Story
Don’t be fooled by the rather silly movie version. This book is not about bad acting and laughable special effects. Rather, it explores some intriguing and complicated ideas about reading and books. The book is about a boy reading a book. It is written in two types of text, one about the boy and one from the book he is reading. The two gradually become linked until the boy is able to enter the book and complete the adventure from the inside. But Ende plays with the reader’s mind throughout these episodes; he keeps hinting that the book Bastian is reading is the same one that you are reading, thereby confusing you as to your identity and simultaneously involving you in the story. When, within the book Bastian is reading, the book you are reading appears, confusion becomes rampant. It’s like barber-shop mirrors, and the effect is truly startling.
This content, while definitely odd, didn’t strike me as especially morally questionable; it seemed to exist for the fun of messing with the reader’s mind and causing him to think about the meaning of reading. However, this only went on through the first half of the book. The second half consisted in Bastian’s journey through the fantasy world of the first half, but the point of his journey was to teach him that reality was unreal, that he made of his surroundings whatever he wanted of them. It also seemed to deny the nature of good and evil. The second half was rather confusing, so I may have misconstrued it, but the implied worldview definitely made me uncomfortable. The book ought to receive two moral grades (B/D) because the first half I found enjoyable and intriguing, while the second half was just strange and a bit disturbing.
Stylistically the book is fine although not striking. It has been translated into English from the original German, and therefore the quality of the original text is beyond my ability to critique.