The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story - Roswitha Quadflieg, Michael Ende, Ralph Manheim It's possible I'm just too nostalgic about the movie to judge the book fairly, especially reading it for the first time when I'm almost 40. But I really don't think the book works as a cohesive whole. There are basically two completely different stories with no real connection between them -- the adventure story I knew from the movie, followed by an inexplicably darker, rambling, dream-sequency second half during which Bastian (spoiler alert) decides to usurp the empress and literally has thousands of Fantasticans slaughtered on his journey to discover that he'd rather be a normal kid on Earth than a fascist dictator in Fantastica. He actually slices open Atreyu's chest with a sword at one point. It's very disturbing.

That said, my 9-year-old -- who hasn't seen the movie -- loved the book, and he's the target audience, I guess. And the overall message is positive, if a little vague. And I'll always have the movie, with its uncomplicated triumphant ending where Sebastian fixes Fantasia forever and everyone's happy and he and Falkor chase those stupid bullies into a dumpster. Really, how could I have expected Michael Ende to have topped that?