A book with a long beginning, no middle, and a very broken, disjointed ending. The beginning seems to take up two-thirds of the book, and continually draws you in, deeper and deeper. The plot is completely impossible, and yet it is told with a friendly but gritty realism that doesn't give you chance to wonder about the implausibility of it all. Wonderful characters appear all over the place. This isn't my kind of novel, but the writing and the imaginative ideas just keep flowing along so that, despite the book's physical size, you just can't put it down.
Then the ending starts, three-quarters of the way in. This is disjointed, and, basically, boring. This version of the novel is "the author's preferred text," meaning that there are 12,000 more words than in the version which won bucket loads of prizes. I think it is probably about 20,000 words too long. I almost closed the book up and put it away with 200 pages (out of 635) to go.
Neil made his name as a comic book writer, and this shows. He writes lots of short paragraphs, each one just enough to descrbe one frame of a comic book; the connectedness of the paragraphs is characteristic of the flow of a typical comic book.
The ending is very complete, and surprisingly does not run on too long (once past the beginning of the end, the rest of the end is really quite good). It is, however, not the type of thing I like, and could actually have gone any way the author wanted (which, of course, is exactly what it did). For the most part, the ending relied on the fact that there is a large space between the beginning and end of the book, and so was able to bring back many (nay, all) of the interesting characters that were developed, and then bestow them with surprising roles to play in the end story.
The ending was worth waiting for, but only just. The score of 3/5 probably undervalues the work, but is low mostly because the book simply is not my kind of thing.