Thursday, June 17, 2010

American Gods

American Gods American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have been reading since I was 4 years old (for those who are counting, that means I've been reading for nearly 50 years). In all that time, this is the first book that when I finished it I immediately flipped back to the start and read it straight through a second time. Really - it's that good! But, it's not just that it was good, it was the story, and how it was told - after reaching the end I wanted to go back to the beginning and re-read it, knowing how it would all turn out. I wanted to catch all of the foreshadowing and symbolism that I didn't get the first time - to understand more of what was going on. Because this is a RICH book. It's rich with characters, the like of whom you've never seen. Rich with places so unique that it's hard to believe that many of them are real. Rich with an idea that is so wonderful for its originality and its simplicity. And that idea is this: think of all of the immigrants to America for all of these centuries; imagine that when they came they brought 'their' gods. Now imagine what happens to those gods when these people forget their old gods, when their descendants turn to the new gods of the automobile, technology, the media, etc. What do those old gods do? How do they live? What do they want?

This is mythology like you've never seen it. From my description above, you may be thinking this is some sort of "Clash of the Titans" or something. You're wrong. This is a novel of every-day America, with every-day Americans trying to get by. There just happen to be a few odd (and I do mean ODD) gods running around, though you'd never know it by looking at them. How some humans get mixed up with the gods' struggles is the meat of the book.

But, hmmm, that doesn't accurately describe the book, either. This book is full of weird sh**, Really weird. Dark, fantastic, bittersweet. I guarantee you've never read a book like this. I haven't, and you know how long I've been reading!

Just go get this book. Read it. It's weird, its funny (I laughed out loud many times), it's sad, it's deep. It's GOOD.

I should mention that I read this book as part of 'One Book, One Twitter' ( It's kind of a global book club. (Well, nearly global - because of China's internet blocking there were no Chinese participants.) People discussed it on Twitter, and Neil did several'Twitterviews' where folks got to ask him questions. It was a lot of fun!


Cairo Cairo by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Got this book on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman (he tweeted about it, I think), and since we're going to Cairo next year, I *really* had to get it!

First off, the dust jacket is really cool, but the actual cover is beautiful!! It's embossed with the stylized title and the skyline from the cover, bordered by an intricate, delicate pattern. All done in purple glitter. VERY nice!

The story is set in modern day Cairo, and involves the more-than-coincidental entwining of the lives of a hashish smuggler, a woman in the Israeli army, an Egyptian journalist, an American would-be suicide bomber - and a Jinn. It's a fascinating combination of an action thriller with Egyptian/Arab mythology. While the fact that all these people get mixed up together seems a bit far fetched, if you believe the Jinn, there are no coincidences! So just go along for the ride and you'll see the under-Nile, a battle with Satan (Shaitan), drug smugglers and more. But woven through the entire book is the theme of forgiveness, coexistence, and love - a theme which is sorely needed in the Middle East. I wish I could believe that such goodness really does exist over there. Surely it must!

Any graphic novel review should include mention of the artwork, as a graphic novel is not just a book with pictures - the pictures are part of the narrative, and actually help to tell the story. I thought the depictions of Cario street-life were very interesting and full of detail, and the depiction of the demons and Satan were very well done. And, oh my, the Jinn is *quite* handsome! I just wish it had been in color, as I imagine it would be so very rich!

Overall, a very fine graphic novel with a rip-roaring story and wonderful artwork!