Two Books, Both Worth Reading

Looking for a book to read? If you like novels, please consider reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Gaiman’s most recent book, The Ocean at the end of the Lane is a magical mystery tour of the mind and heart of a young boy who is surrounded by magic. American Gods is a completely different book–an almost hallucinogenic road trip in which old and new gods battle for the attention of America.

AmericanGods_MassMarketPaperback_1185415388It’s not a post-apocalyptic novel, it is a novel in he present tense in which the old gods realize that once no one cares about you anymore, you are no longer a god. And America, as they keep repeating, is a bad place to be a god. The new gods realize that information isn’t power, attention span is. So the old gods battle it out with the new–technology and drugs in a story that combines love, lust, searching, loss, mystery, sacrifice  and murder.

As in most excellent mythologies, the gods here inhabit human bodies, but act as avatars. Their mistakes and ego get them into trouble and their mistakes delight us, because we can see them coming. Until, of course, we cannot.

Gaiman’s mind is both nimble and complex. The story never flags, and at the end of 560 pages you are sorry to leave the characters.

Another book that’s worth reading is Margaret Atwood’s Madd Addam. It’s the17262203 third of a trilogy, but the first one I’m reading. The book is so well-written and cleverly populated, I’m going to go back and read the other two, even though I know what happens. (That’s the definition of a good book for me).

Atwood sets her book in the future. Corporate greed led to re-engineering a new breed of human, and a non-water flood (most likely a virus that could not be engineered out of existence fast enough) destroys the world, leaving a few people (who are either the hippy-like God’s Gardeners or the eco-warrior Madd Addamites.) Then there are the Craikers, the newly-engineered, placid, curious, and beautiful Craikers who are to re-populate the world. Unfortunately, the trusting Craikers are no match for the Painballers, sociopaths who roam the world.

And no one is a match for the wonderful animals Atwood creates in the world. The smart, destructive Pigoons, are both delicious, smart and mean. There is also the food species, ChickieNobs and Liobams, who need to be avoided. Oh, and of course, the cross between humans and sheep, the Mo’hairs, who provide hides, well, hair.

Both novels rely heavily on metaphor for understanding and pleasure. As a reader, you can see what will happen in either a clash of gods or a corporate “accident” in which the victims are everyone. The smart at not the only survivors, and as Yeats pointed out, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

You don’t have to love science fiction to love either of these novels. As in all cases of perspective, your enjoyment of these books will vary. I love them both and am glad to have spent my time reading.

-Quinn McDonald wishes she could write fiction. She also know that half of being smart is knowing what you ar dumb at and not doing it. The other half, of course, is knowing what you are good at and doing a lot more of that.

6 thoughts on “Two Books, Both Worth Reading

  1. As I read the review of American Gods I wondered if they were based on the older generation: old enough to ‘disappear’ and be forgotten but not yet achieving the novelty of being really old or extinct so no longer respected as much, fighting a shortening attention span (although that’s debatable and perhaps the playing field may be levelled a little given those growing up in a world of sound bites), egos and expectations of the respect that goes with former status no longer working, and not having maintained relationships. Interesting. I’ll give it a go over the summer break if I can find a copy.

    Margaret Attwood? I’m a fan since the 80s and Oryx and Crake is one of my all time favourites.

    I haven’t found anything more wonderful The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, though. Beautiful . . . but I hate it when tears get in the way of my reading!

  2. I loved every page of the American Gods too. Gaiman really has managed to maintain the mood and the magnetism of the narrative from cover to cover. For some reason, maybe because of the cover, I imagined every scene to be green: green lighting, green rooms, green buildings or something green in every scene I imagined in my head. Haven’t read those books from Atwood – at least not yet.

  3. Noooo, I’m not looking for more books to add to my to-read-book-list, but I think the first one is already on there somewhere. 🙂 Just saw Hunger Ggames II here, loved it almost as much as the book trilogy. Awesome books, so there you have a recommendation too! 😉

  4. My daughter is a big Gaiman fan because of all his comic books. I took her to one of his events where I found out he’s excellent at reading performances. I can’t say I’m much of a fan myself though.

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