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.
It’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 the 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.