“I finished this a while back and meant to recommend it to you then. It gets a bit bogged down at times fromThis book was recommended to you by Chris
“I finished this a while back and meant to recommend it to you then. It gets a bit bogged down at times from terminology for which explanations aren't usually forthcoming, but that's a minor issue. It's actually quite fun to try to picture exactly what the author has in mind for weapons with names like "shouter," "erasure cannon," or "amputation gun." For the most part, the story moves along at a good clip and presents an interesting society where belief literally shapes reality via pure mathematics. I think the author himself has a background in math.”
Not to be confused with the far more serene and rural, Armoire, in which a man and his dresser form a symbiotic relationship and conspire to kidnap TiNot to be confused with the far more serene and rural, Armoire, in which a man and his dresser form a symbiotic relationship and conspire to kidnap Tim Gunn.
Language changes over long stretches of time, becoming completely unrecognizable if enough passes. Not only does the language change but prominent mytLanguage changes over long stretches of time, becoming completely unrecognizable if enough passes. Not only does the language change but prominent mythologies take on new tales. This evolution or devolution is a large component of the future Hoban predicts.
While the language is challenging initially, it's easy to fall into a rhythm and gathering what the narrator/title character, Riddley, is saying becomes less difficult. There's a grossly abridged glossary in the back of my book for a few terms for which context and simply speaking out loud does not reveal their meaning. There are keys and notes and all manner of research available for the smallest search efforts--I tried to eschew these things in order to arrive at a (handicapped and uninformed) conclusion all my own.
It isn't the language that poses the largest challenge in appropriately understanding this work, it's the changes to the mythology. The beliefs taken for granted in Riddley's time don't often conspicuously betray their antecedents (certainly not until later in the book). The words chosen in the book often do double and triple time, when checked in the glossary, and so do the meaning. The result is a convergence of little-understood remnants: Christian theology and nuclear fission.
There's also a clear correlation between much of the puppeteer storytelling of Riddley's time and Punch and Judy, which receives a direct mention in the story. It's possible there is some deeper relationship to this show, which was intended as a comedy but comes across as a repeated evasion of justice by Punch, and Riddley's Eusa (the primary protagonist/antagonist, the seeker of knowledge, the assisstant to the destruction that befell the world, and the castout) shows, but the latter take on a much more instructive, philosophical, and religious tone.
The hardest part of this book for me to understand was Riddley's philosophizing. I could never be certain if it was profound or shallow, a belief in self or a higher power, a return to nature or a regression to some pseudo-Christianity. Riddley is, we have to remember, only twelve years old in his rendition, though he may be much older when telling, but he tells it as though living in the moment. Riddley's name, not unlike many of the other characters in the book, is also a characterization.
Throughout the story Riddley alternately aspires to regain the technology lost by humanity and leave it behind. He lives in a world that is starkly primitive, and the promise of abundance and devices that carried humans to the stars must seem phenomenally beyond reach in a world where everyone gets around on foot. He is later alarmed by this power and ultimately decides to forego it in favor of a philosophy that the best power is no power. He and his fellow humans have a pitiably miniscule understanding of how to return humanity to its prior glory, amounting to a mere alchemic accomplishment in order to return them to the atomic age (view spoiler)[(much of the story revolves around the pursuit of components that will make gunpowder, and the people who think they know the proper combination discover emphatically they do not) (hide spoiler)].
If you're reading this without some kind of aid, it's going to require more than one attempt to fully understand the message. This is the sort of book I tend to enjoy, unless it's a message that I don't particularly appreciate. Part of the enjoyment is wrapped up in the confusion, and a big part of my appreciation comes from whether or not I can figure out that message. Regrettably, after one pass through Riddley's world, that illumination, that profound revelation I expected and hoped for, hasn't come yet. Like Riddley, I'm still casting about for understanding, and I haven't got the necessary background to understand the things I've discovered. Too much has been lost. The tools and reference materials that would allow him to understand simply don't exist.
Mythology has always held a certain fascination for me, possibly due to the fact that the mythology that survives tends to fit into the category of adMythology has always held a certain fascination for me, possibly due to the fact that the mythology that survives tends to fit into the category of adventure—mythological stories that live to be thousands of years old do so because they are entertaining.
Norse gods, like the most interesting gods, possess very human traits: vanity, envy, pride, as well as some positive traits as well. This makes them flawed, which tends to lead to compromising situations. Flawless gods tend to avoid mistakes (at least according to their theological dogma), making their exploits uneventful. On the other hand, Unwise gods tend to make for interesting stories because they don’t always know how to make the best use of their powers, or they are mischievous, or petty, or jealous, or arrogant, which gets them into trouble from which they need to extricate themselves or risk catastrophe—because the problems of creatures of significance tend to be significant and far-reaching.
Any good mythology likewise has a good bestiary, and Norse is no exception. The potential havoc of Nordic monsters is no less than absolute. The entire universe was born out of the body of a single giant (no hints as to where the giant originated, sorry) and the children of Loki weren’t merely beasts, they were the Ultimate Beasts, directly linked to the end of the world. Frankly, just about everything that goes wrong in the world can be traced back to the meddling of Loki.
Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a good introductory text if you’re unfamiliar with Norse Mythology in great detail. In his introduction he states this is precisely his purpose.
His presentation of the tales from the Poetic and Prose Eddas is very accessible. He tells the stories simply and clearly, explaining each reference as he goes, and ensuring the stories are arranged in a fashion that preceding stories serve as foundations for others, reducing the need for long, explanatory digressions. That’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of Gaiman’s selections. It isn’t the detail or the storytelling, it’s the organization.
At times the approach can seem too familiar and borders on colloquial (dialogue in particular), which may not seem befitting of millennia-old tales, but the meat of the book is telling the old stories with as little muddling as possible. The book is extremely successful in this respect.
Gaiman manages to introduce all of the Big Themes and People fairly seamlessly, from the beginning of the universe to its inevitable ending at Ragnarok, and the roles the gods played in setting the world upon the road toward it. Apart from the great creation and destruction myths, Gaiman does some character building through the use of tales with respect to specific gods, and makes sure to include a few myths that describe attributes of the world, such as the eminently memorable story about how Odin stole the mead that inspires good poetry (and a centuries-old scatological punchline about the source of bad poetry). Major events include the creation of Mjolnir (Thor's hammer), Gungnir (Odin's spear), Sleipnir (an 8-legged horse), and other staples of Norse Mythology with which you may be familiar but may not possess much background.
If you’re looking for Gaiman’s voice here, you’re probably not going to find it all too often, if at all, though he does craft compelling introductions to tales. If anything, this was the most disappointing aspect of the work. Nothing stood out as particularly unique or anything you wouldn't find in a compendium put together by a publishing house with an Anonymous author. But I'm not sure that was Gaiman's point.
If you're looking for a clever retelling or reinterpretation of tales found in the Eddas, this isn't it. Look to Marvel and other places for that. If you’re looking for an explanation of the existing tales or an attempt to reconcile the Nordic creation stories with Snorri Sturluson's (author of the Prose Edda and other works) assertion that the gods are related to the Trojans, you won’t find that either. Wikipedia or an Introduction to the Prose Edda would probably be your best source.
If you’re looking for an understanding of the skaldic poetic forms used to convey the tales before they were written down… you will find a handful of tactful and concise explanations of the many, many euphemisms used in Norse poetry, such as characteristics of gods used to refer to events, items, etc.
This is by no means a comprehensive collection of Norse tales. The fundamental purpose of Gaiman’s book is to introduce people to the Norse pantheon, creation hypothesis, explanatory myths, and stories of particular note--topics that fascinated Gaiman as a child. To expect more would be disingenuous.
If your understanding of Norse mythology is limited to what you’ve seen in movies and comics, begin here. If you’re already familiar with the Eddas this probably isn’t going to add much to your knowledge. But it’s certainly a worthwhile undertaking to bring these myths to a wider audience. These are the stories millions of people told one another to explain events and entertain one another at campfires, at bedtime, at feasts, or any time one needed a specific brand of inspiration.
If you have any interest at all in Nordic Mythology, this book, which serves as a celebration of tales over a millennia old, is a wonderful place to start coming from someone whose primary goal is to share stories he enjoyed long ago....more
Knowing nothing about this book I expected no more than the old (and now, politically incorrect) 10 Little Indians song. Imagine my pleasure to discovKnowing nothing about this book I expected no more than the old (and now, politically incorrect) 10 Little Indians song. Imagine my pleasure to discover "Indians" had been replaced by the native-american appropriate Wampanoag. The story, while remaining simple, then moved into addressing the chores in which adults and children engaged prior to the proverbial Thanksgiving Feast.
The additional information at the end of the book was a nice treat as well, designed to further inform and debunk the current mythology, such as the fact that the book does not address the Thanksgiving feast (despite clearly occurring during the fall, centering around a large meal between pilgrims and native americans, and featuring turkeys), but rather provides "a general picture of Pilgrim and Wampanoag life." The three-day feast we know as Thanksgiving, the book points out, was held in Plimouth in 1621 to celebrate the harvest.
In all, this was not so much an inspiring as educational story one might use to undo one's conventional education or that of one's children, or reinforce a more accurate telling of early Pilgrim and Wampanoag life....more
My feelings for this story are underpinned by a childhood spent listening to Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman's rendition of Andrew Lloyd Weber'sMy feelings for this story are underpinned by a childhood spent listening to Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman's rendition of Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical at the height of its fame and long, long appearance on stage. For me, Leroux' version of the tale provided a firmer foundation for a story which, in the musical adaptation, ignored almost completely--it was the core upon which the world was built and in the adaptation only the surface was visible. And it made the story richer and more musical.
It seemed natural that I should listen to an audio version of the story, seeing as I'd listened to the soundtrack over and over (I did get to see a performance in Toronto in the 1990s). The disadvantage to listening, however, is I tend to miss quite a bit. My mind wanders when I read as I consider passages and explore the pathways that diverge from them, and pick up where I left off when I finish those travels. A narrator, however, continues blithely and obliviously onward, leaving me far behind. Fortunately, because I'm familiar with the story I was able to catch up fairly easily, though I've no idea what exactly I've missed.
The story itself reads more like a Sherlock Holmes recounted by Watson than a more contemporary story told from the first person viewpoint. This gives the whole tale the feel of a laborious and meticulous police report. It's possible this is due not just to the writing style, but the narration as well. And yet the filling in of details is not unlike reading a book for the second or third time and discovering something new, or reading a story about a story, and from it wringing splendid new details.
Having read the book the musical now seems, necessarily, thinner, though not Thoroughly abridged. We have a less detailed account of Christine and Raoul's childhood together and his early infatuation with her, but this is effectively summarized in Raoul's interjections during Think of Me. We have a less detailed version of the transition from the old and new opera owners, and their initial dismissal of the Opera Ghost as a prank by the prior owners, the rumors from the staff and players, but these are effectively covered by musical numbers.
If you enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera musical, and you're the sort of person who delights in back stories that flesh out your favorite tales (Star Wars universe, Tolkien's Lost Tales and the Silmarrillion, Rowlings ever-expanding Harry Potter World), then you will appreciate this work. If you're not familiar with either, they are both worth your while to discover.
Side note: It wasn't until many years later that I thought of Michael Crawford as anything but the Opera Ghost. Imagine my shock when I discovered his primary roles (in the 1960s, at what seemed to me the height of stage-musicals-turned-films) consisted of young Crawford as the lanky, high-pitched, lovable goofball Hero in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Cornelius in Hello Dolly! Quite the transformation.
Honestly, folks, this is your murderous, disfigured, lovesick Phantom. To be honest, this made me like Michael Crawford even more, because as I went backward in his career he gradually transformed into me.
I found myself somehow less shocked when I discovered the eponymous Christine Daae, Sarah Brightman, transformed herself into a Rock Opera singer (See: Fleurs de Mal) and appeared as Mag in Repo!: The Genetic Opera. Granted, her career spans a wide variety of genres, but it was this that stood in such stark--and enjoyable--contrast.