American Gods starts out with a good premise, but saddles the story with an unmemorable main character. The idea of America being filled with living i...moreAmerican Gods starts out with a good premise, but saddles the story with an unmemorable main character. The idea of America being filled with living incarnations of our myths and beliefs is intensely fascinating to read when the story is following a sexual goddess taking sacrifices to stay alive, or when detailing the "birth" of a new jinn.
However, once the story returns from these side tangents back to Shadow, the main character, the book is just dull. Much of this has to do with Shadow having no ambitions or goals. He simply exists as a plot device to everything else happening in the book.
All of the writing is well done, and the plot centering around a fight between Mr. Wednesday and his shadowy adversaries keeps things mostly interesting in spite of Shadow's presence.
But ultimately, the ending is highly unsatisfying. Shadow starts out a nobody, and despite all of his experiences in the book, he chooses to remain a nobody. During the final pages, he reveals that he's learned nothing by assuming the incarnation of a god in another country is the same person he met in America.
Readers interested in a completely different perspective on faith and the power of personal belief will find this book worth checking out. However, the lack of any compelling qualities in the main character brings down the book from being a great story into something closer to lackluster.(less)
Anansi Boys is the second book by Neil Gaiman that I’ve read, and it shares many similar themes with my first read, American Gods. But while I felt th...moreAnansi Boys is the second book by Neil Gaiman that I’ve read, and it shares many similar themes with my first read, American Gods. But while I felt that book fell flat in many ways, Anansi Boys is a superior book which improved on the central idea. More importantly, Anansi Boys delivers on the premise in more satisfying ways than American Gods. Fat Charlie is by far a better protagonist than Shadow, and his story flows more eloquently, in my opinion.
Charlie Nancy, or Fat Charlie, is the son of a god named Anansi. Anasi is charismatic and a trickster, and growing up under his huge shadow, Charlie feels terminally embarrassed by his father’s outlandish behavior. He even feels embarrassed by his father’s sudden death, which happened in a karaoke bar while Charlie’s father was in the midst of wrapping up a big number.
Charlie doesn’t know he has a brother, but during his father’s funeral, a friend of the family tells Charlie many shocking things. He learns only then that his father was a god, and that he has a brother named Spider. According to the family friend Spider got all of the godly powers in the family, while Charlie was just...Charlie. The family friend suggests that Charlie summon his brother by talking to any spider. But Charlie doesn’t believe this being a bland kind of guy who doesn’t believe in gods living among men. He returns to his home in London, and he glibly tells a spider to send his brother by for a visit.
He’s understandably shocked when Spider does show up, and he’s got to be the bearer of bad news and explain their father’s death. Spider investigates the death in a way that proves to Charlie that Spider is a god, and then he takes out Charlie for a night of “mourning.” Charlie wakes up with an unknown woman in his bed, and from then on Spider’s influence in his life just keeps making things worse.
Spider is an irresponsible and carefree god, and after getting Charlie plastered, he makes a very bad attempt to imitate Charlie and do his job and have a lunch date with Charlie’s fiancée, Rosie. He exposes Charlie’s boss as a fraud, which almost seems like a good thing at first. But from the moment that Spider meets Rosie, all his plans for life change, and Charlie’s life rapidly slides off the side of a cliff. The fact that Rosie is the fiancée of Charlie doesn’t matter, Spider just knows that he wants her. So Spider, disguised as Charlie, seduces Rosie. And Charlie finds out about it in the worst way possible.
Charlie then sets out on a quest to get rid of his brother, and in the process, he makes major problems, for Spider, and for himself.
Without giving spoilers, it’s very hard to talk about what happens next, but this is a complex and sometimes muddled book. Spider’s meddling with Charlie’s boss begins revealing that Graham Coats, talent agent to the stars, is in fact a scam artist with a heart of coal. Because of Spider exposing his criminal enterprise, Graham begins a panicked plan to frame Charlie. At the same time, he’s also confronted by one of his older clients. He kills them, and then he takes off, believing he has escaped and pinned everything on his inept employee. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The main thing that made this a superior book to American Gods is that the sub plots and side characters here all tied back into the main story. In American Gods, there were a number of side stories that, while interesting, had nothing to do with the main story. They didn’t go anywhere or relate back to the man character’s plight. Shadow was kind of dull and unlikable, so I was actually grateful for any tangent, even if it wasn’t part of the main plot. At least then, it was an excuse to get away from Shadow for a little while longer.
But the side stories of Anansi Boys all tie in to the main plot, and I didn’t feel anything was useless padding. Fat Charlie is a much better character to follow, both funny and bumbling in a ways that were kind of endearing. So when the story shifted to cover the other characters, I liked those scenes too, but I still wanted to get back to Charlie and his side of the story.
Gaiman also should get credit for writing great dialogue. This was one of the saving graces of American Gods, but in Anansi Boys, he’s better able to weave together dialogue that makes me less aware of when the story’s gotten muddled. The quips and cracks are so sharp and witty that the conversations gloss over low points in the story. This is dialogue so good, writers ought to study it as “the right way to handle conversations,” in my opinion.
What really disappointed me about American Gods was the weak ending, and I feel like Anansi Boys does a lot better in this regard, although it’s still kind of a letdown after all the previous build up. But from the anticlimactic battle, the narrator goes on to explain how both Charlie and Spider embrace their true natures and become good gods. Charlie chooses a path of lower godhood, but it feels fitting, like a continuing legacy of his father’s “undercover” work.
So, I give Anansi Boys 4 stars, and I recommend it to fans of fantasy and mythology. In comparison to American Gods, I think it’s in every way a superior book that creates a convincing world of gods among men, and their epic misadventures.(less)
Imagine a place which exists somewhere between Heaven and hell, a land where punks have erected their own afterlife rather than try to get along in He...moreImagine a place which exists somewhere between Heaven and hell, a land where punks have erected their own afterlife rather than try to get along in Heaven. Goblin is a guard who works at the main gate of Punk Land, and yet, no one has visited the security station or entered Punk Land in some time. So Goblin is surprised to find two people who arrive not through the gate, but from within Punk Land itself. And they have many more shocking revelations which Goblin decides must be put before the Punk Council.
During the trip through Punk Land, Goblin begins to understand that something has gone horribly wrong, and instead of anarchy, Punk Land is being ruled by corporate goons.
Then with the entry of Shark Girl into the story, the real horror show begins. Between Shark Girl and the actions of the Punk Council, this book makes the afterlife seem very unpleasant. Because once you accept that you can feel pain in the afterlife, the concept of being eternally shredded on a giant metal grater is pretty gruesome. And this is just one of the nasty surprises waiting for you in this book. If you're looking for a good Bizarro book with a lot of gore and laughs in equal portions, I'd recommend this book.(less)
I knew eventually I'd have to read Loop to complete this series, but when I initially couldn't find a copy of it anywhere, I opted to Wiki it, and rea...moreI knew eventually I'd have to read Loop to complete this series, but when I initially couldn't find a copy of it anywhere, I opted to Wiki it, and read the basic synopsis. It put me off of reading it, so I figured I'd just set aside until I forgot the finer points of the synopsis.
I finally reached that point and got started, and for the first 400 pages, I didn't feel anything at all. While I felt the first books were creepy and scary in some parts, if a bit dry, this book is dry as a bone left in the middle of a desert, and there's nothing I can feel for the story or the characters. Kaoru is a bland character, and his "loving dad," Hideyuki, comes off as creepy, but isn't quite creepy enough to provoke a reaction. His mother Machiko is flat and more a background noise than a functioning character, and his romantic interest, Reiko, is seduced in a clinical description that makes their first time together sound like rape. Following intimate scenes and thoughts are worded in such a way as to negate any stimulating reaction. Passages speak of a woman's "sex organ" and her "fluids" in such a way that all I could do was shake my head at the consistently clinical tone.
And then the punchline came, and I got pissed. I want to break down why it's such a massive failure, but I can't without spoilers. All I can say is, there's no logical reason given for why the ring virus was even possible in the first place. The question is asked, but the answer is "I don't know."
This book is a huge cop out written to undermine the apocalyptic buildup of the first two books. The explanation given for how the ring virus became a cancer doesn't make sense, especially with the virus being coded from within a virtual reality simulation that was made to emulate our world exactly. Even when the scientists admit that such a thing as a psychically viral tape couldn't have existed in the virtual reality, they give no explanation of how such an anomaly could have been introduced without an outside source. And the explanation for how the virus got out of the computer and mutated is just as poorly thought out. So there's roughly 200 pages of dry medical lecturing leading up to a lot of shrugging and "I dunno" on the most important aspects of the plot twist.
Even if a better explanation had been given, the worst book's offense is that it's never scary, nor even creepy. At least with some bad books I feel something, even if it's just boredom. But I felt nothing for this book until very close to the end. And the anger I felt was more about how this final book takes everything that was scary about the first two books and chucks them out a window in favor of a "one man saves the world" solution. It's ludicrous, it doesn't stack up even according to the new rules laid out by this book, and not one event is all that memorable because of the bored tone the narrator takes.
I can't say there aren't some interesting ideas about life in a virtual reality made to resemble our world and the cyclical nature of the universe. But those ideas are buried as marrow dust inside a dry bone, and I don't feel like it was worth the effort of reading the book to explore those themes. I would much rather have read a bleak final entry that killed off the whole world with the ring virus than this denial of everything that happened in the first two books. In fact, this book ruins the series for me so much, I'm going to have to treat it like the Star Wars prequels and pretend they never existed. In my altered history, there was a third book where Sadako killed everyone, and the whole world ended. Boo-hoo. But my version is still a thousand times better than this book.
I give Loop two stars, and would only recommend it to readers of the first two books who feel a need to complete the series. (less)
Tattooing Violet is a first person account of Craig, who tells the story of his Maori step brother Mat, his reality addled sister Violet, and his abus...moreTattooing Violet is a first person account of Craig, who tells the story of his Maori step brother Mat, his reality addled sister Violet, and his abusive step dad Jack. Violet has been abused by her father for years, first starting with molest, and then moving to statutory rape. However, all of this abuse is hinted at subtly, while the real focus of the story follows Mat, Craig, and Violet becoming a dysfunctional family of their own. The writing is brilliant, with witty dialogue and subtle sexuality weaved skillfully throughout the tale. While Craig is the narrator and main character, the focus of the story mostly follows Mat. His conflicts extend beyond dealing with Jack, and as a "nigger" in an all white Tennessee community, he must deal with prejudice from everyone except for Craig and Violet. Mat believes strongly in his Maori heritage, and he works to teach this to his step siblings while talking them into getting tattoos which will tell their stories for them. The end result of this process is that Violet's tattoo is exposed at school, and a major fight breaks out at the family home. And then the real power of Violet's tattoos is revealed. This is a fascinating story from beginning to end, and it was marred only by typos littered throughout the book. These still are not enough to detract from a great story with characters who are easy to identify with. (less)
Life in in Burger hell is rough for anyone, but it's even worse for a former denizen of the real Hell, which has closed due to competition from Earth....moreLife in in Burger hell is rough for anyone, but it's even worse for a former denizen of the real Hell, which has closed due to competition from Earth. Humans have completely lost control of themselves, and their world has become filled with random acts of bang raping, among other perversities. And in this world, a demon named Charles must adjust to life in a city which makes Hell seem pleasant by comparison. Between a clueless social worker who can't remember his name and a sociopath for a boss, Charles is getting frustrated enough to consider taking dire steps...by looking for a new job. Add in a few interviews gone horribly wrong and a true "date from hell", and you've got a great bizarro story with plenty of laughs and gruesome visuals in generous portions... served with fries on the side.(less)
This being a bizzarro book, I shall offer a somewhat bizarre review. This is because I liked the book, but not the story.
First of all, the story itse...moreThis being a bizzarro book, I shall offer a somewhat bizarre review. This is because I liked the book, but not the story.
First of all, the story itself is interesting, and full of symbolism. All the houses in the world die, and a man who truly loved his house decides to venture into a brave new world to find out why.
However, the first problem is that the author many times writes description that aren't just hard to visualize, but which may in fact, be impossible to imagine. At times like this, I found myself instead imagining the writer laughing at me, with foam gloved hands on his puppet hips, laughing while he says, "Haha, you stupid reader. There is no way for you to see this scene."
I tried! I really tried. But I couldn't see about three quarters of the book. My attempts to imagine puppet houses kept falling apart with lines like "he pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket," or, "She had blonde hair." I can see a house, OR a puppet, but not a house puppet. Maybe I'm a retard, but I can't. Sorry.
The other problem is that the symbolism is never explored much. In fact, all of the symbolism seems lost on the narrator, Carlos, who quickly wanders away from what could be very deep thoughts. A good example is early on, where a neighborhood is filled with people who have painted themselves and attempted to stand in place of their missing homes. One house declares "I live inside me, therefore, I am a house."
This is fucking brilliant, and if it had been explored, then or at any time later in the book, it would have improved the story greatly. Instead, Carlos rips a chunk of the man's scalp off and tells all the other "houses" to shut up. And the metaphor is never explored again.
Instead of exploring the brilliant symbols that he's come up with, the writer instead goes for really old pop culture references. The houses are killing humans and turning them into Soylent Green bricks. (And food products too, although we're told that houses have no need for food) The house puppets are compared to characters from a Sid and Marty Croft show. And the ending is very much a Orwellian knockoff similar to Animal Farm. "They're us, we're them."
Don't get me wrong. The story is interesting, but there's so much potential here in the symbolism that's wasted. It's like walking into a half completed house, and imagining what it would have been like, if only the carpenter had put more effort into the construction. You know the potential is there, but you can't truly imagine it, for the flaws you see in front of you. (less)
At its heart, Slayer is about the denial of one’s inner nature, and the devastating effects that denial can have in a person’s life. The main characte...moreAt its heart, Slayer is about the denial of one’s inner nature, and the devastating effects that denial can have in a person’s life. The main character, Alek Knight, is a person who has denied his inner nature for close to four decades. He is described as an artist, yet as the story opens, he has denied himself even this passion, and instead spends his days and nights subsisting on alcohol and aspirin.
He works as a museum curator, but he also has a secret life as a dhampir, a genetic cousin to the vampire. The dhampir are gathered together in covens much like vampires, but they’ve made a deal with the church to act as police to the vampire population. And they don’t bother making arrests.
And apparently, the dhampir are the stronger of the two species, because vampires are treated with little to no respect in fight scenes. Buffy the vampire slayer had longer fights with bit characters than any of the slayers in this book do. Even fledgling members of the coven seem to be able to kill ancient vampires with relative ease.
During the course of the main story, Alek is informed he is the heir apparent to the role of covenmaster, and his doubts about his abilities cause him to drift away from the coven. This allows for a very powerful vampire to manipulate Alek. Her presence causes him to recall the story of his twin sister, Debra. And here, the story runs into problems.
The book is creepy, both in pace and tone. Three interludes meant to explain the back story instead slow the narration down and spend a lot of extra time exploring Alek’s disturbing relationship with his sister. Mostly the intimate scenes become disturbing because Alek is rarely performing the acts voluntarily. The initial scenes have merit to explain why Alek is so deeply repressed within himself, but the interludes dwell on the topic. These incestuous flashbacks are frequently buffered with Alek being fondled and/or bloodily kissed by his covenmaster Amadeus, both in the past, and the present.
But ultimately, these scenes also help explain why Alek is so ineffectual at protecting any of the women in his life. Feeling alone and isolated in the world, Alek is so desperate for purpose that he is a willing tool in anyone’s hands. He frequently gets angry and seemingly finds purpose, only to lose it again a few sentences later in the face of any adversary. Even when the book moves to its climax, Alek remains ineffectual at keeping anyone safe. It is only after a vampire sacrifices themselves for Alek that he finds a will of his own. Until then, he is not so much driving the story as constantly reacting to the people who push and pull him around. He is a puppet, and only in the final act is he able to cut the strings.
The book is well written, though the prose tends to be purple, blue, and uncomfortably red simultaneously. Dialogue is sometimes heavy and feels circular, and the book has an odd format with POV breaks sometimes occurring at the top of the next page, which sometimes ends up being confusing. And finally, someone needs to file a missing periods report with the editor, because there were a lot of them gone from where they should have been. Aside from that one punctuation problem, the grammar is good. The text flows easily enough, though it often relies upon the same crutch phrases. Noise is almost always white, while blood tastes of metal and red frequently. And everyone glitters with diamonds of sweat at least twice.
Slayer is an interesting, though not always enjoyable reading experience which should appeal to most hardcore vampire fans, provided they don’t take offense at how the vampires are portrayed as neutered prisoners in a collection of prisons disguised ingeniously as nightclubs. (less)
Urban fantasy writing can be a bit clunky sometimes, not to mention a little redundant. Night Shift suffers from both of these problems, and it suffer...moreUrban fantasy writing can be a bit clunky sometimes, not to mention a little redundant. Night Shift suffers from both of these problems, and it suffers from problems in the dialogue.
But in spite of the writing problems, Night Shift is a fast paced story which pulls readers quickly into the world of Jill Kismet, a hunter who has made a deal with a hellbreed to make her more powerful as a hunter. Which is good, because the rest of the book features fights which would kill just about anyone else. Guessing roughly, I'd say Jill loses about 20 gallon of blood per week. So she gets decent mileage for a hunter. Ba-da-psch.
The story starts off with a "weird case" about what may be a rogue "were" attack, or it may be a hellbreed murder. Jill soon finds herself unwillingly saddle with a were partner, in what might have been the most obvious romantic setup ever. I might have rolled my eyes too, but I actually liked the friction between Jill and werecougar Saul Dustcircle. (Even if the setup was so obvious: "Jill, Saul has to live with you for now...there's no other choice." uh-huh)
The two must figure out how two breeds who can't stand each other are now suddenly working together, but with the hellbreed lying to protect one of their most powerful people, the answer may be fatal for Jill and Saul both.
The main problems with the story are overuses of crutch phrases. Every few pages, Jill's hair tinkles with silver charms. Every encounter, readers are reminded of the jewelry she wears, as if it's hard to remember the fiery bloodstone around her neck, or her apprentice's ring, or her special earrings. We're told about her leather jacket almost as often, and during times like this, the story is kinda like reading "Barbie: fashionable demon hunter."
But these clunky problems aren't enough to detract from my enjoyment of the story, and the ending was satisfying, even if it was kind of messed up. (Don't worry, no spoilers here.)
I'm already looking forward to checking out Jill's further adventures in Hunter's Prayer, and would recommend this book to just about anyone from fans of horror, fantasy, or both. (less)
Stopping at page 70. I enjoyed the first book in this series, but there are simply not enough cuss words in my limited vocabulary to display my rage a...moreStopping at page 70. I enjoyed the first book in this series, but there are simply not enough cuss words in my limited vocabulary to display my rage at the writing in this second outing with Jill "super duper hunter supreme" Kismet.
Imagine Angel, Buffy, and Darkside Goth Barbie were somehow combined into one person, and then their brain was removed and replaced with piss and vinegar. That's Jill. She'll spend a lot of time telling you how she's dressed and what jewelry she's wearing right before she jumps into yet another pointless fight. Which she will of course win in less than a page, because she a "suuuuper hunter" and the dark forces of the world are all pussies compared to her.
Whatever. Done with this crap, and never coming back. Nice first book, but the second fell in a lake of stupid.
I don't want to gush...okay, yes I do. This is a brilliant vampire story that makes every character complex and morally confounding. Victims and monst...moreI don't want to gush...okay, yes I do. This is a brilliant vampire story that makes every character complex and morally confounding. Victims and monsters change roles often in this book, and nothing worked out in the way I'd expected. This is more than just a story about a vampire and a human forging a relationship, and along the way it explores the devastating effects of alcoholism, even comparing the illness to vampirism in ways that make the alcoholic characters tragic monsters just like the permanently underage vampire Eli.
That a confrontation is inevitable is the only prediction one can make in the course of this tale, but near the end, it truly is hard to pick sides, because this is a fight you don't want to see anyone lose. But there are losses and rejections, and these drive the story to the final tragic conflicts.
There are so many words of praise that I want to heap upon each scene, and every character. John Lindqvist has created characters who resonate even when it isn't possible to relate directly to their experiences. He has placed his people in a bleak world that feels instantly familiar. Everyone is infused with enough human qualities to make me care for them, even for the most perverse monster in the book. This is an amazing level of talent, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a great example of literary horror.(less)