[Name Redacted]'s Reviews > Loki

Loki by Mike Vasich
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's review
Jan 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: action, mythology, war, dark-fantasy, religion
Read from January 17 to March 09, 2012

This book is not so much about the Norse god Loki, as it is a retelling of the various events leading up to the final moments of Ragnarok -- many of which happen to be initiated by or somehow related to the God of Lies. Loki is the title character and initial protagonist, but Balder, Freyja, Tyr, Heimdal, Thiazi, Fenrir, Hel and especially Odin all take their turns as P.O.V characters. Certain elements of the mythology have been "re-imagined", with the einherjar as walking corpses, the giants as sympathetic victims of Aesir predations, Sigyn & Loki's marriage as childless, Odin as the anhedonic orchestrator of Ragnarok, and Loki as the unwitting pawn in Odin/Fate's designs.

Aside from these alterations, Vasich makes some interesting changes to the basic mythological narrative. We are presented throughout with excerpts from the Norse mythology, then shown how the myths were themselves distorted retellings of the events in this novel. Chief among these is the recasting of Loki: Vasich's Loki is less an amoral, comical trickster in this narrative and more a brash young man, eager to earn approval and recognition for the successes he achieves through unconventional means; his parents slaughtered by Odin, he is raised to believe that he is one of the Aesir but finds himself continually at odds with his fellow gods. Odin is a distant, secretive and inscrutable father-figure, and his dedication to the inevitability of Ragnarok results in him failing to give due credit to Loki, which then results in Loki being disliked and mistrusted by the majority of the Aesir, and finally in Loki being ejected from Asgard. This final rejection finally turns Loki from well-meaning-yet-rebellious Asgardian "patriot" to vengeful murderer and destroyer of all that he once loved. Whereas Gaiman has employed the mythological Loki (twice!) as a character, Vasich uses the mythological Loki as a jumping off point from which to build his own unique character.

The dynamic between Loki and Odin is also worth noting because it merges some of the most interesting elements of the Dumbledore/Snape and Dumbledore/Harry Potter relationships (minus the unspoken potential for pederasty). This was tremendously satisfying!

And now, because Mr. Vasich is one of my GoodReads friends, i'll address a few of my impressions to him:

1) Mike, you really know how to write an action sequence! The fights in this book, especially the Ragnarok scenes, may be the best I've ever read. They're visceral (complete with viscera!) and intense, and there's a sense that you as the author really understand martial combat in a way that too many fantasy writers fail to do nowadays.

2) Mike, you need a better editor. Every writer makes mistakes, it's inevitable, but the errors which slipped through here were glaringly obvious, and most of them occurred in the first and final thirds of the book! A writer can't be expected to police his own writing, simply because writers wind up being too familiar with what they've written and seeing what they MEANT to be there rather than what is actually there. The editor is invaluable because they are supposed to see only what is there, and you need a more thorough one.

3) Mike, the pacing felt a little off. I think this might be because so much time and so many events were being covered in so short a space. It took me several pages in some chapters to realize that they were set months or years or centuries after the chapters which preceded them. I actually wasn't sure if this was intentional or not, if it was intended to convey the passage of time as perceived by immortal beings or simply a result of the condensation process. It actually felt like you could have built two or three whole novels out of the material you had -- which isn't a bad problem to have!

4) Mike, have you considered writing about Mesopotamian mythology? There are all sorts of interesting dimensions I think you might like: the bird-demon Zu who steals the "Tablet of Destiny", thereby causing all natural laws to break; the flood narrative which results in the gods starving (because there are no humans offering sacrifices); the rivalry between war/sex goddess Ishtar and the underworld goddess Ereschkigal; the underworld in which the dead mourn, most of all, the lack of beer after death... Gilgamesh is actually a fascinating anti-hero (by modern Western standards), and his quest for immortality ends with the revelation that death is inevitable. And of course, there's plenty of blood and war! You might also like the Roman Empire or the Spartan/Athenian rivalry. Or Celtic mythology!
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message 1: by Kay (new) - added it

Kay Looking forward to your review of this one. I hope the book is not as misguided as some of the mythological retellings I've recently read.

Mike Vasich Thanks! I'm happy to see that a lot of the stuff I wanted to get across actually did. Your point about the myths being 'distorted mistellings' of the actual events was spot on for what I was going for. Some readers haven't liked the way I did that, but one of the driving forces behind my vision of the book was how myths could be seen as corruptions or distortions of "actual" events. (No, I don't think these things really happened.)

When I set out to write the story, I knew that my Loki would not be the comic trickster that he is in the myths. I was more concerned with trying to root out the characters rationale for becoming evil and causing Ragnarok. There is really no satisfying explanation in the myths themselves for why he goes from trickster to harbinger of destruction, so I tried to connect the threads, at least for my own version of the story. Of course, your insight that he is not exactly the same character from the myths is also spot on.

I appreciate the comments about the battle scenes! They were hands down the most fun things to write, and I actually plotted them out in my living room for the most part, acting out the various parts to see how they would work. I'd like to say that my time in the army helped me out here, but I was a medic so no such explanation exists. Maybe because I've spent so much time with my nose stuck in comic books?

Oddly enough, I have indeed thought about Gilgamesh! And the Celtic myths, as well! All great stories, and I pretty much just love myths anyway. I'm wrapping up an anthology of Loki short stories focusing on his trickster nature right now, and I think I might go back to my Thor novel-in-the-works after that. I would be perfectly content with a writing career of just mythic stuff.

Thanks for the insight and the review! I'm glad to see you liked the book. :-)

[Name Redacted] Hey, writing mythic stuff is the basis for many successful authors' careers! Stephen R. Lawhead & Morgan Llewellyn spring immediately to mind. Write what you love, after all...

And I suspect your time as an army medic DID help your action scenes feel more authentic! A lot of literary action scenes feel remarkably bloodless, despite containing detailed descriptions of evisceration and...well...blood; 9 times out of 10, I think this is because the writers actually don't have a clear understanding of human physiology, nor do they understand the kind of damage they are describing. They're still thinking in terms of childhood games, movie violence and the like. Your scenes succeeded because they went beyond that, presenting what WOULD happen, not what a writer GUESSES might happen.

And I thought the "distortion" aspect worked wonderfully, because it tapped into the Norse themes of secrecy and poetry/storytelling. Storytelling is as much about entertainment and embroidery as it is about the transmission of information, and it makes sense that stories would alter with the passage of time, especially when they're initially passed on orally!

Mike Vasich Plus I just think guts spilling out is pretty cool. Cut my teeth reading Conan stories and Robert Bloch.

As far as altering with the passage of time, I don't think any mythology is a better example of that than the Norse. We have so few sources, and one of the main ones--Snorri Sturluson--was a Christian writing myths down something like 400 years after the Viking age. Who knows how much had changed by the time he had even begun hearing them, not to mention how much he might have changed himself as a Christian. I wonder if Balder, for instance, really returned from Hel in the original myths or if that was a Jesus parallel; he's quite a Christ figure, so it would make sense.

Also, some other important points would be the incorporation of main deities from other cultures. Tyr and Heimdall, for instance, may have been leftovers from a tribe or group that were conquered, and then those gods were assimilated. An even more probable contender would be the entire race of the Vanir, especially since there was a supposed war between the Aesir and the Vanir in the mythological past, which resulted in Frey and Freyja being incorporated into the Aesir pantheon.

Fascinating stuff--I could go on and on . . .

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