Sunday, December 21, 2014
When settlers came to America, over the ages they brought their gods with them in their minds. They brought Odin and Loki and Thor and Kali ... but as generations died or people forgot, these gods passed into myth. Now, weakened, these gods are not just left to get by as best as they can, they are also faced with a battle with the new gods: gods of internet, neon and plastic. This is the story of “American Gods” by one of the greatest story tellers of our time, Neil Gaiman.
As I type this, I realize, it is immature and terribly limiting of me to try to present this epic drama in those few words. Yes, that is the basic framework of the story, but there is so, so much more to this journey than just that; one that goes from myth to reality, from humans to gods, from life to afterlife.
Recently released from prison, Shadow is enlisted by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, presumably to assist in collecting gods who will stand together when the war begins. From that point on we visit so many places, we meet so many people and we are told so many tales of magic and mortality. We visit an old fair with out-of-tune mechanical instruments and spend time in an old European house filled with cooking smells of a different world. We meet Anansi at a fair, Ibis and Jacquel at a funeral home, Easter at San Fransisco and Salim who meets a jinn. We go back to 15,000 BC and see waves of immigration, including the heartbreaking Coming to America of black people. And we stay at the pretty town of Lakeside with its mysteriously disappearing children.
But these are all just elements of the story - not the story itself. The story is something that has to be experienced personally. I would highly recommend reading this book (and, in fact, everything by this author) ... Meanwhile, I am checking to see if Gaiman is planning on touring Toronto any time soon.
Sunday, December 07, 2014
I often say (with utter conviction, no less) that all the ideas in the world have already been taken; now all that remains is the expression and execution. And then I read something by Philip K. Dick. And once again I am blown away by a story that is great not just for its storytelling, but for being built around an idea that is original and brilliant.
“Flow My Tears...” is the story of Jason Taverner, rich and famous TV personality, who suddenly finds himself in a seedy motel room one day. Where that initial shock turns into a terrifying nightmare is when he realizes that no one in the whole world recognizes him any more. Not his thirty thousand weekly viewers, not the doting press, not his manager, not his close friends ... no one has any memory of ever having heard his name.
Shooed by his closest friend as a stalker, and on the run from the Pols (US Police) and Nats (National Guard) out to catch an unregistered person, this is the weird and fantastic story that PKD spins around a character rising high on a wave of popularity one day, and miserably questioning the meaning of life the next. As Taverner explores every possible avenue to regain his lost identity, the tale weaves through dolls that tell the future and kids who make their living creating fake IDs. When at last it reaches the one person who holds the key to this entire inexplicable drama, the story reaches a whole new level of awesome!
A surreal world built on ever soaring heights of imagination ... with man’s isolation deep at its core; I think PKD should be mandatory reading on every book lover's list.