Friday, September 08, 2006

Book Bash

About a week ago I finally finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  It took me the better part of the summer to finish it.  I found it very unimpressive, dreary, and unreactive.  The story is about a man named Shadow who, after being released from prison, gets recruited by a mysterious man named Wednesday for an even more mysterious assignment.  It turns out that Wednesday is involved in an underground network of familiar but forgotten characters: gods.  As it turns out, all the gods that mankind created are real, and they feed on faith.  Naturally, some of them are old and weak.  But Wednesday predicts that a major change is on the way, and he needs Shadow to help set his plan in motion.

I found the main character, Shadow, very hard to identify with due to his unquestioning, therefore dull, personality.  When he sees the fantastic acts that some of these gods perform, he is not overtly impressed or astounded.  In fact, for most of the book his character takes everything at face value.  At one point a woman changes the moon into a coin, and Shadow is no more reactive than if she pulled the coin  it out of her wallet.

Because Shadow's character is so static, the story, the strife, becomes either passionless or non-existent.  I felt like the whole book was told from the perspective of a robot.

Reading Wonder Boys has been a delightful departure from American Gods.  I bought the book about a two years ago after seeing the first half of the movie.  A week after buying it, the new David Sedaris book came out.  Wonder Boys was set aside, until now.  The first time I picked it up I was disengaged, but now I can't put it down.  I am halfway done, and I'm utterly enthralled with it.  Perhaps it is because I miss the University atmosphere.  Perhaps it is because I, like the main character Grady Trip, have also reached a creative crux.  I'm having no trouble identifying with this character.  He has a depth that is vast yet penetrable.  The book is also fucking hilarious.

In short, if I were a big sci-fi fan who didn't care at all about character development, I would have enjoyed American Gods.  I also would have finished it a lot quicker.

But since I do care about character development, I am in love with Wonder Boys.  I'm going through it four times as fast as American Gods.  When I finish, I will rewatch the movie.  To the best of my recollection, the parts I watched were quite good.


Invisible Lizard said...

Gaiman's not known for his character pieces, so if that's what you're looking for, you're barking up the wrong tree. His fans enjoy his dark atmospheres and his surreal imagination. American Gods was never my favorite. I would think you'd like Neverwhere better because he drops a believable character in the middle of his fantastic setting.

Chabon, on the other hand, now there's a good writer. I loved Wonder Boys, which of course I never would have discovered if it hadn't been for the movie. In fact, I loved the book so much, it makes me wonder why I haven't found more time for his other books, which are sitting over there on my shelves. Kavalier & Clay won a Pulitzer. What am I waiting for?

Anonymous said...

I did enjoy American Gods. Gaiman takes us through a weird journey around America and I thought it was a nice novel, perhaps because I'm a sci-fi fan?

Anyway, I liked it.