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Book Reviews

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

After the Romans had conquered the city of Carthage, they killed the men, sold the women and children into slavery, pulled down the great buildings, broke up the stones, burned the rubble, and salted the earth so that nothing would ever grow there again.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in my life set in India with such a great accent on how crappy the place is / was.

Told from first person POV, the story of how the Song Of Kali came to be is both a mix of supernatural and an absolute trashing of Calcutta and India. What begins as an exploration of an exotic and forbidding world turns into a harrowing descent of steadily mounting terror when an American writer travels into the dark underworld of the cult of Kali.

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This masterful and terrifying debut novel has earned Hugo- and Bram Stoker Award-winning author Dan Simmons the World Fantasy Award.

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Book Reviews

Trigger Warning * Neil Gaiman

“What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.”
― Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

9781472234889.jpgI must confess I’ve been avoiding reading this book. It’s been in my bookcase for ages but you know what they say, sometimes you need to take your fate in your hands and make a choice. Should I leave Neil Gaiman prose with a good taste in my brain (Anansi boys was great!) or with a sour catastrophe that Norse Gods was… I did love American Gods… So I’ll give this a go.

“The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.” 

Wow. The writing was impeccable. I loved the metaphors and the odd winks from the author and there were two stories I really liked. The poem about a traveller who falls victim to his landlady and the one with.. umm.. the one with… there was one more. Why can’t I remember it?

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Poetry

A blessing * James Wright

Emotional or spiritual experiences are especially hard to capture in words. Why did you break up with your significant other? Why do you listen to a particular Bob Marley song over and over? Why do you practice yoga? Why do you own a dog? Why is the view from a mountaintop worth all the sweat and blisters it took to hike there? It’s hard to explain.

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Book Reviews

Anasi Boys – Neil Gaiman Book Review

I’ve loved  American Gods, didn’t think too much of Norse Mythology but I thought I’d like the “Anasi Boys” story. And I was quite surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed it!

This is the story of Anasi the Spider God and of his two human boys that he fathered with a human woman. It’s a funny story that contains a murder, a Bird woman, a Tiger, a lime and loads of singing.

“Now, Anansi stories, they have wit and trickery and wisdom. Now, all over the world, all of the people they aren’t just thinking of hunting and being hunted anymore. Now they’re starting to think their way out of problems—sometimes thinking their way into worse problems.

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Stephen King

I believe in DOG – From Stephen King’s Eye of the Dragon

“Can you read this word, Peter?’
…’It says GOD.’
‘Yes, that’s right. Now write it backward and see what you find.’
…’DOG! Mamma! It says DOG!’
‘Yes. It says dog.’ The sadness in her voice quenched Peter’s excitement at once. His mother pointed from GOD to DOG. ‘These are the two natures of man,’ she said. ‘Never forget them… Our preachers say that our natures are partly of God and partly of Old Man Splitfoot… But there are few devils outside of made-up stories, Pete — most bad people are more like dogs than devils. Dogs are friendly and stupid, and that’s the way most men and women are when they are drunk. When dogs are excited and confused, they may bite; when men are excited and confused, they may fight. Dogs are great pets because they are loyal, but if a pet is all a man is, he is a bad man, I think. Dogs can be brave, but they may also be cowards that will howl in the dark or run away with their tails between their legs. A dog is just as eager to lick the hand of a bad master as he is to lick the hand of a good one, because dogs don’t know the difference between good and bad.”
― Stephen King, The Eyes of the Dragon

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Poetry

You are the future * Rainer Maria Rilke

Du bist die Zukunft, großes Morgenrot

Du bist die Zukunft, großes Morgenrot
über den Ebenen der Ewigkeit.
Du bist der Hahnschrei nach der Nacht der Zeit,
der Tau, die Morgenmette und die Maid,
der fremde Mann, die Mutter und der Tod.Du bist die sich verwandelnde Gestalt,
die immer einsam aus dem Schicksal ragt,
die unbejubelt bleibt und unbeklagt
und unbeschrieben wie ein wilder Wald.

Du bist der Dinge tiefer Inbegriff,
der seines Wesens letztes Wort verschweigt
und sich den Andern immer anders zeigt:
dem Schiff als Küste und dem Land als Schiff.

You are the future, The red sky before sunrise
Over the fields of time.You are the cock’s crow when night is done,
You are the dew and the bells of matins,
Maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
That rise from the stuff of our days–
Unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
Like a forest we never knew.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
The last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
To the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 20.9.1901, Westerwede

TheSevenFacedGod
Seven faced God: Mother, Maiden, Stranger, Death, Warrior

The Crone (holding a lantern), the Warrior (holding swords), the Mother (with open arms of mercy), the Father(holding scales of justice), the Maiden (a nude young woman), the Smith, and the Stranger (at lower left, not clearly visible; the Stranger represents death and the unknown

–From The Book of Pilgrimage by Rainer Maria Rilke; excerpted from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Anita Barrows and Joanna Marie Macy, trans. (New York: Riverhead Trade, 2005), page 17

Thank you https://michaelsprayers.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/you-are-the-future/

 

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Book Reviews

Neil Gaiman * Norse Mythology

When he was growing up, not long after reading Marvel’s Thor, he picked Roger Lancelyn Green’s classic Myths of the Norsemen to learn more about his favorite characters — and found himself fascinated by a vision of Asgard that was nothing like Marvel’s sci-fi space palaces. “It was a bunch of huts with a wall round them. Thor was now red-bearded, irritable, muscly, zooming around the sky in a chariot pulled by goats, and not necessarily the brightest hammer in the bag.”

That childhood fascination informs Gaiman’s new book, Norse Mythology, a lively, funny and very human rendition of Thor the thunder god, his father Odin and and the dark-hearted trickster Loki (plus countless other gods and monsters). Most of what we know about the Norse pantheon comes from the Eddas, two massive works of medieval Icelandic literature that date from the 13th century — but there are countless stories that have not survived.

Gaiman captures the writing style of a mythology book while adding his own flair for prose. The author has always had a deft hand with the grim and violent. He knows when to be explicit, when to be subtle, and his take on the Norse gods handles this just as well.  Neil Gaiman is no stranger to third-person omniscient point-of-view for his books but pick-up a book of Greek Mythology, Celtic Mythology, or even the Bible and you’ll notice that style Neil Gaiman is capturing. It’s that use of proper nouns more often than pronouns that tell us these figures are important.

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Less than three hundred pages went by in a flash and left me wanting more stories and of different gods. Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is mostly the Thor, Loki, and Odin show with some bits of other gods, giants, elves, and dwarves thrown about. On the other hand, the author makes this clear when they’re the only three gods who are introduced at length in the beginning of the book. If he didn’t make tales of myth so entertaining then this wouldn’t even be a valid critique.

That’s one of the major differences between this and other books on Norse Mythology, in that besides adding the flourish that is associated with Gaiman he also adds his wit. The gods, even stern Odin, are actually quite funny. The Allfather has that dry sense of humor, his blood brother Loki is clever with his wit, while his son Thor has the humor of a boisterous loudmouth.

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The stories both stand on their own and interweave together beginning with the creation of the world and the end of it. It is Thor who gives the best advice in The Treasures of the Gods you can carry with you as a theme for the rest of the book. In it, he tells his wife Sif when she asks why he blames Loki for some misfortune

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

As much as this version of Thor is dumber than a bag of hammers, in this respect, he is right.


My personal opinion is that this book (at £15 for 268 pages) was a complete waste of money. The writing, while appealing to children, has nothing entertaining for adults. I went through the stories like a hot knife through butter and when it was done, I felt this churning in my stomach telling me I was not satisfied with the stories. They had no moral outcome, no code, no insight into characters. When Thor and his boisterous brothers and cousins did not want to pay up or be honourable (like give Freya to a giant who was building a wall), they went off and either killed the people they owed or involved Loki so he would deceive them out of their prize.

The only good thing about the book is to serve as a companion guide to American Gods to see Wednesday slightly different and see what Shadow did at the end. Otherwise, complete faff. Even my encyclopedia of Norse and Celtic Gods had better stories. Save your money and buy something else.

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Book Reviews

American Gods * The Great Reveal of Shadow’s origin

*SPOILERS*

I have finished the great masterpiece of American Gods Book Review * Neil Gailman this weekend and I was pretty surprised to find out who Shadow Moon was.

Gaiman isn’t giving everything away – a lot is “hidden” away in crevices in the text on the page. You have to think about it, what happens, who the characters are, what everything really means, to understand what is happening. A bit like a puzzle. I really enjoyed that. Of course the story can be read at a bit more superficial level, but if you feel like digging for it, there’s a lot more to it.

He’s Wednesday’s son!

Mr. Wednesday is the leader of the Old Gods in their war against the New Gods. He is Odin, the All-Father and most prominent god of the Norse pantheon, god of wisdom. In America, he works as a con artist. He meets Shadow on an airplane after Shadow’s release from prison and hires him on as a bodyguard.

“I saw you die,” said Shadow. “I stood vigil for your body. You tried to destroy so much for power. You would have sacrificed so much for yourself. You did that.”

“I did not do that.”

“Wednesday did. He was you.”

“He was me, yes. But I am not him.”

And Wednesday is Odin (well, not the Norse Odin but the American Odin) and he must have some American-Indian blood in him otherwise the Buffalo man would not have come to him! This means that Shadow is Thor’s brother. Or maybe he is Thor reborn? As we’re told that the big and not-so-smart Thor blew his brains out in 1923 in a motel room.

Did you notice how Odin cut himself off as he started to compare Thor to Shadow? He wanted to keep the big similarity (that they were both his sons) a secret, and realized that he had almost let it slip.

Thor’s stupidity isn’t entirely a modern tradition; he wasn’t exactly the sharpest marble in the deck even in the original legends. On the other hand, he wasn’t so much stupid as gullible and unperceptive, which I can sort of see applying to Shadow, up to a point.

Or maybe Shadow is Baldur?

The Norse myths prophesy that Loki will free himself just as Ragnorok, the battle between good and evil, begins. Loki will join his three off-spring and lead the forces of death and evil against the gods. It is prophesied that no one will survive, but under a resurrected Baldur, the universe will begin anew. This time it will be a universe of peace.

Shadow spends a good deal of time in Lakeside and it’s a rather important place. Wednesday even installs him there. Why? Because it illuminates something about Wednesday – or Lakeside illuminates something about Shadow – or because Lakeside illuminates something about Shadow? Or something else entirely?

Why the name Shadow? While reading, I tried to note whenever we learn something about him and it’s precious little. He’s a sort of a guide character but has little substance when you look closer. He’s coffee-and-cream coloured, dark hair, a big man (this is noted again and again, numerous times – why?), loves Laura, and he refrains from reflecting deeply upon the tasks his employer gives him – yet he doesn’t appear stupid.

What did you think about transporting – translating – the old gods to America? I remember reading something where Neil Gaiman explained he wanted to create American versions of the gods, as he imagined them having evolved in America, having been brought over trough people who still believed.

And… who’s the nameless god that everyone forgets?

 

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Book Reviews

American Gods Book Review * Neil Gailman

With the release of the American Gods TV Show, I decided to give the book a go and it is good! Very good!

What do you worship?

There aren’t many authors who have the kind of fandom that Neil Gaiman has, and “American Gods,” his novel about old-world deities trying to find purpose in the modern age, is a big part of that. One of the major questions about the show (in this age of “Game of Thrones”) was whether viewers need to read the book before watching the show. While the answer was technically “no,” there were nuances to it. For one thing, Green said that “You should! It’s wonderful.”
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Excerpts

American Gods – There was a girl, and her uncle sold her – Excerpt

There was a girl, and her uncle sold her. Put like that it seems so simple.

No man, proclaimed Donne, is an island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived and then by some means or other, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes- forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in a pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not a chance you’ll mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection) but still unique.