Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “neil gaiman”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #43 – American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I’d read American Gods right around the time it came out, and really enjoyed it. Then Amazon had a deal for the 10th anniversary edition for the Kindle, and I jumped right on it. It was as good as I remember, maybe even better.

There’s too much going on in this story to give a synopsis – but I’ll give it a shot. Our hero is Shadow. He’s leaving prison because his wife died in an accident (giving Shadow’s best friend a beej whilst he was driving). Shadow’s pretty much a man without a country, with the loss of his wife, and his friend, who was supposed to give him a job. As he’s trying to figure out what to do, he’s offered a job by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. They travel around visiting all kinds of odd people – who turn out to be old world gods that were brought over by immigrants generations ago. Each time Shadow met someone new, I had to look him/her up on Wikipedia. There are a lot of gods out there I hadn’t heard of. Since then, I’ve down/uploaded every free book on world myths I can find.  Haven’t read them yet, but maybe for CBR5.

Anyway, Wednesday is gathering the old gods because we nasty horrible Americans have turned to new gods:  TV, computers, stuff like that.  That weakens the old gods, as can be seen by the way they are living now.  There’s going to be a battle between the old gods and the new for (I guess) the soul of America.

Like I said, there’s a ton going on in this story, which follows a number of the old myths, with interruptions by the CIA like new gods and Shadow’s own doubts and derailments. There’s a reason why Gaiman is raised to the level of demi-god himself. The man can spin a yarn. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do, Kindle deal or not.

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llp’s #CBR IV Review 21: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

So, I love Neil Gaiman and all the things he creates. Neverwhere is not an exception.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #27: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

 

*Audiobook Review*

***It is apparently very difficult for me to write a review of a book that I love. I finished this book 3 weeks ago, but I can’t even get halfway through the review.   I can’t define the qualities that make me love a book.  I just do.  If I hate something, I am ridiculously articulate about why I hate it.  I have a 10 minute lecture on why Titanic was a terrible movie, or why Taylor Swift songs make the Baby Jesus cry.  But why I love something is far more ineffable.  My half-assed attempt at a review is below.***

Good Omens is very, very English.  It’s more English than Queen Elizabeth having tea and scones at a Jane Austen convention.  It’s very dry and droll, so obviously, I love it.  I have read this book at least four times now.  This is one of those books that you recommend to nearly everyone you meet.  I also realized that I’ve read a ton of apocalyptic literature for this Cannonball Read.  That’s a disturbing revelation.  The Hunger Games series, World War Z, and Robopocalypse immediately spring to mind.  This was definitely the most light-hearted and ridiculous.

Good Omens is the story of Armageddon.  Crowley is a demon who is enjoying the chaos he has wrought over the centuries until he is given the message from below that the Antichrist is about to be delivered to Earth.  Since he enjoys being on Earth he colludes with Aziraphale, an Angel, to make sure that the Antichrist is raised as impartially as possible.  The problem is that the Antichrist has been misplaced and is now a perfectly normal 11-year-old boy in a small town in England. Chaos ensues while the 4 motorcyclists of the Apocalypse race towards Armageddon.

What really sets this book apart isn’t the plot so much as the writing.  The small jokes are often the best.  Did you know that if you leave a cassette tape in a car for longer than two weeks it automatically becomes a tape of Queen’s Greatest Hits – which is awesome!

This book is a must-read for anyone who likes dry British humor.

5/5 Stars

xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #32: I-35, by Brett Selmont

I-35, a recent release from Detox Press, is the debut novel from author Brett Selmont. Selmont’s protagonist, David, follows the north-south American highway on a wild ride that starts out in search of his missing sibling, but quickly takes a detour into surrealistic territory.

A fast-paced read, I-35 at times feels more like a short story that may have gone on too long, or a novel that should have been fleshed out much more to come up to its mythic intentions. Anti-hero David is also, unfortunately, the least interesting and sympathetic character in the novel. He runs across a variety of seedy and downright creepy characters on his travels. David was orphaned young, and is estranged from his only sibling, his brother Jim. He wakes up one morning in the back of his car, in freezing Minneapolis, near to where his brother and sister-in-law live. There is a horrible, frightening, garbled message on his phone from Jim, but no other clues to their whereabouts. David embarks on a search for his brother, but quickly gets sidetracked by his own volent outbursts and a beautiful girl named Shawna.

There are echoes of old-school noir writing, and especially Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but unfortunately without the humor. Selmont feels compelled to meticulously describe just about every place David visits, every bar and gas station, no matter how decrepit or disgusting. He writes well, but all of the depictive prose may wear down even the most fervent fan of nihilistic fiction.

With a real zero for a hero, the main interest in the story lies in the complicated Shawna, the only character the author or David shows any real affection for. When she is not on the scene, I-35 suffers. In future, Selmont might want to try less to shock his readers with gross-out violence and unsympathetic heroes, and consider concentrating on more original and fanciful characters such as Shawna.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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ambern’s #CBR4 Review #21 Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I am still having a ridiculously hard time in school so I decided that a book about the apocalypse would provide the pick-me-up that I needed.  Damned if it didn’t help.  I’m sure pretty much everyone reading this has already read Good Omens, probably multiple times.  It’s just one of those books that is impossible not to like: smart, funny, and extremely British.

The story begins with an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, discussing the ineffable plan shortly after Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden of Eden.  The two continue this discussion throughout the next 6,000 years.  Things come to a head once the Antichrist is born, even though he is promptly misplaced and raised without influences from heaven or hell.

11 years later the Antichrist, Adam, is living an idyllic life for an English boy, he has his gang of friends and is unaware of his powers.  Despite this, the apocalypse is moving forward as planned and the world is destined to end on Saturday.  Aziraphale and Crowley, along with Witchfinders, professional descendants, Adam and his gang, and the four horsemen are all doing their part in fulfilling the predictions of Agnes Nutter, the only truly accurate prophet known to the world.

What is there to say?  I love this book and I wish everyone would read it.  It is smart and so funny that I scare people on the metro with my laughing.  I’m glad that I live in a world where writers like Pratchett and Gaiman exist and that I can get swept up into their ridiculous logic.

Idgiepug’s CBR#4 Review #24: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m going to take a moment to turn this review into a confessional of sorts.  Forgive me, fellow Cannonballers, for I have sinned.  I am not a fan of Neil Gaiman.

There.  I said it.  It’s not that I DISlike Gaiman’s work; I’ve just never particularly sought it out.  I’m not much into comic books to begin with (another confession), so I wasn’t exposed to his work in that medium.  I received a free copy of Coraline at a conference a few years ago and enjoyed it, but I didn’t like it enough to go out and find more of Gaiman’s books.  I’d heard good things about The Graveyard Book, though, so I snagged it off the Newberry Award shelf at the library and gave it a read.  I’m so glad that I did.  It’s one of the best kids’ books I’ve read in a long time.

The novel begins with a toddler boy unwittingly escaping the murder of his family.  He toddles his way into a graveyard where he is “adopted” by the ghosts of those buried in the cemetery with the help of Silas, a mysterious man who is able to pass between the worlds of the living and the dead.  The child, called Nobody, Bod for short, lives a fairly peaceful existence until he begins wanting to know more about the outside world and about his past.

It’s a dark little book for kids, but it’s an excellent read.  In this novel, Gaiman gets the right mix of suspense and creepiness to keep kids interested.  I’ll definitely pass the book on to the little pug when he gets a couple of years on him.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review #24: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Bunnybean took Coraline out of the library a few weeks ago and started to read it…we thought maybe we would read it at the same time and then present a Cannonball Point-Counterpoint type of review.  And then about two chapters in she started to get scared.  And she put the book down and happily took off with Laura Ingalls Wilder, leaving me alone to figure out another Neil Gaiman book.

As previously mentioned, Neil Gaiman and I have had a rough relationship.  I loved Neverwhere, and really liked Stardust.  I couldn’t finish American Gods, and was lukewarm about The Graveyard Book. But I feel like I’m supposed to love Gaiman’s books, and that if I keep trying, someday I will.

Coraline found me taking steps in the right direction.  I enjoyed the story of the bored little girl who finds a dark, alternate version of her world on the other side of a walled-off door in her family’s new apartment.  I haven’t seen the movie, but had an easy time picturing the differences between the real characters and the “others”, with their button eyes and pasty, clay-like flesh. The descriptions were simple, and yet incredibly detailed, and there was much to be appreciated. Simple little sections really stuck with me, in particular Coraline remembering her father’s bravery when they were attacked by a swarm of wasps. I loved the realism of that anecdote being remembered while Coraline was in a totally un-real situation in her “other” world.

I totally understand Bunnybean’s reluctance to continue with the story. Even though we found this in the Children’s section of the library, I’m thinking that the intended reader age is probably slightly older than 7. When I asked her what scared her, it wasn’t the dark hallways, the scary noises, or the unknown world that Coraline was facing, it was the button eyes.  She was petrified of the button eyes.

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #28 Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things is thirty or so short stories and poems by Gaiman.  Some of them have never been published and some have won varied short stories of the year awards.  The plot of the stories and poems are what you’d expect from Gaiman’s oeuvre.  Which, of course, makes it one of my favorite reads so far this year.

The book opens with A Study in Emerald, which is a Sherlock Holmes story with Lovecraftian motifs.  (Actually, this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read something that suggests Queen Victoria was a demon insect thing.  Is that some sort of English conspiracy theory?)  The story ends with a bit of a question mark; I hope that one day he gets around to writing a follow-up.

Another favorite of mine is October in the Chair.  Basically, all of the months of year sit around a campfire and share stories It’s an interesting concept.  I had read Bitter Grounds in a large zombie stories compendium a few years ago, but I think the story fits much better with other Gaiman stories.  The story has a… well, a Gaiman vibe to it that doesn’t fit with the slash and gore of the other zombie stories.  Harlequin Valentine reminded me of the Mr. Quinn short stories that Agatha Christie wrote, only a bit more dark.  The Problem of Susan explores a literary problem that always bugged me – Susan Penvensie wasn’t allowed back into Narnia like her brothers and sister since she liked “lipstick and nylons too much”.

Gaiman saved the best for last – the crowning story of the book is The Monarch of the Glen.  It picks up about a year after the ending of American Gods.  Shadow has been wandering across Europe for about a year when he comes to Scotland and in typical Shadow fashion, unfortunately  falls in with mythology again.  Hopefully Gaiman has a few more Shadow stories percolating.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR 4 Review #17: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 American Gods is the story of Shadow, a convict who is about to be released from prison.  He finds out that his wife and best friend were killed in a car accident.  Then, at her funeral, he finds out that they were killed in a car accident because his wife was giving his best friend a blow job.  Whoops.  Shadow then meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.  Oh, and gods are real and they walk among us and feed off of our worship.  Roadtripping Americana-laced high-jinks ensue.  Seriously, it’s hard to summarize a book that has such a wide scope.  This book is epic.  There are Norse gods, Egyptian gods, Eastern European gods, walking dead girls, and dozens of locations.

I have picked this book up twice before, and for various reasons, I never could get into the damn thing.  It’s weird.  I love Neil Gaiman novels, and this is known as his best one.  But I finished it.  Finally.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  It certainly held my attention better this time.  Maybe it was because I was using my Kindle which makes reading feel all futuristic and fancy.  Maybe because this time I read the tenth anniversary edition.  Maybe I was finally in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. I’m not sure, but third time’s a charm.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Neil Gaiman, mythology, Americana, or epic novels.

4/5 Stars.

TheFatling’s #CBR4 Review #10 #11 #12 #13: The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman/John Ney Reiber*

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My Vertigo tarot deck recently reminded me that I’d been meaning to read The Books of Magic for quite some time (due to some BoM artwork on the cards, my tarot isn’t actually psychic or anything).  I’m only four volumes in, and apparently my local library doesn’t have the fifth book.  I’m really on the fence about continuing with the series.  It hasn’t held up anywhere near the standard of Gaiman’s Sandman series, either in story or artwork, and I’m not willing to spend money on the next book in the series.

The Books of Magic follows Tim Hunter, a bespectacled young boy who lives with his negligent father.  His mother died in a car accident years before, and the accident appears to have been caused by his father, who drinks and watches television to avoid dealing with life.  One day, Tim is visited by a mysterious foursome–John Constantine, the Stranger, Dr. Occult, and Mr. E–who tell him that he has a lot of magical potential.  They take him on a journey through time, space, and magical history, ostensibly to allow him to choose an ordinary life or a life of magic, though of course he chose a life of magic by agreeing to the tour.  The first volume’s artwork is beautiful, but the story is labyrinthine and slight when all is said and done.

The second volume, Bindings, sees John Ney Reiber taking over for Gaiman in the story department, and the difference is clear.  This is easily the worst of the series so far, involving a convoluted paternity dispute as an excuse to spend time with Death, Gaiman’s most famous creation.  It doesn’t help that in both the first and second volumes, Tim is as petulant and whiny as Order of the Phoenix-era Harry Potter–and I’m not just saying that because both boys have spectacles and pet owls.  He’s still unpleasant in the other collections, but in these two, he’s pretty unbearable.

Summonings, the third volume, is a marked improvement, with the introduction of Molly, Tim’s once and future love interest, a steampunk villain, and a charming succubus named Leah.  Things take a turn for the confusing in Reckonings, the fourth volume, wherein an adult Tim’s dealings with a cynical demon named Barbatos have consequences that reach back through space and time to affect present-day Tim and Molly.

Tim doesn’t appear to actually be going through any magical training, forced to muddle through and learn by trial and error, which is actually an interesting concept.  Unfortunately, the series’ heavy-handed moralizing and confusing timeline haven’t really paid off for me.  I’m invested just enough to be curious about how everything ultimately hangs together, but it looks like the collected volumes don’t actually include the conclusion of the story.  If I happen to find a cheap copy of the next volume, I’ll probably read on, but otherwise I’m sure I’ll manage not knowing what Tim Hunter’s future holds.

*I didn’t include all the artists in my title because it would be super-long, but here are their names:

John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson, John Ridgeway, Peter Gross, Peter Snejbejerg, Gary Amaro, Dick Giordano.

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