Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

American Gods July 20, 2010

Filed under: fantasy,for grownups,guys — Christie @ 10:17 am
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American Gods (cover)Gaiman, Neil.  American Gods. HarperCollins, 2001.

This novel is dense and deeply rooted, involving stories of old gods (literally ancient, old-world gods from a variety of cultures) transplanted to America by immigrants and gradually forgotten as people assimilated to American culture and created new, slicker, faster gods for themselves.

Shadow is the person who connects the old gods with each other.  A convict out on parole, he hooks up with Wednesday (Wodin) and gets involved with the brewing battle between the old gods and the new.  Eventually Shadow learns that things are not what they seem – but despite having been deceived, he finds that his world is richer for the experience.

I love the way Gaiman develops his characters – they’re complicated people, even when they aren’t people at all.  Each mythological figure in American Gods has a personality and a history.  This book is vivid and richly imagined, with a final plot twist that shows that even the gods are bound to be faithful to their own stories.

 

Interworld June 13, 2010

Interworld cover, Gaiman/Reaves, 2007

I’ve developed sort of a literary crush on Neil Gaiman.  His writing is clever and just enough off from actual reality to be chilling  (Coraline actually gave me nightmares – that whole parallel universe thing really got to me, for whatever reason.), and I’ll try out any book with his name on it.  I was pleased to run across Interworld (Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves, Eos/HarperCollins, 2007) and intrigued by the premise: not just one parallel world, but hundreds of thousands of worlds, each of which is spun off when someone makes a decision of any import.  If, on a given day, a world leader makes a decision to pursue peace instead of war – and it’s a hard decision, naturally, which affects untold numbers of people – in that leader’s world, his decision stands.  But another world is created in which he made the opposite choice, and any number of things are subtly wrong about that world.

Tenth-grader Joey Harker is the main character of Interworld, and he finds himself walking between worlds without warning or comprehension.  As he comes to understand what’s happening to him (and meets up with the many and varied incarnations of himself that exist in all these parallel worlds), he also learns about the ongoing battle between science and magic in the Multiverse – literally a battle, and literally deadly.  Joey has to make a hero’s decision when he is asked to take on more than he ever considered, and he ends in a place and a mode of living that he would never have thought possible before he started Walking.

I found this book delightfully creepy, action-packed and touching – if a little too easily resolved in some respects.  It’s a good coming-of-age story, and I think it’s interesting that my local library has it cataloged and shelved in Children’s Fiction.  I’d argue for YA/Teen myself.  There are definitely kids in my school who would read and enjoy this book – freshmen more than seniors, I think, but still.  I don’t think I would put Interworld in front of a kid younger than 12, either.  There’s a touch of melancholy and a sense of lostness (also present in Coraline and in Gaiman’s Neverwhere) that I think younger readers would miss or be confused by.  Wherever you want to shelve it, Interworld is a good read, and worth the short time it’ll take you to drink it in.