This book couldn't have come at a better time. At the time of writing this, it's been just two hours since I saw Neil Gaiman give an incredible talk at the Perth Concert Hall. As fate would have it, he spent most of his talk answering audience questions, which we'd written on small cards before the show. Towards the show's end, we were far over time and none of my two questions had been answered. I didn't really mind, because the other questions were incredible. Then, however, Neil picked a card at random out of the pile, said, "This will be the last question", and - to my stunned amazement - it was mine!
Norse Mythology was a wonderfully written retelling of the Norse tales that reminded why I love the Viking stories of old.
"Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes."
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman was the retelling of a number of Viking tales, ranging from the most well known, to some more minor stories. From the beginning of time, to the prophecy that will be Ragnarok, the ending of the world.
It was a highly enjoyable read that reacquainted me with some stories that had faded in my memory. There were many tales of humour, such as Thor dressing up as a woman to be a bride, and also those of despair.
The prose was wonderful, as is expected from such a brilliant author as Neil Gaiman. It is just smooth, intelligent and effective, with a balanced amount of description and action. One of my favourite authors to read for their writing style.
"Do you ever ask yourself how it is that some people dream great, wise, beautiful dreams and pass those dreams on as poetry to the world, to be sung and retold as long as the sun rises and sets, as long as the moon will wax and wane? Have you ever wondered why some people make beautiful songs and poems and tales, and some of us do not?"
The stories this book consists of revolves around three main gods. Odin, Thor, and Loki. While most of the other gods and creatures of Norse Mythology are still present, the main focus of each story is these characters, so their personalities are firmly established. Odin the wise, calculating and brutal at times. Thor the strong, greatest warrior of the gods and main defender of Asgard. Not always the most intelligent. And then Loki the trickster, cleverest of the gods and the cause of their most severe problems.
"The first thing I think is, it is Loki's fault. It saves a lot of time."
The tales within this novel travel and involve each of the nine realms at some point, with a telling or their origins and some of their most famous and dramatic moments. It focuses mainly on Asgard and Midgard as the former is the home of many gods, and Midgard is Earth, where we live!
Every aspect of this book was well executed, with intriguing tales, great prose and developed characters. The only fault I could identify is that there was not a definitive unique adaptation of the Norse tales, rather a similar retelling of previously known stories.
For me this book was a four star read that anyone who enjoys the prose of Gaiman will enjoy. It is not a large novel, so can be scythed through rather quickly, but lovers of mythology will still find much enjoyment within the satisfyingly developed stories that are involved.
"Notoriety wasn't as good as fame, but was heaps better than obscurity."
Good Omens is a modern, humorous and unique take on Armageddon and the events leading up to it. Despite being published in the 1990s, the cultural references and problems depicted still feel incredibly current, making this appear as a timeless read - the book is thought provoking to any modern reader. I recently watched the Amazon adaptation of the book and that was also very good. They are very similar to each other, with only slight differences of focus that were not monumental.
The prose is irregular and unique, often going off on tangents. This was sometimes hilarious and at other times mind-boggling. Whichever way it was, the book was easy to read and flowed wonderfully, as one would expect when written by these two esteemed authors. It was a very different style that took a while to acclimatise to, but once that had happened, I found it to be entirely excellent.
The characters were diverse and great! In particular the partnership between the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. They were absolutely brilliant together, with a depth crafted from 6000 years of experience with each other. This was definitely a strong point of the novel, and their interactions with each other formed my favourite parts of he plot.
"Hell may have all the best composers, but Heaven has all the best choreographers."
The world depicted varied widely, from London, to a rural town, to a hospital, and each was described vividly with interesting aspects that made them natural and carried on with the humorous atmosphere of the book.
The plot was not a prominent nature of the book, as the story revolved more around the characters and humour, but that made the story no less interesting. The stakes were as high as they could get, being the world and all of mankind! Armageddon taking place with angelic and demonic forces preparing themselves for the war to end all wars. Even though the stakes were as high as it can get, the humours leaks from every page, with so many wonderfully memorable lines. One of my favourites involved a confused Hellhound.
"Dog was starting to doubt himself."
So Good Omens was an exciting and interesting read that was eventful and just hilarious. I soon adjusted to the irregular prose and ended up loving the style of the writing. I loved its unique take on Armageddon and the subtle and thought provoking cultural references. I recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed the programme, and anyone in the mood for a light-hearted read that nevertheless tackles thought-provoking themes.