Meandering Ponderings: Just finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman


Something happens to me when I finish reading a book I really enjoyed. I tend to feel sad, depressed even, and I feel like I get withdrawal symptoms. I’ve made a book, the reading of it, the characters in it, the events, part of my life. Once finished, my body is slow to commit the experience to memory. Instead, it rebels like a petulant toddler that it wants more and throws a tantrum until it gets what it wants.

I am in the middle of such an episode.

I put off reading the wonderful book American Gods because it came so highly recommended so many times that part of me was afraid it wouldn’t live up to such high expectations. In this case, expectations were shattered.

I had never read Neil Gaiman so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can be very picky with authors and their styles of writing. I was glad that he could deliver his world to me so deftly. His style is up front. He doesn’t inflate his text with wordy descriptions and tangents. His dialogue is expedient, but engaging, and when he does take time to describe scenery or characters, he quickly sets the stage without wasting your time.

His characters, some of them fantastical given the premise, seem lively and plausible. They have habits. Faults. Skills. I never got the feeling that characters were merely placed to move along the story. They felt alive.

In a land, a rather familiar America to be exact, where gods walk with men and feud with their rivals, successors, and descendants, I felt at home. The main character Shadow, who seems mysterious all on his own, becomes a constant companion, and his journeys and troubles become familiar in an intimate way.

As you can see, I became enamored with several of the book’s elements.

The most unfortunate thing about having finished this novel is that there are no direct sequels (yet). The part of me used to long series of novels that span years and years feels cheated. Where’s the rest?  That’s all folks.

But that is a good thing. A sharp and powerful single novel is rare and it seems more and more writers venture down the path of multi volume series that wind up being full of long stretches of nothing. American Gods delivers the goods in a single blast like from a shotgun and I’m still reeling.

On a final note, a television series is in the works, formerly through HBO, and Neil Gaiman has confirmed he is writing a sequel. I’m definitely not complaining about that.

Now, what will I find to read next?

Re-Watch Reviews: Star Trek Into… Sigh… Darkness

I eagerly anticipated the return of Khan and his famous wrath. I was willing to give J.J. Abrams another chance. What did I get?

More of the same.

Not that it’s a bad thing. Unless you consider Abrams’ first effort an exciting sci-fi action spectacle wearing Star Trek’s skin, then, yeah, more of the same.

To be fair there is some Star Trek here.  I enjoyed the trifecta of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Spock and McCoy are excellently acted, just shy of parody. This sequel is also grittier than classic Star Trek’s prevailing optimism would allow it to be.

Overall, my biggest grievance is that this very well could have been a sci-fi flick on its own merit without leaning on Star Trek to hold it up while the public ravenously consumes it. I say this because this departs just enough from the franchise that I catch myself thinking “Wow, this would make a good Star Trek flick” but then I realize that it already is. It may be slighter than a phase shift to some of us it’s more than enough for Devidians to thrive.

There are other quibbles (and a Tribble), such as hyper-advanced technology that allows minutes-long warp and trans-galactic transporters and Praxis’ premature explosion (remember Star Trek 6) and that little puppet alien thing that Scotty is married to. Among other things. Like Leonard Nimoy’s unnecessary cameo. I mean, come on…

And what of Khan? Of course the audience knew it was him despite the media’s futile attempts at obfuscation, but the character’s dramatic “big reveal” seemed to pander to the audience as it fell upon the deaf ears of the characters in the movie.

Bandicoot Cummerbund, I mean Benedict Cumberbatch expertly portrays a different Khan than we know, which is fine, and he is more nonchalantly menacing than Ricardo Montalban. However, I feel that his amazing character was not utilized well. There are some positive moments, like when Khan is (finally) unleashed. The rampage that ensues is truly wrathful, except that you have to slog through the rest of the film to get to it.

I appreciated the attempted complexity of plot, but Khan got lost in the fray and spent too much time lying in wait, not because of his serpentine calculativity, but because the plot is looser than a sorority girl.

And therein lies the crux of the issue. If you look at the best Star Trek films they had simple plots. Wrath of Khan was written in a weekend. This film tries to do too many things, unfortunately, and all at the expense of the components within that are pretty good. On paper, this film must have jumped off the page, but on the screen it falls flat.

It’s a shame really, but it’s good press will hopefully save the franchise from the obscurity it suffered after Nemesis. Even more hopefully, J.J. Abrams can apply his spectacular vision to Star Wars 7 and maybe we can get another director who can give more sci-fi and less lens flare.

So what can you expect from this sequel? More of the same, which is better than nothing. It’s just not better than Wrath of Khan.