Book Review: American Gods (Neil Gaiman)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Funny, clever and entertaining. Gaiman is the king!

TL;DR – This book is cleverly crafted, brilliantly written and endlessly entertaining. Once again Gaiman delivers a cracking read! A must have for fans of fantasy and myths.

EBBanner

RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

Why I read it…

adore Neil Gaiman – he’s one of my fave authors (I met him once at a book signing, it was tres hoopy). I’ll read basically anything he’s written and this has been on my list for a long while.

Conveniently this happened to fit under the heading of “An award winning novel” for my reading  challenge – it won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Bram Stoker awards for Best Novel and the Locus award for Best Fantasy Novel.

The Story…

Shadow is finally getting out of prison. He’ has a plane ticket home to his loving wife, a job lined up and things will finally start getting back to normal. Then his world falls apart.

His wife and future boss both dead in the same car accident. Now he has a ticket to nothing, no future and no hope. Then he meets a man on a plane. This man, Wednesday, offers Shadow a job – it pays well, it’s mostly legal and very important. With nothing else to do with himself, Shadow takes the job and is thrown head first into a world of Gods old and new, and a war for that could change the mythological world forever.

The book is gripping and funny – it managed to win a fantasy, science fiction and horror award, which should give you some idea as to the quality of the writing. The version I read was the full ~700 page behemoth. I accidentally bought a French version which was less than half that size – I don’t know what was removed from that version, but I’m certain it was missing out on some gold.

The book is full of fantasy, gods and mythology, with twists and turns abound.

What I liked…

When I picked up this book, I didn’t really know what it was about – I assumed American Gods was just a title, but as it turns out this book is brimming with Gods and awesome stories about how they came to America and what has happened since. That was a really awesome discovery.

Gaiman weaves in elements of global mythology into his storytelling, and it is both fascinating and enjoyable to experience. Those of you who have read his book “Norse Mythology” will already be aware of how well Gaiman writes mythology, and for those of you that haven’t, read it and this because both are superb examples of how to write about gods.

The plot is extremely clever. It feels like it several stories, broken up with bonus short stories as a bonus. Gaiman leaves clues about the plot all the way through, but disguises them beautifully – by the end I was left wondering how I hadn’t worked things out sooner and loving that the fact that I had been so blind. It is there for those with the eyes to see.

I was hooked from beginning to end. It’s a long book, and I read it in a few days because I couldn’t put it down.

What I disliked…

Nothing stands out. It was excellent.

Final thoughts…

This book is outstanding, and also totally typical of Neil Gaiman. You know when you read a Gaiman novel it’s going to be great, and this book did not disappoint.

I would recommend this book to anybody who likes fantasy fiction especially – but also to literally anyone and everyone because it’s great.

___________________________________________
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Lock In (John Scalzi)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

“Weapons-grade science fiction. Not to be missed.” 

TL;DR – I was hooked the whole way through. It’s clever and really makes you think. Perfect for the sci-fi fan in your life.

5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

My primary reason for reading this book was that I wanted to read the sequel “Head On” as part of the reading challenge (A book published this year), but since there was only one book that came before it in the series, I thought I ought to read it first.

I chose this series because I love science fiction and sampling authors I haven’t read before, so this seemed like an ideal candidate for reading.

The Story…

Haden’s Syndrome spread across the globe quickly and unexpectedly. Most people recovered, but an unfortunate percentage experienced lock in – fully conscious and aware, but completely unable to control their bodies.

After a great deal of research, a solution of sorts was found to help. Personal transports (or threeps) where created – robotic bodies that could be controlled through a computer, surgically implanted in the brain of a Haden’s sufferer. This provided Haden’s with a way to interact with the world at large. But tensions are running high as the implementation of a new law threatens to make the lives of Haden’s even more difficult.

New FBI recruit Chris Shane, and his partner Leslie Vann set out to solve a Haden related murder at the Watergate hotel, and soon realise the problem is considerably bigger than they could have possibly imagined.

What I liked…

First of all, you have Haden’s Syndrome. I know (or at least think I know) that getting locked into your body, conscious but unable to move is a real thing that happens – although it’s definitely not a contagious disease. But the way this issue was addressed in this book was fascinating. The idea of personal transports and a virtual world (called the Agora) where an inspired response to the lock-in problem. But you also have people who have set out to cure Haden’s Syndrome and effectively unlock the sufferers bodies – one of the most fascinating parts of this book was the way these two solutions are met by Haden’s sufferers. You can see clearly that the premise has been really well thought out and understood.

The story was fast-paced and interesting. The transition from unusual crime to serious conspiracy was very well written and engaging – I was hooked in to the book very quickly and only once did I stop being completely gripped by every page.

The world building was really the key selling point for me. I’ve already spoken about the interesting aspects of Haden’s syndrome, but the book really goes deep into the descriptions of the condition and the way it has affected the world and sufferers alike. There are times when Scalzi talks about the ethics of the way Haden’s sufferers are treated, by the public, the government and members of the medical profession. Scalzi has also created an alternative world inside the ‘real’ world, in the form of the Agora and it’s incredibly interesting to the see the way this world is accessed.

Finally, it was really clear while reading this book that Scalzi had thought good and hard about disability and how disabled people think about themselves. He notes the differences in opinions between people who contracted Haden’s later in life with those who contracted it as children, and how these differences have affected their lives and interactions with threeps and the Agora.

What I disliked…

At one point, I thought the book was about to fall apart completely. I was almost finished – maybe 50 pages or less to go – and everything was falling in to place nicely. The problem was I couldn’t imagine how the book could possibly end in a satisfactory way in the limited space there was left. As it turns out, this was just my lack of imagination. Scalzi brings this story to an exciting and incredibly satisfying conclusion with great skill and artistry.

Final thoughts…

I was hooked on this book from beginning to end. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like. It was well written and clearly had a considerable amount of thought put into the world-craft, which is something I love to see in a book.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good science fiction novel. I would also recommend this to crime readers who don’t mind the futuristic setting.

I can’t wait to get stuck into the sequel.

___________________________________________
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (Michael Chabon)


Goodreads Link | Michael Chabon Website

“Maybe I missed something somewhere…” ~Me, post-book

TL;DR – I liked this book enough to finish it, but not enough to read it again. Recommended for crime fans.

3-5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 3.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

It won the Hugo for Best Novel -2008  (Reading challenge category)

I wouldn’t say I’m ‘big’ into crime novels – I enjoy them, but it’s not my usual area. Having said that, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

The Story…

Alternate History – The state of Israel collapsed in 1948, and for the Jewish people in diaspora moved  to (and thrived in) a temporary new homeland – The Federal District of Sitka, Alaska. The district is due to revert to Alaskan control.

Alcoholic cop, Meyer Landsman is woken one morning in his flea-bag hotel room and informed of a murder in another room. Together with his partner Berko Shemets, Landsman sets about solving the case – and gets much more than he bargained for!

What I liked…

My first impression was the setting. As I say, I’m a sucker for alternate history, so this gave me something to sink my teeth into right from the start. It was, admittedly, quite a culture shock, what with me knowing very little about Jewish cultures, and even less about Yiddish terminology, but once I got my head around the basics everything settled nicely.

Secondly, the plot. It’s difficult to say what I particularly liked about it without giving away more than I am comfortable about the story itself. I enjoyed how the story progressed – it was entertaining, and kept the air of mystery about it as the case slowly unfolded – needless to say I absolutely did not guess ‘who dunnit’.

What I disliked…

The ending. I’m not going to say what happens and ruin it for anyone. I’ll also say right now that the ending wasn’t necessarily bad. As I said in my quote at the top, I feel like I must have missed something because I was left feeling like the story had just lost steam by the end.

The case was progressing, and I was enjoying it. Things were escalating and it was exciting. Discoveries were being made and everything looked great. Then it just sort of ended. This is why I think I missed something. As far as the plot goes, it makes sense to have ended where it did – I guess I just expected it to go another way. I could read the last few chapters again – and indeed I might – but for the moment, the vague sense of disappointment.

Another minor thing – the case had a chess theme, and often there were descriptions of chess moves, or terminology that admittedly flew right over my head. This isn’t a criticism of the writing itself – I’m quite sure if you’re slightly more familiar with chess than I am those parts would make perfect sense – it was just something that made little bits harder to follow.

Final thoughts…

When I started reading, I was having fun – and I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the ending – which I remind you, wasn’t necessarily bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting – then this would have got a solid four buttons. Unfortunately, the fact the I got to the end with my interest waning knocked off some points.

One final point. When I started writing this review, I gave the book a 3 button rating. However, as I was writing, bits of the book I had enjoyed kept coming back to me and the rating seemed unfit – it didn’t do it justice. This book isn’t a bad book – I would recommend it to a crime fan – it just didn’t hit the right buttons for me!

___________________________________________

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!