Friday, September 12, 2003

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. New York: HarperTorch, 2001. 588pp.

More hype, possibly another case of overhype. Gaiman's particular type of fantasy, the contemporary urban, gritty style, is actually not one I really care for that much. But, American Gods got such good reviews that I felt I needed to give it and Gaiman a try. Like more, I was very familiar with Gaiman from his comics days, as writer on Sandman and other series. I enjoyed Sandman, but not as much as Swamp Thing. I often thought it was needlessly, almost preciously, goth. You hate to use the word "cute" to describe goth stuff, but, yeah, it was often cute. So, expectations. Not that high. I kind of expected to enjoy the book at the beginning and grow bored with it about half way. Reality? I was actually quite impressed. It's a tough story about the failed gods of American spirituality which came over with successive waves of immigration. It's also about the new gods emerging: greed, commercialism, the whole nine yards. But, Gaiman doesn't judge or condemn. I think he has a lot of affection for the American idea, if perhaps some skepticism about its implementation. It rambles and wanders, but is filled with interesting characters and events -- they are gods, after all and their actions should be at least entertaining. Well worth a look, even if you don't think you'll like it.

Moore, Alan; Kevin O'Neill et al. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol 1. La Jolla, CA: America's Best Comics, 2000.

It's always interesting to read something that's recieved such over the top hype. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big, if lapsed comics fan. I'm also an admirer of Alan Moore's work in many different series over the years. I read Swamp Thing back in the day. But I just can't get over the fact that this has been done better by Kim Newman in his Anno Dracula series. More precisely, more imaginatively, with greater wit and humour. The idea that you can take historical and fictional characters and mix them up in an alternate history story really belongs to Newman and for Moore's take on the genre to impress me he would really have to add something to what Newman's done. He hasn't. I also find O'Neill's art unnecessarily muddy and indistinct. So shoot me.