Seperis (seperis) wrote,

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books: american gods redux

I finished American Gods Wednesday night in a single long rush because I indeed got much more interested.

A part of me does not understand how he can write those brilliant, tiny ministories--the twins were especially gutting and wonderful, the former thief-maid was wonderful--and still want to go back to writing Shadow, who isn't nearly as much fun to write, as he does absolutely nothing. I'm also annoyed who he turned out to be, because if you are going to be the son of a god, interesting should be your like, middle name.

However, at least in-text, this seems to be his actual personality--the lack of one, I mean--and it did help somewhat to realize this was a deliberate writing choice for a pretty good reason. I don't knock that, but that does not make it more interesting. It was also--and I guess this was also a choice--a really bright contrast between the backstories, which were brilliantly colorful moments out of time compared to the slogging through the monochrome of Shadow's existence. It was also where I could appreciate Gaiman's prose, which is breathtaking, and it became a lot more fun to read once I focused on that rather than well, Shadow himself. Honestly, I'll be re-reading for some of the descriptive passages alone; they're utterly gorgeous, and possibly work even better on a tabula rasa character like Shadow, whose personality does not interfere with getting out an amazing sentence.

OTOH, the mythology makes everything worth it, almost.

I'm up next for Anansi Boys, since I've heard it is an improvement, and maybe a tighter focus--uh, for various definitions of tighter focus--will work better.

My current reading list:

1.) Anansi Boys
2.) Neverwhere
3.) Coraline

Then I'm biting the bullet and hitting Heinlein. I have avoided it for--well, my entire sci-fi reading life, really, but I feel that when the hardest sci-fi I've hit has been Gibson--who by the way is goddamn amazing--I need to update. So far, the following, but if anyone wants to suggest anything, feel free.

1.) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
2.) Stranger in a Strange Land
3.) Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

This really does make it sound like I'm eating my vegetables--though by the way, I love vegetables, especially Brussels sprouts, so the analogy ends up weird--which I guess is true? But not in a literary pretentious way, I think. But there's an actual reason for this, though granted, it's a weird one.

Years ago, my boyfriend of the time convinced me to read Armor by John Steakley, and if you haven't read it, it's--I sent this book to several friends just to share the trauma (if you've read his Vampire$, it's like minus three times the lack of uplifting that one is, seriously).

The summary on the page is a lie of the most debatably vicious kind--it's kind of true, because the entire goddamn book is about how to test the human spirit to its limits. My summary would be a condensed version of an actual comparison in the book; you are looking down a well at a puppy you cannot possibly rescue with a broken leg who is dying, and you have to watch it, you can't stop, and worse, it isn't going to die. This book is a goddamn puppy in a well, and once you realize that, you also realize you can't look away because you're kind of stuck to the bitter end. I don't regret reading it, I think, but it did hit my limit on how many puppies I am willing to watch die, and that is none. It's amazing, and I can say with honesty that it was formative in my development as a reader and a writer; my internal ruler always compares what I'm writing to the well puppy and don't go there, so that worked out well. I also need to get a copy as soon as it is on ebook and read it straight though again, because I'm pretty sure there was more to it than the endless suffering of the human spirit while fighting giant insects, but damn if I can remember anything not a well-puppy.

Vampire$, otoh, is weirdly not as gutting, but it has bar none the best, most terrifying vampires ever written into prose. The amorality, the viciousness, the alienness while being human-shaped, human vice leashed to something so entirely inhuman it's grotesque. And what they do to their thralls is--I mean, torture is horrifying and everything, but it's nothing like the invasive--the word I want here is 'unclean' in the most archaic sense, but I'm not sure how to work that into a sentence where filthy is also a possible descriptor when it's entirely of the soul.

(Note: to make it that much more challenging, they are fucking hard to kill, so it's basically an exercise in horror just to kill them and I don't mean from the pov of the to-be-killed creature; it's goddamn traumatic to be the one doing it.)

I tried in two stories to pull it off--one in Queer as Folk and one in American Idol--and from two points of view at that--and I still couldn't nail how reading that made me feel, though it did exorcise a lot of my lingering issues with pretty much any vampire romance in the world that plays down the fact you're taking to bed something that is not and cannot ever be human again and human values just might not only not apply, but may either not make any sense to them or are kind of cute to fuck with, why not?

This is a long way of saying, a lot of sci-fi has a very strong tradition of overarching themes and losing the individual to prove an argument, or far worse and more painful, using the character for the proof of argument, which I'm not arguing this is terrible, I'm arguing that six hours of reading should not make me lose faith in existence itself.

So how is everyone else's weekend going? Read anything good?

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Tags: books, crosspost
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