Written By: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
Published By: W.W. Norton & Company
Page Count (Hardcover): 304
Link to Purchase (Amazon)
I’ve had a deep fascination with ancient mythology since I was a little kid. Primarily with Greek myth. After reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, I found myself enamored by the stories of Gods, Heroes and Monsters. But in the coming years, my curiosity expanded to the Egyptian, the Japanese, the Romans and, finally, to the Norse.
But out of all of the godly pantheons I’ve researched, I know so little about the Norse. Sure, I know Thor, Loki, Odin and a few of the others. But I couldn’t tell you any more than I could those I haven’t studied at all. While I was interested, I never really bothered to pursue that.
Enter Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. One of the greatest authors of our time, creator of ‘American Gods’, ‘Good Omens’, ‘Stardust’ and more returned with yet another masterpiece. This time, he’s compiled a series of Norse stories and gave them his own creative spin. By doing so, he’s created one of the most accessible gateways into the legends of old, as well as of a time yet to come: Ragnarok.
Spoiler alert: Marvel didn’t quite capture the majesty of the real thing.
Plot: Loki Ruins Everything. Over and Over Again.
Yeah, the comics did get that right.
In ‘Norse Mythology’, each chapter is it’s own self contained story, typically involving the same returning characters. Most of them are focused around the different exploits of Thor and Loki as they ruin literally everything across the Nine Realms. Be it by ruining feasts (which they themselves forced the poor victims to serve) or just running amok being dicks.
But it’s okay! They’re Gods! It’s allowed!
However, not all the plots are as separate as you’d think. Each one, in some small way or another, leads into the end. Not the end of the book (well, that too). The end of all things. The grand final battle that will mark the burning of the world.
This is actually an incredibly clever way of telling a story! It allows for ease of access at any time, allowing you to read any story from any point. This makes selling the book to another person super easy. Don’t believe me?
What if I told you there’s a story where Thor dresses as a woman to get his hammer back? Or what if I told you Loki strapped his balls to a goat and entered a tug-of-war in order to make a Giant laugh? Or how about how the invention of the fish net lead to the origin of earthquakes, all of which circle around Loki being eternally tormented?
I’m willing to bet you’re interested now, eh?
Voice: Odin and Friends Go Modern
Neil Gaiman has one of the most solid voices out of any writer out there right now. He crafts faithful but unique versions of the classic Gods, bringing their world and the characters within them to the modern day. While the dialogue is certainly modern, it does still have that classic olden day feel, further preserving the ‘Myth’ in the ‘Mythology’.
He also has an incredible attention to detail. Or in this case, the lack thereof. He works with a minimilistic style, giving just enough detail to paint a clear picture without bogging the story down. As such, the story is extremely dialogue focused. Though he does paint a very detailed and clear picture when the action starts to ramp up, such as Thor’s fishing battle with the World Serpent, though he still maintains the minimalism.
The dialogue is also spot on! Each line is organic, impactful and, upon occasion, hilarious! Reading this book is entertaining from beginning to end. Each story, from it’s dialogue to it’s characters, is lovingly crafted, engaging and fun as hell.
Until, y’know. The world starts to burn to death.
Production Values: Did You Know Gaiman Has a Great Voice?
No, I’m not talking about his creative voice. I mean the literal kind.
Unlike last weeks post on the Disaster Artist, wherein I reviewed the physical qualities of the book itself, I can’t exactly do that here. I read that book in my own hands. But this time around, I listened to the audio book.
Hey, don’t judge me! I’m a fucking dishwasher! I’m not made of money! Y’know how many free books Audible hands out to it’s members?
*NOTE: This post is not sponsored by Audible. Though it could be if I were to, say, receive a phone call. Or, preferably, an email.*
Getting back on topic, let’s talk about the narration! The audio book, as I implied earlier, was read by the man himself, Neil Gaiman. And he does a bloody brilliant job! His cadence and delivery is absolutely spot on! He gives each character a distinct and memorable voice, further bringing them to life.
As much as I love physical books (trees must die for my pleasure, or else I can’t feel anything!) I’d highly recommend the audio book version. It’s a great way to get the full experience while doing other things during your busy day-to-day life.
Unless you’re writing something. Or listening to someone. Or doing something else that requires your attention. But hey, the mindless things are made more entertaining!
Conclusion: Why Wasn’t School This Fun?
This is one of the most solid books I’ve read (or I guess listened to) in a long time! It’s fun, interesting, and genuinely educational! Seriously, I’d legit read this in my history class if I were to teach kids about Norse mythology!
Be it a physical book or an audio one, I’d highly recommend you give it a read. It’s highly entertaining and fascinating. Though be warned! After reading it, you’ll never be able to look at Marvel’s versions of these characters the same.
Cause the actual versions are way weirder and more bad-ass. Don’t believe me?
Can comic book Thor literally wrestle old age?! Or drink so much of the ocean that he forever changes the tides for the better?