As part of my continuing unemployment experience, I am churning through the books on my bookshelf in anticipation of downsizing my library. Late last week I finally wrapped up Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.” I had previously read Gaiman’s “Stardust” and “Neverwhere,” both of which were very good. Gaiman’s “Stardust” is substantively different than the movie of the same name starring Michelle Pfeiffer. “Neverwhere” was an exciting romp through London below – an alternative version of the city that is much more dangerous and much more dark.
“American Gods” follows the story of a man named “Shadow” who we find wrapping up a short prison sentence and eager to get back to his life and his wife. He’s sprung a couple days early when word comes that his wife is killed in an auto accident, setting Shadow on a trip around the country as muscle and an all-purpose gopher for a man he knows only as Wednesday. It turns out that a war is brewing in America, between the old “gods” who followed their believers across the sea to this new land hundreds of years ago (think “Norse” and Germanic folklore) and the new “gods” – technology, television, cell phones, etc.
Throughout the book Gaiman demonstrates a depth of knowledge about mythology and an interesting take on what these indigent gods might do in a society that has all but forgotten them. The book is interesting, but not quite the page-turner “Neverwhere” or “Stardust” were.
I worry about Dean Koontz. He’s a prolific writer who always comes up with unique plots. He is able to seamlessly weave together suspense, horror (but not gratuitous gore) and the supernatural in a compelling way. Once you’ve started one of his books, you’re not going to put it down for long.
Why do I worry about him? Because he has the ability to create some of the most sick and morally-depraved villains that I’ve ever come across. These bad guys make Jeffrey Dahmer look like a Boy Scout. In “From the Corner of His Eye,” the book opens with the bad guy taking his fiance up to one of those fire lookout towers – and pushing her off. In “Hideaway,” the sicko kills people and then uses their bodies as mannequins in a sick, twisted exhibit.
In “The Darkest Evening of the Year,” Koontz creates a dastardly duo that is so odious that, frankly, you can’t wait for them to get their just reward. Being that it is a Koontz book, you know that that time will come.
The story follows Amy Redwing, a dog-lover and volunteer for a dog rescue organization for golden retrievers and her boyfriend Brian McCarthy, an architect. As the book opens, Amy and Brian “save” a golden retriever named Nickie from an abusive, drunk owner. Over the next few days, Nickie demonstrates some qualities that are not solely dog-like and a big mistake from his past comes to confront Brian.
The book is a fast read, largely because of the need to see justice meted out. Koontz’s villains can’t be allowed to continue as they are, and that urgency is put upon the reader to see them to their end.
Both books are certainly worth a read.