Monday, 8 August 2011

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

"The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them. Immigrants to the United States, brought with them their beliefs in leprechauns, dwarves, and other spirits and gods. Over time, Americans' beliefs and allegiances have changed. Devotion to older gods have given way to devotion to newer more materialistic gods, reflecting America's obsession with the Internet, technology, and media. The power of the older gods has diminished as people's beliefs wane, and there is only so much belief to go around, which leads to a battle between the old gods and the new ones.

Leading us on this journey is Shadow, who upon his release from prison learns that his wife has just died in a car accident, leaving him without a job or anyone to come home to. On the plane ride home for her funeral, Shadow meets "Mr. Wednesday", who wants to hire Shadow to be his chauffeur, errand boy, and body guard. Being an ex-con without a job, Shadow reluctantly takes him up on the offer. The two depart on a road trip across America to assemble the old gods and prepare for the upcoming battle. "

There's definitely an epic feel to this book, it's a fantasy classic everyone should read, but like many classics, it's not an easy or fast read. There are some times where it drags a bit and the reader is struggling to figure out how all the pieces fit into the plot of the story. I think it's during this struggle that we realize what this book is really about. The gods and their desire to gain power is all there, but as Mr. Wednesday would say, that's just misdirection. While we're focused on the gods and their aforementioned battle, it's Shadow's journey that's the real point of the story.

Shadow is a guy whp sort of drifts through life. Life happens to him more than he makes things happen. Through the tasks and work he must do for Mr. Wednesday, Shadow learns about himself, and must examine who he really is and who he wants to become. It's about who he meets along the way and how they change him. By the end, we see Shadow's journey has just begun.

Gaiman is a master storyteller who brilliantly distracts us with one thing while surprising us with something totally different; a story we didn't even know we were looking for. Though I have unanswered questions, and am left wishing more explanation was given, I still feel satisfied because the book was so well written and the characters were so interesting.
The carousel at "House on the Rock" in Wisconsin, an attraction featured in the book.
Warning Spoilers:
Here is a list of a few unanswered questions that I and my fellow book club members had:

-Why do the gods want to fight? Wednesday needs deaths in his name, so his motivation is understandable, (as is Loki's) but why do the other gods want to fight? Is it for sport? Why is it a benefit to the gods themselves, it doesn't gain them followers or "belief", which is how they get power.

-Shadow "discovers" Wednesday's plot in the end, he just suddenly "knows" the truth. How?

-And after discovering the master plan, Shadow defuses the fight in 1/2 a page, and everyone is so uninvested in fighting in general that some dude saying "you know you shouldn't be fighting" is enough to make an army of age old gods stop without any questions or objections. It's just done.

-There's no epic battle at the end. It's sort of like the end of "Good Omens" where you have this build up and expectation of some action, but then nothing. The difference between the end of American Gods and Good Omens is that in American Gods you realize that the value of the story was all about getting to the battle.

-It would have been nice in this "battle" between the gods if it was explained how the gods "die". If the reason why the gods exist is because people believe in them, than how can Loki kill the god of the Internet? People still "believe" in the internet; killing "Internet" does nothing to solve the problem of belief, and seemingly has no impact on the old gods, or on the actual Internet.

Bottom Line: A story about a road trip through America and the strange beings met along the way. A unique study in humanity through the eyes of an ex-con, as he realizes that he merely drifts through life as a spectator, never going after what he wants. While not perfect, still an amazing book. Grade: B+.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Top 6 Supernatural and Fantasy Television shows V.3

While we all love reading, occasionally we have to give our eyes and minds a break and watch some television! What paranormal shows are the members of the Supernatural Book Club watching? We did a recent poll to find out.
Here are the last 3 in our top 6 supernatural and fantasy television shows*, as voted on by the Supernatural Book Club.

*Disclaimer: This list does not include strictly sci/fi shows, so you won't find shows like "Star Trek" or "The X-Files" here, we're talking strictly supernatural and fantasy shows.

3. Lost:
This show brought fantasy into the mainstream, even those who didn't set out to watch a fantasy show were eased in with "Lost". Before we all realized it, we were in the middle of one of the most elaborate fantastical mythologies ever seen on television. It was so complex that a room full of people could watch it and everyone would get something different from it. Whether you loved it or hated it, there's no denying that "Lost" will be a show that people will still be discussing and hypothesizing about for many years to come.

2. Supern
atural: Demons, ghosts, vampires, shapeshifters, and angels, this show is a cornucopia of the paranormal. Two cool, good-looking brothers driving around in a classic car with a 70s rock soundtrack, battling demons and supernatural beings with some majorly amazing artillery make this show totally awesome. The witty banter and sarcastic dialogue offer a welcome relief from the serious struggle of good vs evil. This is the only show I've seen that can be deadly serious in one episode and totally make fun of it's self in the next and be able to pull it off without being campy or cheesy.

1. The Vampire Diaries:
One of the few times the live-action version is better than the book and to say it's better is a serious understatement
. Vampire Diaries is a show for anyone who loves vampires, but wants less graphic sex and violence than True Blood, but doesn't want Twilight-esque teen romance. It's a vampire show for those of us who want ongoing compelling story lines, shocking twists, and a bit of romance and betrayal.

Here's the list of shows we chose from:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Top 6 Supernatural and Fantasy Television shows V.2

While we all love reading, occasionally we have to give our eyes and minds a break and watch some television! What paranormal shows are the members of the Supernatural Book Club watching? We did a recent poll to find out.

There was SO MUCH debate about about our number 4 show that I had to give it it's own post, just to have enough space!

4. True Blood
- This show was really a mixed bag for us. There are several members who LOVE this show, as in "best show on television", and there are o
thers who HATE it, as in find it horrid and disgusting. I thought it would be great to have a couple of member give their side, in their own words:

Why I love TrueBlood, by Anna:
I love vampires, so that's a given, but TB has the unique quality of being both action-packed, fantasy-driven with a healthy amount of traditional soap opera drama thrown in for good measure. The over-the-top sex doesn't hurt either, and though some might find it sensational or vulgar, that's exactly what it's meant to be. The True Fans of True Blood understand that when it comes to vampires, sex and intimacy isn't all puppies, kittens and cuddling like Stephenie Meyer would want us to believe. I find her portrayal of vampire intimacy to be, well, underwhelming and stupid. Alan Ball shows vampires how they truly are : hedonistic extremists who no longer live by the moral and cultural barriers that govern the human race. And yes, there are some resulting plot elements and sex/violence scenes that therefore make us, the viewer, uncomfortable - or excited - or shocked - or simply entertained. Because at the end of the day, all TV shows are about 1 thing - entertainment & ratings. And it's a testament to True Blood that it occupies the #1 spot on Sunday prime-time TV with 5.5 million viewers on a PAY channel.

TrueBlood is horrible. By TornSack:
As a connoisseur of supernatural television, I have to say, True Blood is horrible. Rather than rant and rave (as I usually do) about the myriad of things that make True Blood absolute trash, I'm going to conduct a little television critique experiment with you. What I need from you is simple; all you have to do is put True Blood out of your mind while you read the rest of this review, and honestly answer the questions I pose with either a yes or a no. Ready? Great, here we go.

I saw this new show, it's really cool, in this one episode, this guy takes some drugs, and he get's a raging hard-on. It's pretty awesome, he's got a boner, and it won't go away. He beats-off 3 or 4 times, but only succeeds at the beating part, nothing goes "off," if you catch my drift ;). Feeling like a boner for abusing his boner, the guy cries to some of his friends about how he punched himself in the dick so much that his crotch turned all black and blue. Then he shows his one-eyed monster to this chick who wants to bang him; she nearly pukes at the sight (and smell?) of the thing and convinces him to go to the ER where a doctor drains the blood from the guy's dick to relieve his awesome drug-dong of it's RAGE!!! Is this a show you'd like to watch?

Oh my goodness, I love this show sooo much, you HAVE to check it out! In this one episode, these awesome people, they trick these other people into having an orgy, but then one set of people totally torture and brutally murder the other people. First they molest and bite the throat out of the female (and make her husband watch), then they taunt the man over his dying wife's body before they break his neck. But that's not even the best part! As the woman lies bleeding to death, the two murders, they totally make the sexy time right in the middle of the pool of blood and on top of the dead bodies! It's sooooo awesome! Is this a show you'd like to watch?

This show is off-the-chain! You gotta watch it! It's got this fresh and original plot line in season 3. It starts out with this crazy-eyed guy rescuing this chick from a couple cracked out hillbillies who are trying to rape and kill her. To repay the knight in shining armor for saving her, the damsel in distress makes freaky-deaky-squeel-like-a-pig "love" to him. The next day, ol' crazy-eyes brainwashes the damsel and kidnaps her to Mississippi where they rent a room in Castle Gay Skull (the gaudy residence of the King of Mississippi). There, the knight ties his damsel to the bed, and proceeds to beat and rape her for several episodes. Finally the damsel escapes, smacks the knight upside the head with a mace, and his HEAD A SPLODE! But he's not dead, so it's cool. Is this a show you'd like to watch?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, you should be ashamed of yourself (at least a little). True Blood is not good TV, it's just blood, guts, and porn. For some reason people think that because it's on HBO, or because they talk about it on E!, that it's not porn. Well sorry to burst your bubble, but True Blood is PORN, and as porn goes, it's not even good porn, and worse than that, it's on the more gruesome and disturbing end of the porn spectrum.

So keep this in mind the next time you come to my house and ask to watch True Blood on my HBO, it's no different than asking to watch some porn on my pay-per-view.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Top 6 Supernatural and Fantasy Television shows, V.1

While we all love reading, occasionally we have to give our eyes and minds a break and watch some television! What paranormal shows are the members of the Supernatural Book Club watching? We did a recent poll to find out.
Here are the first 2 in our top 6 supernatural and fantasy television shows*, as voted on by the Supernatural Book Club.

*Disclaimer: This list does not include strictly sci/fi shows, so you won't find shows like "Star Trek" or "The X-Files" here, we're talking strictly supernatural and fantasy shows.

6. Being Human: A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost sharing a house, trying desperately to fit into a human society that no longer accepts them, a community they're no longer a part of, struggling to remember what it's like to be human. It's a premise so good they remade it in America, but it's the original British version that best captures the humanity behind the "monsters". It asks the questions, "What would it really be like to be a vampire? How would you live your life?".

5. Pushing Daisies: Ned has the unique ability to bring the dead back to life with a single touch, but if he touches that person again, they die forever. Now Ned must resist the desire to touch his childhood love, whom he's revived after her death and doesn't want to lose again. When he's not pining over his love, Ned is helping solve murders and settle will disputes, by simply asking the recently deceased. Charming, whimsical and romantic, this show was a cheery and sunny take on death, and a unique viewing experience.