Win a signed copy of NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman

Shelf Awareness is offering a chance to win a signed copy of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Click the link above or below to learn more about the contest and Shelf Awareness for Readers, a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter that features reviews of the best books coming out each week.

I would very much like to win said copy. I am guessing that you would as well.  So enter the contest here.  As it happens, if you use that link to sign up I get an additional entry. I believe this is what is known as “win-win.”

 

Death's Doors by Lars Walker

I am a fan of Lars Walker‘s writing (having read a couple of his books and followed his online writing) but I confess I really struggled with his latest novel Death’s Doors.

Death's doorsIn the near future, suicide has become a constitutional right. Tom Galloway is just an ordinary single parent, trying to keep his rebellious and suicidal teenage daughter from going to the Happy Endings Clinic. If there’s one thing he doesn’t need, it’s a tenth century Viking time traveler dropping into his life. But Tom is about to begin the adventure of his life, one that will change the whole world.

I have not read Wolf Time for which Death’s Doors is a sequel of sorts. As with all Walker books there is a great deal of creativity. You have a future dystopian society, Norse mythology, and a story about a family. I enjoyed the exploration of how Haakon views the 21st century world as a 10th century man. I thought the plot hook about how the Old Ones are secretly undermining the US was interesting and well done. The ultimate villainess was great too. And the idea that the underlying conflict came from an inability to understand humans, love and self-sacrifice was a nice element.

But I think the bottom line on this book is how far-fetched you think his dystopian society really is and how much that bothers you. Basically, Walker takes current conservative critiques of liberalism (from political correctness, to abortion and euthanasia, relativism, the ignoring of the threat of Islam, etc.) and takes it to reductio ad absurdum levels. The solution to everything is suicide (or really murder given the not so willing nature of the procedure). Courts routinely overturn basic cases because everyone has the “right to their own reality.” Christians are called Crossers and the faith has basically been made illegal for all intents and purposes. Meat is illegal. Muslims control Michigan (and then invade the US). Pagan/heathen religions are back in style and use ancient rituals to bring King Haakon into the present time.

Now, we could argue about how much of this is likely, and to what degree, given our current path but too much of it felt didactic and preachy to me. I get that dystopian fiction is unlikely to be nuanced but, again, instead of feeling like a possible, if extreme, world it felt like a conservative caricature of liberalism’s real aims. It is a straight line from the worst excesses of the lunatic left today to mainstream culture in the “near future.” For me it was a drag on the story and irritant throughout. And part of that was because it didn’t seem like the dark side had an attraction to it or a plausible path to happening. It was as if say the roughly 15% of the left that is really as crazy as Walker makes out suddenly controlled the entire United States. Just didn’t work for me.

That said, it was an entertaining and creative story. And if you are a conservative Christian who thinks we are on the verge of societal collapse already you will love it! OK, that was a cheap shot. But I do think that is the sweet spot audience for this book. Because if you are not deeply sympathetic to the issues surrounding religious liberty, the pro-life movement, the threat of relativism, political correctness, Christianity as the foundation of Western Civilization, the threat of Islamists, etc. I think the strong perspective will be hard to take. Heck, I am pretty conservative and found it too strong.

It is also worth keeping in mind that I am not a big reader of historical fiction or dystopian fantasy which Walker tends to blend together. I am a fan of mythology and enjoyed those elements.

At Goodreads I struggled with how many stars to give. Two seems harsh but is what I settled on. That designation is supposed to say “It was Okay” which seems about right. Although, if I had half stars I would have given it a 2.5.  Ultimately, it was interesting with some well done aspects but didn’t really come together for me.

I Bring the Fire Part I : Wolves by C. Gockel

Picked up this first volume in a sort of serialized self-published novel the other day because it was free.  And read it while I was sick and not up to much besides laying on the couch reading something light. I enjoy unique twists on mythology so I Bring the Fire seemed worth a look.

i-bring-the-fireIn the middle of America, on Route 44, Amy Lewis has a plan — to get to her grandma’s house in time for dinner. Galaxies away Loki is waking up in a prison cell, strangely without a hangover, and with no idea what he’s done wrong — this time anyway. But he does know Thor is hiding something, Odin is up to something wicked, and there seems to be something he’s forgotten… 

In this tale that is equal parts “Another Fine Myth,” “American Gods,” and “Once Upon a Time,” a very nice midwestern girl and a jaded, still very mischievous Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, her boobs, or three day benders, they just might pull it off… 

While an easy and at times entertaining read, it wasn’t compelling enough for me to pay $3 apiece for the remaining books in the series.

If you are going to mention authors like Neil Gaiman and Robert Lynn Asprin in your blurb you need a little more writing chops than this one showed.

There were a number of well done aspects (the suspense of Amy on the road when Loki first makes an appearance, grandma Beatrice, etc.) and I felt like the book was just about to take off on a number of occasions but it just never quite got there. And when it abruptly ended I wasn’t willing to invest more.

It has the feel of serialized fiction in a magazine or comic somehow. A little action, some backstory, a bit of character development, more action, etc.  I don’t know maybe I just wanted a little more depth and a more developed level of writing.

It felt like a sketch or a start to a novel not a completed story. And I am still not sure what exactly the plot was. Loki sons are in danger and he want’s revenge but something bad is happening and Odin needs his help. He ends up on earth and connects with Amy and likes her large breasts (seriously, this comes up quite a few times). They go to another dimension survive Valkyries and Thor and then Loki takes off. The end? And what is the point of the Velociraptors that keep coming up?

Alas, such is the risk of self-published serials like this.  That is the point of offering the first book for free, after all, to entice you to read, and pay for, more. And there seems to be quite a few happy reviewers online. But for me it was an entertaining but ultimately rather flat story.

Anyone out there read more of the series? Drop a comment and let me know what you thought and why you kept reading.

I Bring the Fire Part I : Wolves by C. Gockel

Picked up this first volume in a sort of serialized self-published novel the other day because it was free.  And read it while I was sick and not up to much besides laying on the couch reading something light. I enjoy unique twists on mythology so I Bring the Fire seemed worth a look.

i-bring-the-fireIn the middle of America, on Route 44, Amy Lewis has a plan — to get to her grandma’s house in time for dinner. Galaxies away Loki is waking up in a prison cell, strangely without a hangover, and with no idea what he’s done wrong — this time anyway. But he does know Thor is hiding something, Odin is up to something wicked, and there seems to be something he’s forgotten… 

In this tale that is equal parts “Another Fine Myth,” “American Gods,” and “Once Upon a Time,” a very nice midwestern girl and a jaded, still very mischievous Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, her boobs, or three day benders, they just might pull it off… 

While an easy and at times entertaining read, it wasn’t compelling enough for me to pay $3 apiece for the remaining books in the series.

If you are going to mention authors like Neil Gaiman and Robert Lynn Asprin in your blurb you need a little more writing chops than this one showed.

There were a number of well done aspects (the suspense of Amy on the road when Loki first makes an appearance, grandma Beatrice, etc.) and I felt like the book was just about to take off on a number of occasions but it just never quite got there. And when it abruptly ended I wasn’t willing to invest more.

It has the feel of serialized fiction in a magazine or comic somehow. A little action, some backstory, a bit of character development, more action, etc.  I don’t know maybe I just wanted a little more depth and a more developed level of writing.

It felt like a sketch or a start to a novel not a completed story. And I am still not sure what exactly the plot was. Loki sons are in danger and he want’s revenge but something bad is happening and Odin needs his help. He ends up on earth and connects with Amy and likes her large breasts (seriously, this comes up quite a few times). They go to another dimension survive Valkyries and Thor and then Loki takes off. The end? And what is the point of the Velociraptors that keep coming up?

Alas, such is the risk of self-published serials like this.  That is the point of offering the first book for free, after all, to entice you to read, and pay for, more. And there seems to be quite a few happy reviewers online. But for me it was an entertaining but ultimately rather flat story.

Anyone out there read more of the series? Drop a comment and let me know what you thought and why you kept reading.

Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby

I first heard about Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby from a Shelf Awareness review. It was not hard to see this as a book I should check out:

The king of a Northern land, having refused to marry off his beautiful eldest daughter and deed some of his holdings to a nearby chieftain, is now at war. He sends Harald, his youngest child and heir to the throne, along with Asa, the eldest daughter, and his middle daughter, Solveig, to a remote land to keep them safe. The king also sends a handpicked group to accompany them. As the novel opens, they await supplies before winter freezes out any vessel’s passage by water. A ship eventually arrives with the king’s personal guard–20 hearty berserkers wrapped in animal skins, led by Hake, a giant to rival Thor, and the king’s skald, Alric. When someone poisons the berserkers, everyone suddenly becomes a suspect.

Solveig, the only one of the king’s children who feels she has no purpose, narrates the story. At Alric’s urging, she begins to cultivate her gift for weaving a tale–and her narrative holds us in her spell. Her recurring nightmare suggests that she may also have the gift of foresight, in addition to her skills as a keen observer and storyteller. Matthew Kirby’s story peels away like layers of an onion. Two-thirds of the way into the book, Solveig reveals a structure to the novel that serves a dual purpose. Every piece of this puzzle, infused with Norse lore, fits together.

Young adult fiction tied to myths and stories? Yep, that’s me.  And it turned out to be a gripping and imaginative story with great characters and a unique setting. Kirby really explores issues of trust in a community pushed to the brink while at the same telling a powerful coming of age story about a child awkwardly trying to find her identity (in contrast to the beautiful sister and the young brother and heir to the throne).

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The Children of Odin – The Book of Northern Myths

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have developed a keen interest in myths and fairy tales.  Natural I suppose with my history background as myths are the past handed down in storytelling form; not in the modern sense of history but as art with seeds of the past embedded.

I have explored myths in non-fiction and fiction and have dipped into some young adult versions as well.  When I was looking into Odd and the Frost Giants I stumbled upon The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum.  There was a practically free Kindle edition so I quickly added it to the collection (you can read it for free online).

Here is the publishers description of a recent version (the original was published in 1920:

Before time as we know it began, gods and goddesses lived in the city of Asgard. Odin All Father crossed the Rainbow Bridge to walk among men in Midgard. Thor defended Asgard with his mighty hammer. Mischievous Loki was constantly getting into trouble with the other gods, and dragons and giants walked free. This collection of Norse sagas retold by author Padraic Colum gives us a sense of that magical time when the world was filled with powers and wonders we can hardly imagine.

Unknown to me until I found this book, the author Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was a poet, a playwright, and a leader of the Irish Renaissance, but he is best known for his works for children, including The Children of Odin and The Golden Fleece (a newbery honor book).

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