by Neil Gaiman
2017 W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
First Sentence: Before the beginning there was nothing—no earth, no heavens, no stars, no sky: only the mist world, formless and shapeless, and the fire world, always burning.
Phrase Neil Gaiman lifted from his own high school creative writing class diary when he got stuck for real ideas: the murky mist that cloaked everything hung heavily
Book in reality he probably stole that line from: Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem
#1 Reason why this book is superior to Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem: better for your young son to stand on when learning to potty big-boy-style
The most fascinating part of this book: contains custom-designed em dashes.
Do you know how many fucks I give about Neil Gaiman? There is a number, the square root of negative f, which has been proposed by mathematicians, but it is purely theoretical. Mathematicians have debated for decades whether it should even be classified as a NUMBER, it’s so arcane and unfathomable. That’s how many fucks.
But other people keep bringing him into my life, forcing me to pay attention. Neil Gaiman is the type of author that people read because he makes them feel smart, because he talks about mythology and funny brainy thinky metaphysic-y stuff. Well I have some good news: you know he else wrote a great book like that?
I cannot fathom why Neil Gaiman is even famous. He wrote a mediocre comic book series thirty years ago called The Sandman and a pile of shit novel called American Gods which is, at best, a bad fantasy novel. If 9/11 hadn’t happened the same year it was published, that book would have been America’s 9/11. Can you think of anything else he’s written? Oh, that ONE episode of Doctor Who you keep having a fucking orgasm over?
Do the math. He wrote one comic book series thirty years ago that was influential thanks to a lot of clever moody artwork that carried his mediocre writing, and he’s been coasting on that shit and his shitty British accent ever since, because Americans are morons and think British people are smarter than us, when all along the British are the people, remember, who invented Americans. You want to know why there’s never been a Sandman movie? Because no scriptwriter wants to beach his career on the shores of New Shitania, which is the continent where Neil Gaiman’s writing ability went to die.
NOW, Norse Mythology. What a piece of shit.
First, instead of the traditional prologue, which is like a skid mark in the soiled diaper that is every shitty book, he has an introduction that is mostly about him and his boyhood fascination with Norse gods, and how very sad he is that there is not a better record of these rich ancient legends. Remember the square root of negative f? That divided by the Sun is this section.
Then he introduces “The Players”, which is 4½ pages about the Norse gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. I kid you not, the written-by-the-whole-internet Wikipedia pages for these gods were more exciting AND more informative. So, to give you sense of scale, if the Wikipedia entry for “Norse mythology” was an 8/10, this section was irritable bowel syndrome.
So finally, 29 pages and three power naps later, the story finally begins. Except, not really. First we have to learn about the void world, Ginnungagap, and the fire world, Muspell. We learn about the dark world, Niflheim (which is “colder than cold” wow!). Then we learn about the living seas, the world of motion, Exxon’s Universe of Energy, and Journey Into the Imagination.
No wait, I’m thinking of EPCOT.
Next it’s on to the Norse legends of Surtr and Buri and Bor and the three sons Odin, Vili, and Ve, who kill Ymir and use his flesh to make the earth (can we PLEASE start the story now?). Gaiman didn’t make any of this stuff up. He just took what we know of old Norse legends and filled in the gaps. It’s like a reverse Cliffs Notes of pre-literate history. The chapters aren’t very long either, and they don’t seem to tell any kind of linear story, but rather a “narrative arc”, which is a term writers use when they can’t think of a story. The chapters, from what I can tell, always seem to be setting the stage for a story that never comes. Slowly it dawned on me: this book is 100% prologues! This is something I predicted would happen last year in the review for James Patterson’s Truth or Die. I knew it would happen, but I’m just shocked it happened so soon. I thought we had another few years.
I know probably 90% of you who read this review are overwhelmed by the urge to shove a darning needle into my nipples, but I only have this to say in reply: have you ever stopped to wonder why you have to keep telling all your friends how great that Doctor Who episode was, but none of them want to watch it with you?