The recently released Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is by no means new stories. They are very old stories. They are stories so old that the details have been blurred with the passage of time. Gaiman retells these stories in a way that reads like a novel. It begins with an expansive and rich creation story, telling how gods, the world, and people came into existence. Then, we hear the stories of the gods, giants, demons, and people who populate the legendary 9 worlds. We meet Thor, and learn how he got his hammer, called Mjölnir. We hear of all the ways that Loki, the Trickster, manipulates and deceives the gods repeatedly and seemingly for his own amusement. We learn where bad poetry comes from. Finally, we see it all destroyed in Ragnorok, the epic battle that will end the reign of the gods of Asgard.
The joy of stories is in the retelling. In the book The Gospel of Loki (by Joanne Harris), we get to hear the same stories, but told from Loki’s perspective. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he is convincing as a sympathetic character betrayed by the “popular crowd” of Asgard, an evil deity bent on destruction, or something in between.
What if the stories don’t end there? American Gods (by Neil Gaiman), explores the idea of gods being brought to America with their believers, and what happens to them once they are here. Do gods need belief to keep existing? What about the new gods of America, such as Media, and Technology? American Gods follows the story of Shadow Moon. In the first few pages of the book we meet Shadow in prison, where he is released a few days early because his wife has been killed in an auto accident. He meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, who offers Shadow the job of escorting and protecting him. What I like about this book is the atmosphere and feel that the author is able to create. It’s part road trip story, part epic legend.