(3.75 / 5)
The self-effacing, chaotic, past-his-prime, doubtful, ambivalent, awkward, sometimes arrogant, but usually humorous main character in Zach Boddicker’s novel The Essential Carl Mahogany, is at the proverbial crossroads. What direction should he go in his life? And besides the van named Percy who should Carl bring with him? Carl’s mission is to figure out how to get his shit together and to find his soul which he lost working in the country music industry, except Carl perpetually gets sidetracked by…pick something. Anything. This is why Carl isn’t all that famous of a musician. Sometimes life just happens.
There is no dire conflict within the story. No swashbuckling. No hero action. All of the conflict is the soul-sucking daily kind, but Boddicker tells his tale with so much broken self-awareness that you are drawn in by the prose. The story is an oddball, misfit kind of thing that is difficult to categorize as other than a fictional memoir, but the moodiness of the setting and the narrative tickles your ear like a beloved old country song you forgot you knew.
(4 / 5)
Neil Gaiman revises the ancient sagas in Norse Mythology and refashions them into an enjoyable retelling of the exploits of the gods, while staying true to the original stories. From the creation of the nine worlds through to the end of time, Gaiman includes the creation stories, and the births of the gods, including Odin, Thor, and mischievous Loki. These versions are not like the movie portrayal perhaps, but there is a depth to the characters that is both subtle and courageous.
Using the threat of Ragnarok as the narrative arc, Gaiman shows both the humor and misfortune that permeates the sagas. Ragnarok—the end of time for the gods who will ultimately die—also offers a time of hope for mankind. The stories are infused with an emotion lacking in earlier translations, as well as motivations for actions and events, also lacking in earlier translations. Plus, Gaiman adds interesting and colorful dialogue that helps to bring these characters to life. Clearly Gaiman has loved these stories since childhood, and his treatment of them shows on every page.
Norse Mythology presents a worldview that is very different from our everyday life, but it can still help us to learn about humanity as a whole, especially since some of the tales feel particularly relevant to today.