In his breakthrough novel, American Gods, Neil Gaiman sought to create a new American mythology. In his latest book he’s gone back to the classics, producing a short story collection that retells the Norse myths. He describes it as the fiction equivalent of a covers album.
Most of my prior knowledge of the Norse myths came from video games and the Marvel movies, heavily bastardised. Gaiman’s take is based on the original source material, modernising the language without taking too many liberties with the substance of the stories.
It’s fun, not least of all because these gods – Odin, Thor, Loki et al – are nothing like the serious, unknowable gods of Greek or Roman mythology. They’re more clownish figures, attracted to mischief and trickery, with strict – though somewhat arbitrary – limits to their power. These are gods that act like petulant, spoilt children with magic hammers.
Gaiman adopts an unadorned style perfectly suited to such fables, keeping the pages turning swiftly all the way to Ragnarok.
Next: Howard Philip.