September 2002 Book Reveiws

[American Gods] - [The Staggerford Flood]

American Gods
Neil Gaiman

This is a very well written, challenging, dark sci-fi novel. It's probably the best book that I haven't been able to finish. It just got too 'dark' for me - too much chaos, too much malignancy in the world that Neil has built here. Which, I suppose, could be something of a complement to the writing.

It's a book about a man name "Shadow" who loses everything just as he is released from prison. With no other options, he agree to work with an old man who has been doggedly pursuing him since he got out. The old man and his cronies are... more (and less) than they seem.

Even though I never finished it, I would recommend that you read Small Gods by Terry Pratchett before reading this one - one of Pratchett's best, I think, and it has a similar theme. (Terry's is handled with a comedic bent, however)

The Staggerford Flood
Jon Hassler

Let me preface this by saying that Jon Hassler is my favorite author. I have read every single word that he has put into print. I've even read the 'young adult' books that he's written, just for kicks.

And let me add this other tidbit: Jon Hassler is dying. He has advanced Parkinson's. He can no longer write. He cannot even sign his name.

I should not be surprised that this books reads how it does then. Agatha McGee is back. The stalwart matron is eighty now and Staggerford is being flooded. He house is situated highest on the street, on the last piece of dry land, so her neighbors take refuge with her. While she welcomes them with open arms, they bring a flood of memories and 'baggage' along with them.

The most modern analogy that I can give you is that this is the literary equivalent of the final episode of Seinfeld. Everyone shows or gets a mention. Simon Shea, Leland Edwards, Imogene Kite, Miles Pruitt. It seems like Jon was working overtime to bring as many story lines to a comprehensive conclusion that he could. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Jemmy walking in the door. (Very obscure Hassler reference.)

And even though I never thought that I would ever say something like this, it's not that good. It's short, but not that witty. Everyone is there, but no one deviates from character in the least, short of Agatha and Lillian and the latter gets copped out at the end.

I would recommend every single other Hassler other than this one - even more so if this would be your first. Major plot points for some of the others are dropped without a blink. That's too bad - the others are worth the experience.

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