Books: Atwood and Gaiman

Our power went out in August from a Sunday until it returned on the following Wednesday, and although dark at half past seven, I was able to finish "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood and revive interest in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods."  I say revive interest because remarkably I own this book but had rented it from Booksfree, having neglected and forgotten my own copy.

These are not uplifting books, and certainly reading them during a hurricane probably made them, not more sinister, but more credible.

Yes, The Year of the Flood is a sequel to Oryx and Crake, and somewhere it appears a third volume is in the hopper as the word trilogy is mentioned on the flyleaf.

It wasn't until page 306 or was it 308 that it became clear that where Oryx and Crake ended the human race with the exception of the Snowman did not.  But what will become of the survivors of a scientist's gone mad experiment is unclear at the books conclusion.  Unlike "The Road," another dystopia, the reader, or this reader finished the book with a sense of a potential tomorrow, Atwood's book left me questioning if this last lot of humans would possess the fortitude to reproduce.

I closed the book with doubts and questions, and although there is enormous humour and much satire in Atwood's novel, it is still a book about the calamity of man's foolishness, and our foolishness is unparalleled these days.

Gaiman was introduced to me by way of Dave McKean and I soon found myself reading or rather devouring  Neverwhere, one of my favourite books filled with creative imagination.  Neverwhere is about an underground world in London;  American Gods is naturally about the States.   The two books however have a certain symmetry and so clearly come from the same pen (yes, Neil Gaiman is a fountain pen user).

What Gaiman and Atwood have in common is a unique genre in literature: neither true science fiction or magical realism, they imagine our world, often in the present, differently.  To some degree, Gaiman reminds me of Robertson Davies and his Deptford Trilogy--filled with myth and magic and some Jung thrown in.

If Atwood's book is about an experiment gone wrong, Gaiman's book is about an experiment of birth.  His principal character and the unlikeliest of characters, Shadow, is we learn at the book's near conclusion the son of a God, but not an American God.

Like Neverwhere, we encounter some of the strangest characters in some of the most outrageous places with often unpronounceable names.  The book is often a riddle, but things do get sorted out and the conclusion ends on a positive note.

As Gaiman dedicates the book to Roger Zelazny, another of my all time favourites (The Amber series, in particular) I reckon he wouldn't mind having his book(s) described as science fiction.  Ms. Atwood, however, blanches or did once, at the notion that her work was of that ilk.   I understand her reaction if one thinks of science fiction as a series of outer space novels, but as I've explored the genre in the last dozen or more years, I've come to truly appreciate some of the better writers and novels that easily fall into this category as on par with any work of fiction, including classic literature.

If anyone enjoys the unusual, with a message, both authors are well worth reading.

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