I am fan of Gaiman so I bulldozed through this book in two days, sacrificing a significant chunk of workout and sleep time.
Talking about sacrifice, I feel it an important concept of the book but often left ignored by most readers and reviews. Nothing comes for free. In order to gain some, one has to give up some. This is true even for the gods. In the very beginning, Odin sacrificed himself to himself to gain power. Even Loki, devious and scheming, had to bear some undesirable consequences for his actions, for an example as bizarre as it could be, getting impregnated by a giant’s stallion…
In the old times, people consciously knew the truth of sacrifice, which made their choices carrying significant integrity and weight. Somehow this wisdom is lost along the way. In modern times, sacrifice appears to be unnecessary and only for the not-haves and less-ables, aka suckers. But it is only a deception. One still and always sacrifices in exchange for gaining and winning. The fact that what is traded away going unnoticed often makes the loss more precious and the trade less worthy.
Overall, Gaiman delivered again. The sentences are short and simple, as if told orally and casually. The wording is easy and friendly. Other than some names, which I guess can’t do away, nothing is arcane or hard to pronounce or in need of much reference. Meanwhile, the stories are fun and engaging, with a good amount of mischief and humor balancing a good amount of violence and bloodiness.
However, this book does leave me with some ambivalence. Maybe because he was working out of the materials that is already out there, I just don’t feel there is enough “Gaiman” in the book. For example, the stories are fun and deep, but somehow they are not as psychologically immersive as his other works. Other than Loki, pretty much all the gods are flat and cartoon-ish (especially Thor, who is just a loud brute…). The characters just do what they are supposed to do, without much introspection. Also there is an obvious lack of childish darkness and innocence I love so much in other Gaiman’s books. (You will know what I mean if you read enough Gaiman books…).
Maybe because writing such a book, Gaiman had to make some sacrifices. But I do miss those that were traded away for the sake of elaborating a mythology into 200+ pages. I hope this book will lead to something more.