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review 2017-11-14 10:13
Überbewertet
American Gods - Neil Gaiman

Mein erstes Date mit Neil Gaiman wollte ich ursprünglich mit „Neverwhere“ bestreiten. Jahrelang schlich ich um den populären Fantasy-Autor, der eng mit Terry Pratchett befreundet war, herum. Ich hatte Respekt vor seinem Ruf und traute mich einfach nicht, ihn kennenzulernen. Dann sahen der Lieblingsmensch und ich den Trailer zur Amazon-Serie „American Gods“. Ich wusste, dass es sich dabei um die Verfilmung von Gaimans gleichnamigen Roman handelt und als der Lieblingsmensch äußerte, dass er der Serie eine Chance geben wollte, entschied ich spontan, zuerst das Buch lesen zu wollen. Mein erstes Date mit Gaiman sollte nicht länger „Neverwhere“ sein. Es sollte „American Gods“ sein.

 

Nach 3 trostlosen Jahren im Gefängnis wünscht sich Shadow nur noch eines: er möchte nach Hause, zu seiner Ehefrau Laura. Als ihn der Gefängnisdirektor in sein Büro bestellt, ahnt er, dass ihn schlechte Nachrichten erwarten. Betäubt lauscht er den Worten des Direktors, der ihm mitteilt, dass Laura bei einem schrecklichen Autounfall ums Leben kam. Er wird verfrüht entlassen, um an ihrer Beerdigung teilnehmen zu können. Von einem surrealen Gefühl der Unwirklichkeit begleitet besteigt er ein Flugzeug, das ihn an einen Ort bringen soll, der nicht länger sein Zuhause ist. Neben ihm sitzt ein gut gekleideter älterer Herr. Er stellt sich als Mr. Wednesday vor. Obwohl sie sich gerade erst kennenlernen, weiß er Dinge über Shadow, die er unmöglich wissen kann und bietet ihm einen Job an. Shadow findet ihn seltsam, doch er hat kein Leben, zu dem er zurückkehren könnte. Er hat nichts zu verlieren. Er schlägt ein, unwissend, dass er schon bald in einen kosmischen Sturm hineingezogen werden wird. Um sich zu schützen, muss Shadow den Funken wiederfinden, der mit Laura starb: seinen Glauben.

 

Warum schreibt ein Brite ein Buch über die Götter der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, nachdem er zum Zeitpunkt dessen Erscheinens bereits selbst seit 9 Jahren in den USA lebte? Welche Mission verfolgt er? Welche Botschaft möchte er vermitteln? Ich denke nicht, dass ich „American Gods“ durchschaut habe, denn ich finde keine Antworten auf diese Fragen. Neil Gaiman wollte mir mit diesem Roman etwas sagen, dessen bin ich fest überzeugt. Er schrieb „American Gods“ nicht ausschließlich zur Unterhaltung seiner Leser_innen. Grübele ich über seine Motivation nach, taucht in meinem Kopf das Wort „Identität“ auf, doch es schwebt frei in meinen Gedanken herum, ohne Anker, ohne Begründung, ohne Erklärung. Ich vermute, dass es in der Tiefe dieses Buches um die Identität der USA geht, aber ich kann meinen Finger nicht darauflegen, welche Aussage Gaiman diesbezüglich tätigt. Ich empfand „American Gods“ als irritierend und verwirrend, weil ich all die kryptischen Untertöne der Geschichte nicht zu deuten wusste. Ich hatte das Gefühl, enorm viel zu verpassen und gar nicht allen Details die nötige Aufmerksamkeit schenken zu können. Ich fand nicht in den Rhythmus des Buches und musste mich nach jeder Lesepause wieder neu einfinden. Ich denke, worauf Neil Gaiman abzielte, ist ein Roman mehrerer sich überlappender Ebenen. Leider schätze ich, dass ich dessen Kern, die Ebene, die alle anderen verbindet, nicht begriffen habe. Daher begleitet mich seit der Lektüre ein Gefühl diffuser Ratlosigkeit, obwohl ich den offensichtlichen Grundgedanken der Geschichte durchaus interessant fand. Der sympathische Protagonist Shadow, dessen Funktion und Rolle undurchsichtig bleiben, gerät zwischen die Fronten eines Krieges der Götter um den Glauben des amerikanischen Volkes. Anhand von ergreifend geschilderten Einzelschicksalen, die betonen, dass Glaube und Leid Partner sind, erfahren die Leser_innen, dass die alten Götter von Siedlern verschiedener Epochen in die Neue Welt gebracht wurden. Der Glaube der Menschen belebte sie; Opfer, die in ihren Namen erbracht wurden, verliehen ihnen Macht und Substanz. Unglücklicherweise vergaßen die Gläubigen über die Jahrhunderte jedoch die Gebräuche ihrer alten Heimat, womit auch ihre Götter Macht einbüßten oder sogar ganz verschwanden. Nun kämpfen die Götter um die letzten religiösen Almosen, die die USA auszugeben bereit ist; erschleichen und ergaunern sich unbewusste Anbetungen und Preisungen. Aus allmächtigen Wesen wurden verblasste, bedauernswerte Bittsteller, die von der Schnelllebigkeit der Moderne überholt werden. Auf diese Weise beleuchtet Neil Gaiman die Beziehung zwischen Göttern und Menschen von einem spannenden Blickwinkel aus: die wahre Macht liegt nicht bei den Göttern. Sie liegt bei den Gläubigen. Was ist ein Gott ohne Anhänger_innen? Überflüssig. Ihre tragische Abhängigkeit von den Menschen zwingt sie, die Konfrontation zu suchen, weil die USA einfach nicht genug Raum für alle bieten. Ein Land abenteuerlicher geografischer Weite – doch spirituell ein Stecknadelkopf.

 

Meiner Ansicht nach ist „American Gods“ überbewertet. Es ist ein faszinierendes Buch, das eine ungewöhnliche Geschichte erzählt, aber das Meisterwerk, das mir von zahlreichen Lobpreisungen versprochen wurde, kann ich darin nicht erkennen. Das Konzept der vom Glauben abhängigen Götter war mir bereits durch niemand geringeren als Terry Pratchett bekannt, der sich weitaus früher mit diesem fesselnden Gedankenspiel auseinandersetzte. Neil Gaiman versäumte es, mir nachvollziehbar den größeren Rahmen seines Romans zu vermitteln, sodass ich für all die leisen Untertöne und Bedeutungen zwischen den Zeilen taub und blind blieb. Wahrscheinlich gingen viele Anspielungen unbeachtet an mir vorbei. Ich weiß einfach nicht, was er mir sagen wollte und wartete während der gesamten Lektüre auf die große Erleuchtung, die sich niemals einstellte. Ich empfinde ein Schulterzucken. Vielleicht habe ich mit der Serie mehr Glück. Vielleicht helfen mir bewegte Bilder, zu verstehen, worauf er hinauswollte. Vielleicht hätte ich aber auch meinem Entschluss, zuerst „Neverwhere“ zu lesen, treu bleiben sollen.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/neil-gaiman-american-gods
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review 2016-05-24 09:13
Magical, edgy and imaginative
One Way Fare (Book 1, Null City) - Barb Taub

“Suppose neutral angels were able to talk Yahweh and Lucifer – God and Satan, to use their popular titles – into settling out of court. What would be the terms of the compromise? Specifically, how would they divide the assets of their early kingdom?” – Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (2000)

 

I really only picked up the book as it was advertised on one of my “Free Today” book emails. You know the ones, and if you don’t, why not?  So anyway, there it was, and the cover caught my eye. It was the first in a series, free, written by an author I hadn’t heard of. Why not?

 

Now, here is the thing. One Way Fare had a fairly interesting blurb, though I was a bit leery of the whole “Angels and Demons” shtick. Honestly? The whole Hellhound/Poodle thing is what really caught my attention. And you know what? For all that the Angels/Demons/Time Travel thing is normally so not my thing, well, I was entranced. I mean, really, truly entranced. Taub’s writing is unique. She has shaken up a couple of genres, and written her characters, and her story, in ways that held me rapt from page one.

 

In the room made of light, they plan the end of Hell.

 

The thing is . . . I’m rooting for Hell in this one. No, really. I mean, Lucifer is The Morning Star – which the oldest Latin texts portray as either John the Baptist, or Jesus himself. After all, it isn’t until much later that texts were converted to the concept of The Morning Star as being “Satan,” an evil character. Let’s face it – the ideation of “God vs Lucifer” is based in the takeover of various Egyptian, Canaanite and Jewish tales of gods who fought fiercely amongst themselves for power. To the victor go the spoils – an the right to tell the tales in any way they see fit.

 

Taub’s Hell is a nightmare for anyone who considers intellectualism to be threatening (you know, Right Wing Republicans, that sort of thing). As Ray Williams, in Anti-Intellectualism and the “Dumbing Down” of America (Psychology Today, July 07, 2014), says,  “There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.”

Ha! Send me to Hell, because this place is Interesting!  And a whole “Hell” of a lot more inclusive than “Heaven” could ever hope to be. Or even “Haven,” the place where the Fallen Angels who want to recreate the “Heaven” they were thrown from, exist. So, a bunch of pissy Angels want to destroy Hell – and they don’t care that, “Not only will that strategy lead to massive death and destruction for humans, but it could mean war between Fallen and Angels.” Wow, total narcissism really can be deadly! (I still wish I could remember the book I read, I think it was in the late 70’s or early 80’s, where ‘god’ is so busy staring into a mirror admiring himself – well, keep telling a guy he is handsome, you just know that spells spoiled rotten, self-centered ego maniac, right? – he allows the universe to go down in flames around him.)

 

Then, of course, there is the time travel aspect of the book. Honestly, I am not usually a time travel book lover. They never seem to get the continuity right. But Taub proved me wrong. Her writing makes sense. “I have a theory about time. Things can’t happen if they didn’t.” And what is even more crushing? Things still happen if they did. Taub holds all of the timelines tightly in her grasp, flowing backwards and forwards, building a gossamer web of linkages that never left me thinking “Huh? What just happened?”

This series is now at the top of my “Must Read New (to me) Series.” I already downloaded the second, DON’T TOUCH, Null City Book 2. There are some issues that weren’t tied up all the way in book 1, and I look forward with great eagerness to see how they carry forward through the series. One Way Fare is edgy, imaginative, and deeply unusual compared to my usual experience with this type of book. Highly recommended!

 

And remember this – “Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commits acts they would otherwise find repulsive. ‘The devil made me do it.’ I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.”  ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

Source: soireadthisbooktoday.com
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review 2016-04-24 10:46
A fun trip with friends, elephants, food and more food.
Do Not Wash Hands In Plates: Elephant Frenzy, Parathas, Temples, Palaces, Monkeys, and the Kindness of Indian Strangers - Jayalakshmi Ayyer,Barb Taub,Janine Smith

 

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I must confess I’m partial to stories of female friends. We don’t choose our family, but we choose our friends (or are chosen by them) and however different we might appear to be, there’s a synergy that takes place when good friends get together, that makes the time spent apart melt away, and the clock turn back.

In this travelogue, the author recounts the memoir of her trip to India with her two friends, Janine and Jaya, revisiting an experience they shared thirty five years before. Only, this time they’d gone one better, and rather than meeting in Europe, they decided to visit their friend Jaya at home, in India. Obama learnt about this and decided India must be worth a visit too, and at the beginning of their trip, the three friends have to do some interesting manoeuvres to avoid getting caught in the maelstrom the visit has caused. But there are some pluses too (Taj Mahal has never been cleaner).

Barb Taub’s voice is funny, fresh, witty (I love IPS as an Indian travelling guidance system, but I’ll let you discover it by yourself), and she does not take herself, or the experience, too seriously. The reader goes along for the ride and feels one more of the party.

There are no lengthy descriptions or heavy facts enumerated. The book is mostly a collection of impressions, discreet episodes, funny anecdotes, vibrant encounters with people (yes, and some elephants), and food. Lots of food.

It isn’t a book to be read to find advice on how to travel to India (the author’s experience is unique, and the product of very specific circumstances), although if we are to extract any recommendations from her adventures, it would be that it’s handy to travel with friends that know their way around pills and medication. And that if you manage to keep an open mind and forget about rigid schedules you’ll have a hell of a time.

If I had to find any buts with the book, yes, it’s short. Very short, although that perhaps contributes to the feeling of dynamism and effervescence of the reading experience. The author explains the difficulties with including pictures in an e-book and offers a link to have access to the pictures in better quality (and to videos and images not in the book) although in an ideal world readers might like to organise themselves to have access to the pictures as they read the book. (Or perhaps consider a paper copy, although as I haven’t seen one, I can’t comment on it). The other thing I missed was the opportunity of getting to know more about her friends (well, and her!). As I said before, books about female friends are my weakness, and not having read the author’s previous adventures I missed a bit more background.

A great little book for anybody who likes funny anecdotes, comments about food (beware of reading this book if you’re hungry, you might eat it!), hilarious adventures and a great narrator. I hope the three friends start a business organising trips soon!

 

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review 2014-11-15 18:48
Don’t Touch (Null City #2)
Don't Touch (Null City, #2) - Barb Taub

Author: Barb Taub

Published: December 2013 by Hartwood Publishing Group

Category: Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

 

Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it. 

Her online journal spans a decade, beginning with the day a thirteen-year-old inherits an extreme form of the family “gift.” Every day whatever she touches converts into something new: bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between. 

Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.

 

The morning after Lette Simoneau turns thirteen she awakens to find she can feel colours. Weird? Lette thinks so. Not quite the superpowers she might have dreamed of.  It was so bizarre to be able to tell what colour an object is just by touching it. Lette couldn’t see the point of such a lame power, but she didn’t realise this was just the beginning.

 

As the summer weeks and months pass, the touch as Lette calls it, manifests in different ways and on an ever-increasing number of occasions. Each day’s manifestation is different, Lette could be turning objects into gold one day, or cupcakes or sandwiches another day, and sometimes into much more dangerous things. 

 

I love the interaction between Lette and George, her mother’s evil cat. Eventually the inevitable happens and Lette inadvertently touches George with hilarious consequences.

 

The book is written in journal entries and through this we get to know, like and sympathise with Lette and, as one disaster follows another, she decides living alone is her only option. Despite this less than satisfactory way of life Lette copes with her situation very well. She’s a strong protagonist with a great character. 

 

Some days I can’t believe I’m almost twenty-three, or that I’ve spent the past five years living in my parents’ little mountain cabin. Luckily, it’s close enough that my parents visit most weekends. And money is never a problem because Mom’s friend Eric, who runs a pawn shop off Pioneer Square in Seattle, is always able to take the melted down gold or other valuables I’ve touched and change them to cash with no questions asked.

Sure, there were bad days, but lots of good ones too. I discovered I love working in my garden. But even with heavy gloves over my surgical gloves, gardening is hell on latex. Still, most of the craters from that landline-touch day are now filled with dirt, and it looks like a really good year for my tomatoes. That is, if I can just get them to stay tomatoes and not turn them into small pink bunnies or straw hats or whatever that day’s touch is.

 

Lette isn’t destined for this kind of life much longer though, as she learns of a place where she could live normally. There’s much more to life than living as a virtual prisoner and when the opportunity to travel to Null City arises Lette doesn’t think twice. What follows is an amazingly imaginative and innovative adventure with Stefan and Rag, two great central characters. Lette has to make some hard decisions and, at the same time, learns some valuable lessons, on her journey, not least of which is making the best of a sometimes challenging situation.

 

I love that the villain of the piece is a horrific beast-like creature of folklore, said to be the son of Hel, and is part of a tradition which is centuries old. You just know when you read something written by Barb Taub it’s going to be vividly imaginative and full of humour, fun and excellent writing. This intriguing and engaging story is no exception. 

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review 2013-10-28 00:00
Still Star-Crossed
Still Star-Crossed - Melinda Taub I thought this was really a cleaver story. It is definitely Shakespeare inspired. I liked the concept of "the rest of the story". Romeo Juliet come off as lovesick puppies. The nod to will's language may be off putting to some.
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