Before I read it, it felt like I’d been waiting for Norse Mythology my entire life. In the sense that I wanted it so badly the minute that I heard that it was coming.
So, oops. It’s fine, but it’s not, like, life-alteringly amazingly incredible. I could have waited another minute before reading it. Taken a breath. Read something else. Taken this to the beach.
Which isn’t to say it’s not a delight, it’s just that it doesn’t take a thing and change everything you’ve known about it while remaining true to the thing you knew, and make it all even better. It’s just a bunch of stories about the Norse gods, as told by Neil Gaiman.
And that’s great, because if Neil Gaiman were just narrating my boring life, he’d make it sound interesting, and thematically water-tight, and just hilarious enough without being diminishing. And the stories that he’s riffing on are rich and interesting, and right up his alley.
But he doesn’t do anything with them. The Norse gods stay where they belong, in their exciting and interesting myths. They remain true to their known personalities, and play the roles they’ve played out for as long as the stories have been told.
I love Gaiman, and I love his obsession with the phoenix (see: Fragile Things, among others). For some people, it’s thematically tied to the ouroboros (full disclosure: I have only one tattoo, and it’s an ouroboros), and so I wasn’t surprised that Gaiman latched onto the character of Jörmungandr, the world serpent who lives in the sea surrounding the earth, and fills it, encircling the earth itself, destined to end the world, and yet be reborn to repeat history indefinitely. Honestly, it’s reassuring, that Gaiman can be so personally predictable to hook into such interesting themes, and use his voice to tell them. Sometimes, the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented.