Sunday, January 20, 2008

Worlds That Never Meet

Running through the blogroll today, I see that Pat's Fantasy Hotlist is reviewing Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. He's very positive, as he usually is, and burbles a bit more than I would have. (I like American Gods, but I found the ending a bit of a fizzle.)

What intrigued me, though, was his description of American Gods as "Neil Gaiman's signature work." And my first reaction was, "Come on, he'd been Neil F-ing Gaiman for nearly a decade when American Gods was published; there's no way that's his signature work." But then I thought about it a bit.

American Gods was Gaiman's first "big" novel -- it came after Neverwhere (the novel version of Gaiman's script for a teleplay that wasn't a big success in either form) and the odd object Stardust. (It was around that era when I pointed out that Gaiman's publishers were promoting every single Gaiman novel as his first something -- first novel, first illustrated novel, first novel-written-as-a-novel, first YA novel -- and wondered, as a joke, how long they could keep that up.) For those benighted souls who don't read comics and never came in contact with Sandman, American Gods might seem to be Gaiman's signature work.

I still won't admit that it is -- that would be like saying Woody Allen's magnum opus was "The Kugelmass Episode," simply because it's his best-known piece of prose -- but I can see where it comes from. Though it still does seem odd to me that the worlds of fantasy novels and of comics, which have so much in common, can be so separate to some audiences.

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