Birds of Paradise by Oliver K. Langmead is an interesting Speculative novel. It is definitely in the American Gods vain. Reading it I keep thinking back about the Neil Gaman masterpiece that I read in my late teens and that truly transformed my vision of road trips.
So what is the book about?
Imagine if the first man still walked to the earth with all the animals of Eden. But they don’t quite look like animals, and eternal life isn’t exactly what it’s cracked out to be. In fact, Adam has trouble remembering anything, it’s too painful, but remembering might be the only way to save all his animal friends.
I will be frank, I don’t quite know what to think about this book. Is it a Vegan novel? Is it nothing such, and more of a religious fantasy book? I really don’t know, and I don’t even know how I feel about it. The writing is alright, clear, fast paced, some of it is nicely evocative. But I felt uneasy towards Adam.
I guess when you have lived from the very beginning of human-kind, it is normal to care little about everything. But Adam does care about his old animal friends and about vegetation a lot. People on the other hand, is something else. And I guess that’s what made me uneasy. All the main characters in this book give very little value to human life, contrary to animal and even plant life. It’s strange. And I guess I could’ve understood it as being a slow transformation of people with an eternal life growing more and more callous and uncaring as loss grows and grows around them. But that’s not the case, we see a flashback earlier on, of Adam killing his first person while he was still in Eden – the reason is explained and we feel for him… but at the same time it didn’t make sense next to all of his caring attitude towards little gestures of people. To me it just felt out of character somehow. The violence as always being a part of him made him feel like a static character that had never changed in thousands of years.
I don’t know enough about christianity to know if there were a lot of references and allusions to certain events reinterpreting the origin myth, but it didn’t really feel like it.
I think my biggest problem was probably linked to the fact the story was extremely focused. There is only one problem and while it is a good idea and root issue, I missed side plots and just more complexity, more things growing out of that idea. I feel like the plot was too clean and bare. I like the winding roads and the clutter and interesting concepts that are just touched on and give food for thoughts in the back of the mind. Somehow I think this story would have worked more as a film than as a novel. In fact I think I would have liked it much more as a 1h30 movie.
I do think people who loved American Gods will enjoy it, there is definitely enough similarity, but I’m afraid it hasn’t got the same impact.