I wrote this as part of a review swap, so if that should factor into your opinion, please consider it.
I have a lot of strong feelings about this novel, which I'll just call GODS from now on. Truthfully I did not get far, and I believe there is much more to it than what I just read, but what I read was deeply flawed not because of its prose (which do need refining) or its concept (which I find interesting).
I'll start with an anecdote. I was given two puppies for my 13th birthday. I had no siblings, and before then I had no real bond with animals, though I had kept fish in aquariums, and snakes in terrariums, and things like that. I had even been afraid of dogs for most of my childhood, after I was attacked by one. I was anxious about having them, but a bit excited. I don't think I expected to get so attached to them.
For 10 years on, my dogs were like the siblings I never had. I treated them like family. They were there with me for my ups and downs, through the difficulties of my **** years, and even when I had been locked out of my grandfather's house in the bitter cold, in the dead of night, alone on a mountain top. I had taken them outside, because the largest of the pair, Rainier, was whining. I didn't have my pants on, just the shorts I was sleeping in, and my jacket I left inside. It didn't occur to me that the wind could slam the door locked behind me.
So I waited, for hours, huddled with my dogs against me as I tried not to freeze to death. Eventually my grandfather, somewhat addled by his age, noticed I was outside and let me back in. If it had gotten any worse I would have had to break a window.
When I lost my dogs, I was about 24. It was an remains the worst, hardest experience in my life. I can't recall it without tears in my eyes. Shasta, the smallest of the pair, we lost first to kidney failure. There was nothing we could do. Rainier, the largest, we lost to nerve degeneration in his hinde legs. Toward the end of his life, I carried him out into the yard--very big dog, cradled in my arms--so that he could barely prop himself up to use the bathroom. I watched him day and night as he lost control of the lower half of his body. Both Rainier and Shasta had to be put down. I was there for Shasta, hand on her head the moment her life ended. Rainier, I couldn't bear to watch. It was too hard. That was my brother.
Now, I'll take a moment to compose myself.
What struck me while reading GODS was, firstly, that there was no conflict until the third chapter. That's very unusual for a novel, where conflict is the driving force behind all plots. Someone has something they want, or something they want to get away from. Conflict doesn't always mean fighting, but there is always a driving force behind a story, and that should be evident from the first chapter. I didn't see that, so that troubled me.
When we reach the wife and husband, I thought their interactions were somewhat alien, but perhaps that's a cultural thing. As someone who's been married for five years, I think I have some qualifications when talking about married-life dialogue. I thought it looked a little too clean, and a little too sterile. Then again, I can only talk about marriage from an american point of view. If my remarks on this seem brief and unhelpful, that's because it's a digression from what really troubled me. We'll get there in a moment.
The next thing that struck me as strange was that, after the main characters had shrunk down, they did not remark at all on the safety of their child. I think that would be a parent's first concern, the immediate threat that their progeny could be under, to say nothing of other problems they might perceive.
Later, the author demonstrates some confusion about the relativity of time. When we say time is relative, that's because we cannot objectively perceive time, we can only look at it from within its yolk. In fact, it could be argued that time as humans imagine it is just a helpful construct that has no scientific meaning. What we think of as seconds, minutes, or hours could mean completely different things to other creatures, and we would all have different understandings of its scale. None of us are able to see outside of that yolk--that natural understanding--intuitively. I don't think the characters could understand that time was changing when they were within it, because time is relative. Only from the outside would someone look at them and think they were moving slowly or quickly.
All of these qualms, I think, are minor points. The prose could use some work, but it's decent enough. Slight changes would improve the readability immensely, and even a few little tricks could make the whole work read better. I found myself catching issues constantly, but they weren't structure breaking, just bothersome.
What made me decide that this novel wasn't for me goes back to my anecdote, about my dogs. Not everyone loves their pets, and not every culture feels quite the same way about them, but I do feel strongly with regard to man's best friend. I do not believe for a second that my own dogs would have turned on me in such a ridiculous fashion, but let's say that they did. If I were in that situation, it would hurt me immensely to fight against my own dog, my brother.
That the characters didn't reflect on this hurt the story. They did not reflect much at all on anything that was happening to them, but merely reacted to the circumstances. And that's fine, it's fine... but I can't get those moments out of my head. Those moments of love, those moments of difficulty, and surprise, that I shared with my dogs for ten years. With more context, I could believe these characters just didn't care about Shaggy, or didn't feel close to it, or didn't feel like Shaggy was a member of the family. With the context I had, all I could think of was my own fallen family members. I would have done anything to avoid hurting them. That my decision played a key role in ending their lives hurts me to this day. It'll hurt me for the rest of my life.
I think GODS has something to offer, for someone. I think its lack of thoughtfulness and heart make it too alien for me.