Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Edition/Pages: Tenth Anniversary Edition (Hardcover)/541
Short & Sweet Synopsis: When Shadow is released from prison early upon the death of wife Laura, he finds himself caught up in a war where the old gods of mythology are pitted against the new, American gods.
A Little Background
I’ve never read a Neil Gaiman book before. He made my ever-growing “to-read” list years ago with The Graveyard Book, but as with so many others, I hadn’t carved out the time yet to obtain and read this particular tale. This meant that when someone offered to lend me one of his books, albeit an adult one, I accepted the offer immediately – after all, if I can’t (*ahem* haven’t made the time to) read the book that’s actually on my list to read, another book by that author is the next best thing, right? Right.
Off The Beaten Path
So off I went on my little Neil Gaiman reading adventure. I’ve kind of gotten used to the fact that most books I pick up are going to be, in some way or another, like something else I’ve already read. This, however, was completely different. American
Like all self-respecting pagan gods, Gaiman’s deities enjoy the human befuddlement that they cause. The joky tone of this exchange is characteristic of the novel, which delights in the incongruity of relocating ancient myths and deities in the small towns of America, observed as closely as only a non-American writer could manage.
Gods has one of the most original concepts I’ve read in a long time, probably one of the most original that I’ve ever read. It works under the premise that every god that has ever been believed in, that has ever been “worshipped,” is real. The Norse gods, the Greek, Native American tribal gods – if it’s been prayed to, it exists. Vishnu and Krishna and Shiva, oh my!
A New Story
Yes, yes, that part of the plotline is new and imaginative and all, but here’s where the real originality comes in: These gods are fighting for their survival (I know what you’re thinking: “Gods can die?”; I’ll get to that in a minute). They’re fighting for their survival against the new gods that so many worship, in many senses of the word. They are the gods of credit cards, of freeways, of the internet, and of fame. And the old gods are being forgotten – which is how they die. Enter Shadow. The book begins with his release from prison, and his meeting with a rather unusual stranger on a plane…and the rest you have to read for yourself. What? I couldn’t give too much of the plot away, could I?!
Bizarre, but Beautiful
In American Gods, Gaiman provides a cutting but at the same time insightful and occasionally laugh out loud funny criticism of American culture. By putting mythological and ancient beings in the setting of 21st-century America, he gave himself the perfect lens through which to analyze American culture. These gods in a way represent our roots, that so many have in reality forgotten, and as such it is possible to see the change from the first immigrants to modern America. While a fiction novel, it is full of honesty, and lessons for those who are willing to see them. It is admittedly a strange and winding tale, but a massive treat for those who stick with it till the end.
If you’re not already hooked on the idea, here’s what some other people think:
From The Ranting Dragon: This book examines our nation in a way few have attempted. American spirituality, obsessions and heritage are gathered together into a single novel that comments not only on the country we have become, but the nation we once were. Well worth the hours put into reading, I cannot more highly recommend a book, so I’m polishing my five stars and placing them high and proud.
From Writer’s Block: If you like straightforward, to the point literature, this is not for you. If you’re willing to go with the flow and enter into the spirit of the story, then it will be a great trip!
From The Founding Fields: A fantastically written novel. American Gods keeps you hooked and doesn’t let go. Unputdownable.
Well, why are you still here? You should be at the bookstore, buying your shiny new copy of American Gods! Or used, or from the library, kindle edition…no need to be picky – just find a copy and read it.