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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the time until his release ticks away, he can feel a storm brewing. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But the storm is about to break...

Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to the heart of America.

Shadow is an ex-con about to be released from prison . . . but before his release he learns that his wife, Laura, has died. Suddenly freedom doesn’t taste quite so sweet.

Shadow’s life as he imagined it is no more, and in the midst of the ruins a stranger emerges . . . Mr. Wednesday is looking for an assistant, and Shadow takes him up on the offer of curious work.

But Mr. Wednesday is even more mysterious than Shadow first suspected. Because the old Mr. Wednesday is on a quest, of sorts. The once mighty Gods of old mythology are dying. They need humans to live – they need our belief and prayer, but modernity is taking over the piety of humanity – nowadays the human race worship at the altars of technology and marketing.

Mr. Wednesday, along with his faithful side-kick, intends to round up the Gods of yesteryear – every divinity from Egypt to Russia. Wednesday is gathering them in preparation for a storm that’s brewing – a day of days. And Shadow is intricate to Wednesday’s grand plan, even if he doesn’t know it yet. . .

"There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous."

‘American Gods’ was released in 2001. It won Neil Gaiman a Hugo and Nebula award, and remains a staple of the modern fantasy genre. The book is once again in the spotlight, with Gaiman recently announcing on his website that a Tom Hanks-produced HBO series is in the works. And to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of this beloved novel, a new edition has been released, complete with an introduction by Gaiman (in which he says that he’d love to revisit Shadow!).

I have always meant to read ‘American Gods’. It’s inevitable when you love fantasy/sci-fi as much as I do, that Gaiman’s name and this novel will be recommended. So I was thrilled to receive the special tenth anniversary edition in the mail – I needed no more encouragement to happily delve into this twisted fantastical mythological tale.

‘American Gods’ is a cross-genre extravaganza. Gaiman explores Biblical, mythological and fantasy worlds all within the framework of modern, desolate America. The novel is complex, less for the ideas Gaiman is exploring and more for the way he presents his narrative. The book consists of many mini-plots as Mr. Wednesday and Shadow go off on their quest to discover deities and idols of the past. I initially struggled with the veering storyline, wishing instead to concentrate solely on Shadow’s quest. But it quickly becomes apparent that Gaiman’s twisted tale is as much about the little-big God characters as it is about the wandering protagonist of Shadow. In the end I loved the side stories as much as Shadow’s over-arching journey . . .

Gaiman’s narrative may be initially difficult to follow, but his explorations are clear as day, as ‘American Gods’ asks the big questions in a fantastical way. Gaiman observes the shifting of humanity from God-fearing worshippers to technological consumers. He asks what happens to Gods and idols when there’s no one left to believe in them, and does our society still need worship? These sound like big, scary concepts – but Gaiman is exploring them with infinite wit, fancy and beauty. That was one of the things I loved best about ‘American Gods’ – that there’s a quotable-quote on practically every page;
"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."

Neil Gaiman’s epic mythology-fantasy novel is like Jack Kerouac meets Homer. Gaiman takes readers on a sweeping, rollicking journey across America – from Chicago to Rhode Island and many a dusty town in between. Every sort of idolized God is along for the ride – from those of Norse mythology to Egyptian deities. Armageddon is coming and Mr. Wednesday and Shadow need to get to the real American heartland for the coming battle.

Incredibly epic, ‘American Gods’ is truly a must-read novel.

5/5

1 comment:

  1. I have heard a lot about Gaiman and American Gods, but I have yet to read it... After such a stellar review I will have to check it out =D I totally trust your taste!

    xoxo

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