In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, all of the gods who people have ever believed in have a physical presence in every land where they have had believers. (So, for example, there is an Odin in Iceland, but there’s also a different incarnation of Odin in America.)
Shadow, a typically normal man, is released from prison after serving three years. On his way from prison to his wife’s funeral, he meets a man by the name of Wednesday who offers him a job as a bodyguard. After much persuasion, Shadow accepts, only to realize that things are a lot stranger than he had ever known. Working for a god, getting into a bar fight with a leprechaun and his dead wife walking into his hotel room (while she is still very much dead) are only the beginnings of Shadow’s adventures. A storm is coming, and Shadow must help Wednesday rally the older gods to battle the world’s new gods (gods of television and the like) before they become extinct.
Okay, wow. I know there are so many people who love this book, but wow. I don’t think I quite expected this, and it was completely awesome.
I love mythology. It was awesome how Gaiman was able to work all sorts of different mythology into one book – the Norse gods, Egyptian gods, Hindu gods… the only ones I really missed were the Greek/Roman ones. But other than that, I love how Gaiman was able to take these gods, give them all their proper characteristics, and yet still make them fully fleshed out people that didn’t feel like just an unimaginative copy of the myth. Totally awesome.
At the end of the book, I felt like I should’ve seen everything that happened coming. I mean, I was surprised about certain events, but as soon as they happened, and I thought back on everything leading up to them, I could see all sorts of clues pointing to these events and how could I have missed it? Gosh, I’ve missed reading fantasy books where I don’t know how things are going to work out and that surprise me! Certain elements, I knew, but for the most part… wow.
The only drawback I had for this book was that I found it a little slow to get into. But once I got to the half-way point, I lost a couple of nights of sleep just needing to finish it.
The Bottom Line: The more of Neil Gaiman I read, the more impressed I am. This is so different from the other books of his that I’ve read (Coraline, Stardust and a few of the Sandman series), and I’m so impressed that he can manage to write books that never feel the same. Definitely looking forward to reading more.