What if gods walked among us? In traditional myth the gods created the land, the sea, the sky, the animals, and finally the humans. But what if they didn’t? What if the gods are the ones who are made? What if they sprung forth from the human mind and the reason that these creations need worship and sacrifice is not to appease them, but to keep them alive? These questions and more are what Neil Gaiman tackles beautifully and not without that famous Gaiman dry humor. It all begins when a quiet and strong giant of a man called “Shadow” is let out of prison early. Normally this would be a good thing, but unfortunately the reason is not. His beloved wife Laura and his best friend Robbie were killed in a drunken road-head related car crash.
After losing both his cheating wife and his potential job all at once, Shadow is left with few options. On the plane to the funeral he meets a strange old man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, who asks Shadow to work for him. At first Shadow turns it down, but soon he is cruising the highways and byways of America, doing different jobs and tasks for Mr. Wednesday, meeting both old and new gods along the way. Throughout the novel the unlikely duo try to convince the old gods to fight in the war against the new gods. Some of the new gods include technology, media, celebrity, along with many other modern conveniences.
Though Gaiman is English he manages to portray America with understanding, and even sometimes affection. Though the novel can get a bit heavy at times it is still a delightful book that would appeal to any Gaiman fan, and if you like mythology and theology, so much the better. I highly recommend this novel and its sort of sequel Anansi Boys. Anansi Boys is a bit sillier and won’t have as many philosophical questions, but it is still a good read. Also in American Gods, Shadow fights a ridiculously tall drunken leprechaun named Mad Sweeney, so that is something to look forward to.
And for those of you who are based in Pittsburgh, PA, Neil Gaiman will be lecturing in the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, November 14, 2012. Tickets will be available August 27th. Hope to see you there!
Is there a book, television show, or movie you would like me to review? Just leave your suggestions in the comments section and I will do my best to review them.