I must say that, after reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I found that I didn’t totally love it. It didn’t leave me as bursting with excitement about the upcoming TV adaptation as I had hoped. However, I decided to check out the trailer anyway, and it actually got me pretty pumped for the show!
I’m not generally a fan of horror, and while Neil Gaiman perhaps isn’t specifically writing horror, his fantastical worlds are often quite scary. However, I love literary explorations of mythology, faith, life, and death, and most of his writing, from The Sandman to The Graveyard Book, deals with these themes in one way or another. As such, I’ve been meaning to read American Gods for a rather long time. With the TV adaptation of this book fast approaching, I finally picked it up. Gaiman succeeds, as always, at setting the perfect atmosphere and at creating mysterious characters. However, although I love the exploration of mythological and religious themes, there are also a couple of things that prevented me from completely falling in love with this book. I will delve into all of it below.
Spoilers for American Gods (the author’s preferred text version) to follow.
Most religious people believe in a god or gods that exist independently of humans, and that do not need anything in particular from humans in order to keep on existing. Some people believe their god or gods predate the existence of sentient life, or even of the universe itself. Neil Gaiman likes to play around with this idea of belief in deities. In particular, in his comic series The Sandman and in his book American Gods, he posits a surprising (to people of faith) scenario: what if gods exist only because people believe in them?
This has some fascinating implications for human (and, in Sandman, other sentient being) agency. It essentially grants superhuman strength to human belief, empowering us to control our own destinies. On the other hand, this premise also opens a whole bunch of cans of worms. It directly contradicts many faiths’ theology and causes issues with causality. Perhaps most chillingly, however, it introduces a degree of moral relativism that could (and in the stories, does) lead to unjust consequences.
Mild spoilers for the Sandman series and American Gods below.
When The Sleeper and the Spindle was first announced, I was excited. A gorgeously illustrated fairy tale retelling by Neil Gaiman, featuring Snow White as the warrior who saves Sleeping Beauty from her tower? Sign me up! It only just came out in the US last week, and I snapped it up when I saw it in my comic book shop. However, while the story is excellently told, and the pictures are beautifully drawn, it left me with mixed feelings in the end.
At long last, after a five-month wait (they’re certainly taking their time with this series), The Sandman: Overture #5 has arrived! Despite this being the penultimate issue in this six-part prequel, this issue again brings up more questions than it answers (Author Neil Gaiman really needs to stop doing that. He’s running out of time!). We—Syng and Mikely—are reviewing it jointly again. Join us for spoilers, summary, and analysis after the break, as we delve into darkness with Dream!
Syng: Merry Christmas! Guess what present Neil Gaiman and Co. got for us? Overture #4! And even though its release was delayed by a couple months, we don’t mind one bit. This time, Neil Gaiman (with art by J.H. Williams III and coloring by Dave Stewart) takes us on a journey to the stars and beyond the bounds of time. Spoilers in our summary and review below!
Dream keeps telling me to shut up about him, but I refuse!
See, I told you I was going to keep talking about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series! Today I’m going to discuss three ways in which the series subverts the expectations of readers familiar with Christian lore. These tropes are the Mystical Pregnancy, the Death of the Son of God, and God Dying for Our Sins. I think these departures from Christian canon are ultimately more “human”—more relatable and thus, perhaps, more believable.