Tuesday, 16 February 2010
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Shadow is about to finish a three-year prison sentence when he is informed his wife has been killed in an accident. He is released a couple of days early in order to fly home for the funeral, but on the plane he meets a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job. Shadow, with nothing left to lose, accepts.
Working for Mr. Wednesday takes Shadow on a crazy, hazy road trip around America, meeting all manner of people & creatures, being kidnapped, haunted by his dead wife & seduced in his dreams. He must come to terms with the fact that he doesn't really know who he is, and he might have been chosen for this job for a reason. "A storm is coming..." they continuously tell him, and Shadow must find a way to stop it. But first, he needs to work out exactly who, and what, he is dealing with.
Another fantastic concept from Mr Gaiman - where does he come up with these things?: America is a country mostly made up of immigrants. People from all over the world have come & settled there, bringing with them their ideals, cultural identities, social structures and... their gods. But what happens when gods are transported to a new land and some generations later, forgotten about? Gaiman explores the psyche of American gods, from the forgotten (Anubis, Anansi, Odin et al) to the gods of a more modern society, such as gods of the internet, television and cars. Leprechauns with coin tricks, the murderous black god Czernobog, old ladies in nightdresses who pluck the moon from the sky, the walking dead and television figures that come to life are just some of the enthralling and delightful characters this book explores. I am once again dazzled and deeply impressed with Gaiman's imaginative prose. Really, this book is a mythology geek's dream-come-true; it is packed full of myths, legends, fables and folklore cleverly tucked into its every nook. If, like me, you're not so well-versed in mythological stories, this might be of some help.
The only thing that bothered me about this hefty novel (the edition I read was around 650 pages) was how many mystery-doors were opened in the first half or three-quarters of the book that subsequently then had to be closed & tied up towards the end. It made me feel somewhat as though the book was never going to come to an end (although it could be argued that is a good thing!). Gaiman's novels are always exciting, crazy, and imaginative, and this is no exception. American Gods made me re-appreciate the value of stories, old and new. People tend to reflect themselves in their fables, which is why fables are timeless and those who can tell compelling, illuminating, humorous or fascinating stories just should.