Should You Read American Gods by Neil Gaiman?
If you’re like me and you’ve never read Gaiman before, then you’re probably at at a loss whether you should read American Gods. The reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are certainly contradicting so allow me to paint a clear picture to help you decide.
American Gods is a modern fantasy with a thriller twist. It’s based on the premise that the ancient gods came to America via immigrants who worshipped them and they still roam the country today despite the loss of people’s faith in them. Gods walk around like humans and interact with other people; however, the lack of worshipers (and blood sacrifices) has stripped the them of much of their power and reduced them to a life of crime, cunning, and depravity to ensure their survival.
Speaking of cunning, meet Wednesday who encounters Shadow, the main character, on a plane. Shadow got out of prison earlier than he was supposed to. The catch: his wife just died in a car crash along with his neighbor who had promised Shadow a job when he gets released. Conveniently enough, Wednesday offers Shadow a job in place of the one he never got, and this one comes with a lot of perks, but also grave dangers.
Thus begins Shadow and Wednesday’s journey across the country, chasing down old gods and fighting and escaping new ones who seem to be on a mission to kill them. Who are the new gods? Well, without this being much of a spoiler, the new gods in America are the things that people worship the most: technology, media, and everything wired.
In a statement to Vanity Fair Gaiman once said: …last night, when we were driving into the hotel, I passed a place, just a grass medium in the middle of the road, and there were about 200 people on it all standing there. And I thought maybe it was some kind of religious thing, and then I realized they were all holding their screens and looking for their Pokémon, and I thought, “They’re worshipping.”
Gaiman’s novel informs us about old deities, their origins and powers. It also paints a sad picture of the reality of gods America worships today. So if you fancy reading about mythology with a strong relevant message then this books is for you.
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Another reason you might love American Gods: Ghosts. SPOILER ALERT!!! Yes, Shadow is vigorously haunted by one of them, his wife’s. Except much like the gods, she’s seen, heard, and able to interact with our world as well as the one beyond. (END OF SPOILER)
Full of plot twists, myth, fantasy, insights, and quirky characters, I found American Gods to be a very engaging read. In fact, it’s so good, there’s a tv show based on it that I heard some say is even better than the book, but I’m a biased bookie so I reserve judgement.
Watch American Gods Season 1 on Blu-ray:
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Have you read any of Gaiman’s novels? Which of his work is your favorite? I’m going to read Anasi Boys soon which is set in the same world as American Gods but depicts different sets of characters.