American Gods - Neil Gaiman

This is a work of fiction, not a guidebook. ... Futhermore, it goes without saying that all of the people, living, dead, and otherwise in this story are fictional or used in a ficitonal context. Only the gods are real.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, though I haven't actually read many of his novels. Mostly I've read his comics and children's books. But as I've said before (about his "Sandman" series in particular), Gaiman has a talent for making everything seem both familiar and new, and this book is no exception. The premise here is that all the gods are real: they were brought to America by the people who believed in them, but they live on that belief. Now they're weakening, supplanted by the new gods of technology, media, cars.

In the midst of this comes Shadow, a man who was released from prison the day his wife died in a car accident. A mysterious Mr. Wednesday shows up and persuades him to be his bodyguard, and things just get stranger from there. The story of Shadow and Wednesday is interspersed with stories about gods and coming to America, from Siberians crossing on the land bridge long long ago to Norsemen arriving in their longboat to Irish immigrants bringing leprechauns.

It's a buddy story and a road trip story, a murder mystery and a crash course on Mythology 101. Gaiman dug up (or made up) enough gods and legends that to throw some away in a few words if he needed to. Some of them I recognized; many others I wondered if I should.

I really enjoyed the book, and I loved the sense that otherworldly things are happening all the time, right under our noses. There were several quotes I loved from the book, but I'll just leave you with this one, which is a bit long for my little random quote generator:

Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.

Fed to jonathan's brain | June 05, 2006 | Comments (0)


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