With the release of the American Gods TV Show, I decided to give the book a go and it is good! Very good!
What do you worship?
There aren’t many authors who have the kind of fandom that Neil Gaiman has, and “American Gods,” his novel about old-world deities trying to find purpose in the modern age, is a big part of that. One of the major questions about the show (in this age of “Game of Thrones”) was whether viewers need to read the book before watching the show. While the answer was technically “no,” there were nuances to it. For one thing, Green said that “You should! It’s wonderful.”
made me observe and think differently. It gave me a new context for the mythologies I had accepted for most of my life. It was bigger than the story of Shadow, or the girl Sam, or Czernabog, or about coin tricks, or about having one’s head smashed in for losing a game of checkers. For me, it was about how we allow our Old Gods to define our present worldview, and how we allow our New Gods to steal our awareness. Our mythologies set the boundaries of our culture, and paradoxically, as our culture changes, our gods sacrifice their immortality.
“Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all: God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you–even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.”
The creepiness factor is up there, the writing is brilliant, the main character is a big lug I couldn’t help but love.
The part of the story that affected me the most profoundly was the story of Hinzelmann and Lakeside. The mixing of good and evil, the blurring of lines, townspeople looking the other way – to such a degree that it never occurs to them to see what is happening right under their noses. Dead men’s bones. Deaths of legends. It affected me to my core. During the time I was reading American Gods
, it was this
which rocked me – I was doing the same thing – choosing and keeping and killing my own Gods, my own mythologies.
Shadow is our main character and he just got out of jail after doing his time of three years. Right before he is supposed to be released he is let out early, because his wife was killed, in apparently scandalous circumstances. The first 50ish pages were about the extent of where the book was interesting to me. Shadow meets Wednesday, and then the story turns into a bunch of mini stories and flashbacks, and I didn’t enjoy most of them. Some were okay, but the majority just felt like annoying disruptions, and I felt myself thinking this is yet another longer book that could benefit from losing about 100 or so pages from the dragging middle. Shadow is paid by Wednesday to be an errand boy while he travels America trying to rally his troops in preparation for a war between The old Gods, and the new Gods (media and money) I guess it’s my own fault. I couldn’t really bring myself to care about this war between the new and old Gods, because the Gods of Media and Money? Not my Gods…
The gods are indeed the best part of this very good book: they are degenerate and threadbare, and yet still gods, capable of inspiring allegiance and terror. I liked it, liked it a lot, but I can also understand why someone may dislike the work. Gaiman, in his storyteller way, has stepped over boundaries and stepped on toes. And not just religious or theological ideas, but nationalistic ideals as well. Gaiman has painted a portrait of America that is not photographic, but impressionist enough to grasp a resemblance of us as maybe we are, and maybe he gets closer to the truth of the matter than some are comfortable with. And I’m not talking about myths, but rather, as he puts it, the myths we have lived with, tangled into the skein of our culture and even formed ourselves.