Rating: 4.5 Stars
This review has been a long time coming, considering I finished this book more than a week back, and have already written a review for a book that I read after this. The thing is, that I haven’t been able to gather my thoughts into something coherent. There are a lot of things that make me like American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and I want to be able to put them all into words.
Gaiman has a knack of creating memorable characters. From Richard Mayhew, Door and Marquis De Carabas from Neverwhere, to Shadow, Wednesday and Mr. Nancy from American Gods, Gaiman’s characters have a magnetic pull to them that makes you want to go on an adventure with them. They are endearing, exasperating, irritating and funny all at the same time. And they are working on two levels.
American Gods is a very interesting book even if you read it on a superficial level, without assigning any hidden meanings to it. It is the story of Shadow, who is released from prison after three years, only to find that his wife has died one day before his release. He is recruited by a shady man called Wednesday, who has some equally dodgy friends. What ensues is a roller coaster ride which is reminiscent of Percy Jackson, but for adults. In the middle of all this, is the abundance of mythology from all over the world. Reading it made me wish I knew more mythologies than just the basic knowledge about some gods.
As the events move towards an epic war between the gods, we are introduced to the two sides, the Modern and the Ancient, both fighting for survival and relevancy. And the battleground is the United States of America. It is this country that all powers want to dominate, and are willing to do everything to achieve this end.
If you read this book with an open mind, you soon realize that everything is not as it seems. When you first realize who Wednesday really is, you are compelled to go back and look at the story from the beginning, with new understanding and clarity. As the story progresses, it is evident that this book is also a commentary on present day United States, and how materialism and technology are rapidly taking over the society. Materialism had become the new religion, and as a result, faith in things like gods and divine beings has taken a back seat.
In American Gods, you see these forgotten deities and gods trying to fight to stay alive in the hearts of people. That they do it while being crazy and funny, is what the beauty of this book is. I have to admit, I am a sucker for madcap characters and this book has them by the dozen!
For me, American Gods is a winner, but it is not for everyone. It has mythological creatures and different gods, and for anyone not comfortable with reading about these, this book is not the way to go. If you’re offended by the thought of these mythological beings, then please stay away from this book!