Thursday, September 1, 2011
BOOK REVIEW: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Release Date: Sept 2011
Headline celebrates the 10-year publication anniversary of this extraordinary novel from a storytelling genius.
After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the time until his release ticks away, he can feel a storm brewing. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But the storm is about to break...
Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to the heart of America.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neil Gaiman was born in England but now lives in Minnesota, in a big house of uncertain location where he accumulates computers and cats. Visit Neil's website at http://www.neilgaiman.com.
Stories, with Al Sarrantonio (B fmt, 04/11); Stardust Film tie-in; Fragile Things; Anansi Boys; Smoke and Mirrors; Stardust; Neverwhere.
It's a rare author who weaves a perfect, creative narrative from the best of all possible materials, and a rare book that entertains, challenges, and entices from cover to cover with such a narrative. Neil Gaiman's "American Gods," the latest literary offering from the High Priest of the English Language's Temple of Original Stories, achieves exactly this for exactly that kind of writer. In "American Gods," the author of "Neverwhere" and the creator of the Sandman graphic novels fashions a story that fans will find distantly familiar, and new readers will lose themselves inside within a few pages.
The book opens with Shadow, the main character and an almost Shakespearian anti-hero, walking out of prison to learn that his wife has died. On the plane ride home, he meets an enigmatic con-man named Wednesday who offers Shadow a job - and a second chance at life. With little else to do except practice coin tricks he learned in prison, Shadow reluctantly accepts and the two begin a wintery, Midwestern odyssey gathering other characters together in an attempt to weather an upcoming storm. The book follows’ Shadow's travels as he discovers who he's working for, what's going on, and more about himself than he would ever want to know.
Gaiman explores the sacred power hidden in the kitschy roadside attractions doting the landscape of America's many back roads; their once glorious power waning as people worship more modern cultural icons and ideas. The sprawling story pits the forgotten gods America's immigrated citizens brought with them to the new land against the high-tech gods of modern living in a war for the very right to be worshipped. Shadow is pulled headfirst into the dispute and ends up playing a crucial role in the upcoming battle. The meanings of life and death, self-worth, spiritual beliefs, and redemption are all explored with Gaiman's witty intelligence.
Gaiman's ability to entwine multiple plot lines with clever cultural critiques while maintaining fantastic character descriptions and an engaging narrative solidifies the fantasy/horror author's place as one of the world's best storytellers. Much more than a magical tale of combating Gods, Gaiman paints a picture of a melting pot left too long to boil, and a country who worships the next big thing a bit too easily and with little consideration for its ancestry.
One warning before you pick up this book: it is not a happy book. For those who are familiar with Gaiman's work, this revelation is no surprise. But for those who want just another summer reading book . . . death and disappointment abound in GODS. The murder mystery is solved (and solved well), but it leaves the reader with a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. Shadow learns a lot about himself, but a lot of it is bad news. Some wonderful, seemingly good characters are (like Hunter in NEVERWHERE) actually very, very bad. Shadow never seems to catch a break in his personal life, either. These aren't drawbacks, mind you, but things to consider before starting the very, very *long,* addictive read.
I feel as though I have not done the book justice with my rambling review. So here's my final statement: AMERICAN GODS is truly one of the finest novels I have ever read. If you have the time to invest, I strongly urge you to purchase AMERICAN GODS. You won't regret it.