American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. This was my first foray into Gaiman’s work and I was spectacularly impressed. The conceit of the novel is that the Old Gods of Europe, Arabia, India and so forth followed their immigrant followers to the New World, but as the immigrants became Americanized and gave up the old ways, the Gods became weaker and weaker, eventually living like mortals as taxi cab drivers, funeral home operators, prostitutes and grifters. The New American Gods are composed of things the general public now “worships” (Media, Technology, Television, Money, the Interstate Highway System) and they are ready to finally knock off the shabby Old Gods and claim control of the spiritual realm that exists parallel to reality. The story follows Shadow, a recently-released prison inmate whose attempts to reconnect to his old life are detoured when he meets the (not really that mysterious) Mr. Wednesday. The writing is good, the descriptions tight and eloquent and the pacing good. My only complaints are that the ending felt rushed and was a bit of a letdown. If you spend 500 pages setting up a Ragnarok-like Battle of the Gods, it had better be pretty spectacular and this one wasn’t. Also, for a writer who clearly researched his gods, he made some spectacular goofs regarding the book’s Cherokee character (one who was built up, then rather haphazardly discarded); there are no reservations, Cherokee or otherwise, in Oklahoma (unless you count the subterranean Osage Reservation). Overall, though, a great read and one that encourages me to pick up more of Gaiman’s work.

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