Wednesday, April 8, 2009

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

2001; 588 pages. Genre : Contemporary Fantasy. Awards : 2002 Hugo Award; 2002 SFX Magazine Award; 2002 Bram Stoker Award; 2004 Geffen Award. It cleaned up, man. Overall Rating : A..

    The story follows Shadow, a somewhat naive and sunny-dispositioned chap, after he gets out of prison and falls in with a bunch of long-forgotten gods, the main one of which is named Wednesday, and whom we quickly figure out is an incarnation of the Norse god, Odin. Wednesday's rallying lots of old, forgotten gods and legends (like Johnny Appleseed) in preparation to a war against the "new" American gods - such as the Internet; the Media, etc.

What's To Like...
    There's a slew of complex plotlines, all of which Gaiman manages to deftly tie up by the end of the book. The plot-twists will leave you mumbling, "I didn't expect that". I found almost all the characters - whether they were major or minor; good or bad; humans or gods - to be 3-D and interesting. Finally, it's a mythology-lover's smorgasbord. Gaiman pulls in gods and folk characters from all sorts of nationalities - German, Norse, Egyptian, Slavic, American Indian; India Indian; Arab, and more.
Can't you say anything negative?...
    Not a lot. The book reads like a mini-trilogy. The first 200 pages are fantastic; and so are the last 200. The middle 200 pages (where Shadow is hanging out in Lakeside) drag just a bit. And call me a prude, but the sex scenes were a tad raunchy and unnecessary. They could've been edited out, and Gaiman would still have a bestseller on his hands, but it would now be something that a High School Lit class could read and discuss. I didn't need to know the lurid details about how Salim and the Ifrit managed to meet and swap identities.
What kind of plotlines are there?
    #1 : Shadow is on a quest to figure out who he is.
    #2. : Shadow is trying to find out who his father was. Mom never talked about him.
    #3. : Shadow's wife passes away (in a most Garpian manner) right before he's let out of prison. She's now a ghost (insert plug here to watch 'Ghost Whisperer' on Friday nights); and Shadow is most persistent in trying to find a way to bring her back from the dead.
    #4. : Why are kids disappearing at the rate of one a year from Lakeside?
    #5. : How can Odin (or any other god) be hanging out in America and at the same time have people still believing in him back in Scandinavia?
    #6. : How can the new American gods be overcome?
    #7. : That whole Armageddon/Ragnarok thing.

    .And they all get resolved by the end of the book. No 11-part series here. We'll give American Gods an "A" and look forward to reading the kinda-sorta-but-not-quite sequel, Anansi Boys, in the near future.

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