American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

American Gods revolves around the idea that gods are alive when people believe in them; and that when people travelled to new lands seeking new life and fresh opportunities, they took their old gods with them – and then, with new beliefs and new ideas, created new gods.

In the midst of this we have Shadow, an ex-convict fresh out of prison, armed with coin tricks and little else. Almost immediately after leaving, he finds himself being recruited by a mysterious stranger, who turns out to be more than what meets the eye. The old gods and new gods have apparently decided that they could not co-exist, and therefore a storm is coming. The war has started, but the battle is yet to come.

Old gods
Back in my day, we had it all set up. You line up when you die, and you answer for your evil deeds and for your good deeds, and if your evil deeds outweighed a feather, we’d feed your soul and your heart to Ammet, the Eater of Souls.”
“He must have eaten a lot of people.”
“Not as many as you’d think. It was a really heavy feather. We had it made special. You had to be pretty damn evil to tip the scales on that baby.

Awesome. I’ve always wondered about this part of the Egyptian mythology.

Background knowledge on Norse, Greek, and Egyptian mythologies in particular is recommended (but not entirely necessary), because the book isn’t going to point out and explain the respective gods and their personal brand of powers. It could be quite fun, though, to play Spot-The-God.

“Hey," said Shadow. "Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are."
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
"Say 'Nevermore,'" said Shadow.
"Fuck you," said the raven.

Odd, random references, too. I had to google this and found a video about a raven saying Nevermore. Anyway, this cracked me up. Sometimes I wonder about my sense of humour.

And new gods:
“I got hijacked by a fat kid in a limo,” said Shadow. “He says to tell you that you have been consigned to the dung heap of history while people like him ride in their limos down the superhighways of life. Something like that.”

The new gods were constantly trying to get Shadow over, because for some reason both sides want Shadow on their team. I like Shadow, sometimes. He’s not a very interesting guy, but he could be brave, even if it is the courage of those who had nothing to lose.

“And if you die?” asked Mr. Nancy. “If it kills you?”
“Then,” said Shadow, “it kills me.”

My thoughts
I’m not sure about the ordinary paperback version, but my copy is the 10th Anniversary Edition and thus had 12k words extra. I suspect this includes some of the short stories that are seemingly not relevant to the main narrative scattered throughout the book; glimpses into the lives of immigrants and their respective encounters with deities from their homeland. For example, Essie Tregowan, who was in my opinion a mild version of the infamous Moll Flanders, but with less notoriety and fewer babies. Some of the vignettes had revoltingly gross scenes, eg. a man swallowed by vagina. That’d wake you up if you were falling asleep reading. Although I’m sure some of the Gaiman fans were more revolted by the idea of falling asleep reading a Gaiman book.

Reading was slow; prose was good but yours truly was not hooked. I did not find it objectionable, however, therefore I persevered. In the midst of the plethora of 4 & 5 stars given by my friends and the booklovers community, I find myself only able to give this a 3. My honest opinion.