American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American GodsA review by Nalini Haynes

The old gods of Europe migrated to America with their worshippers. As people started serving different gods, the old gods lost power, currently struggling for survival not unlike some of the immigrants. New gods have arisen, empowered by faith and worship of the current age; these include media, drugs and technology. The old and new gods are preparing to face off against each other in an epic battle, hence the title American Gods.

Shadow has done his time in gaol and is released, only to find that his wife Laura was killed in a car accident along with Shadow’s employer (for parole purposes) whom Laura was giving a head job to at the time. Mr Wednesday attaches himself to Shadow as Shadow travels home. At first Shadow turns down Mr Wednesday’s job offer, but eventually he turns to Mr Wednesday for employment and a purpose. Shadow unkowingly resurrects his dead wife in her deteriorating state.

Graphic sex includes a scene where Bilquis, a goddess, poses as a prostitute to absorb her client through her sexual organs to increase her powers. At first this seemed gratuitous, but later this proved to be part of revealing the nature of the old gods.

Gaiman blends the mythical with the everyday so that the ordinary becomes weird, out of kilter, unpredictable. American Gods is a reinterpretation of our world and our time, invoking mystery and exploration whilst simultaneously building the threat of the epic battle between the gods. Darker than Stardust, darker than Neverwhere, American Gods is a novel for those who enjoy gritty tales, myths connecting with contemporary times, those who want something other than paranormal romance, and most especially for Neil Gaiman fans.

This is a classic as evidenced by its release as a 10th anniversary edition. Highly recommended.

Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.