American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
American Gods is Gaiman as his most Gaiman-y. This is the place where we see him twist up the myths of old and use them for his own personal pleasure, to make his own personal points. Oh, and how great he is at this.
This story is equal parts post-modern as it is gothic. I say this because you can't have a story where you break down the structure to tell different threads of story without nodding the like of Vonnegut and you can't have dead lovers coming back without having some sort of affair with the darkness.
Yet, what really drives this story forward is the commentary on belief that Gaiman plays to. To many it may seem that he is poking fun at religion or some such thing. Or stating that America is a place devoid of belief, and yes, he does say that in the text but that is not the whole of the point.
In one way Gaiman is talking about how, here in America, we put our belief more into things than we do Gods or some other sort of mystical power. Yes, I know that there is Christianity, but still, is the desire to go to Heaven not, in a way, a greedy thing?
Indeed, the fact that the internet and TV are Gods here in America and has, in fact, destroyed our economy, is a pretty direct statement. One that is one the nose, but is one that is obvious.
What is really interesting is that, while looking at the nature of belief, we get a look at the nature of greed and power. Odin is, after all, seeking to regain is glory and keep living strong, even at the expense of many, many others.
Gaiman takes Gods and makes men of them and, the real trick to it all, he does it without taking any of their mysticism away. That, my friends, is true skill.
My only real issue is that Shadow, as many of us know, is a boring character. Not a bad character. He serves as a filter, letting us see the world, much has Hauldon Caulfield did in Catcher in The Rye. Yet, because he is so devoid of self it is hard to really know how to take him. Hell, his girlfriend even states that Shadow just exists, doing nothing. The reason for this I cannot fully say, yet still, even with this minor flaw Gaiman has made a classic fantasy/gothic tale that everyone should read.
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