July 12, 2005

American gods/ Neil Gaiman

This is one book that you might be better off reading it first without reading any reviews. There's a surprising twist in the end, and you'd go "Ah, now I get it!". I'm mindful not to give anything away in posting this, but you'll never know. So don't say I didn't warn you.

The start of the first chapter already grips you. There is no snail's pace build-up to the plot. The moment I opened the page, I was drawn smack into the story. You are introduced to a convict serving time, but you sensed there was more. I sensed there was a betrayal... and upon hindsight, that theme set the tone for the entire story!

p423 - Conversation between Shadow & Samantha Black-crow sort of sums up the storyline:
"Would you believe that all the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today?... And that there are new gods out there, gods of computers and telephones and whatever, and that they all seem to think there isn't any room for them both in the world. And that some kind of war is kind of likely."
NLB Call No.: GAI (Adult Fiction section)
Click here to check for item availability.

The "American Gods" refers to the gods & beliefs that early migrants to North America brought along with them. The gods are portrayed to be as mortal as men.

This book could be described as a sort of Dark Fantasy genre with Horror and Mystery elements to spice things up. Ok, not exactly right to say it's Horror 'cos the Horror here isn't "creepy-horror" and it doesn't overwhelm the story. It serves to spice things up. There is a feel-good closure at the end. Certainly not dull. It may be Dark Fantasy but the book really ends with hope.

As I absorbed the pages, I couldn't help but think that Neil could easily turn the American Gods storyline into comic boo.

Some things made me do a literary double-take though. Neil suggests the English Pilgrims to North America weren't pilgrims but convicts in exile?

The characters are interesting to say the least. The hero is a convict named Shadow, whose wife cheated on him and is now a walking-dead. There's more -- talking dogs, Odin in the form of a man named Wednesday who's a modern-day shyster and confidence trickster. There are two Eypgtian gods who are etching a living in modern-day as morticians.

Some notes:
p127 - Joke about who's Frank Lloyd Wright's evil twin (ans = Frank Lloyd Left. Ouch.)

p146, 147 - Story of how the tiger lost it's testicles to Anazi the Spider (pure fiction? Or really such a legend? Nah, fiction I guess.)

p 202 - Salim meets a jinn (with flaming eyes) who drives a taxi (ok, some might find the final chapter scene a bit disturbing)

p271 - Quote: "... a town isn't a town without a bookstore".

p317/ 325 - Legend of the Thundebirds (thunder & lightning as they flapped their wings). Ok, what if old world legends were true but not what we think? Were they describing rocket ships thundering & flaming across open skies?

p 453 - We meet the King of Dwarfs

p 462 - Shadow meets a modern god named "Media" (implying that we now worship The Media instead of old gods). Which reminds me -- "The Fat Kid" represents Technology (he turns out to be cold-hearted and ruthless but insecure & neurotic)

P474 - We meet Loki

p478 - The characters present gives their eulogy to the slain Odin -- reflecting their individual nature. E.g. Media was just plain spin-doctoring & quoting taglines; Shadow was ever pragmatic; Nancy (a god) obviously belonged to the "old school".

p435 - "Freedom to believe means the freedom to believe the wrong thing, after all. Just as freedom of speech gives you the right to stay silent." (Interesting discussion points. E.g. does freedom of speech means freedom to say the 'wrong' thing?)

p506 - Was there such a book titled Gravity's Rainbow?

p534 -- Macha of the Morrigan (who's she?)

p 574 - So the new gods are afraid too!

p605 - (I don't quite get it -- who's Kobod?)

Another quote from p539 that encapsulates what the conflict is about:
"We have the firepower... They have f*king swords and knives and f*king hammers and stone axes. And like, tire irons. We have fucking smart bombs."

I read the story as a kind of parable between Technology Vs. Beliefs (i.e. superstitions, raw, bloody, barbaric). Which made me think: When future generations look upon our Now, will they say the same thing? Our reliance on technology and trappings of modern life is as much our ancestors reliance on their Old Gods.


Anonymous said...

Gaiman is amazing, I've used some of his work for auditions, and got the part. So I would defenatly recomend all of his work.

natalie_eve said...

American Gods is my favorite book.

>Some things made me do a literary double-take
>though. Neil suggests the English Pilgrims to North
>America weren't pilgrims but convicts in exile?

He didn't. England did send convicts to the colonies, as they did to Australia. By that time, there were settlers other than the pilgrims.


Nice review. :)

Anonymous said...

"p534 -- Macha of the Morrigan (who's she?)" Morrigan was an Irish goddess, mate.