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Little Black Book Reviews
on July 2, 2017
American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a modern American epic like no other. In the modern United States, incarnation of the old gods and the manifestations of modern idols butt heads, as religion and progress often do. The story follows Shadow Moon, an ex-con and a widower who is pulled into the conflict by Odin, The All-Father after his wife Laura is killed in a car accident along with Shadow’s best friend.
A lot can be said for an author’s ability to reshape the ancient tales. Stories of the old gods, creation, and judgement of death have enough in common it’s not difficult to imagine them existing in the same universe. For all we know, they have weekly staff meetings.
Gaiman very obviously loves myth and legend as much as the histories that made them so. Since we no longer depend upon oral tradition, we’ve been able to spread religious ideals across the world, but with modernity right on their heels.
This book is a transition more than a work of true fiction, in my opinion. Being written on the cusp of a new millennium and published shortly thereafter had such an impact on how it’s perceived by an audience. Now that we see what has happened to America, 15 years later, we can not only draw parallels between history and myth, but between potential and talent.
This book changes the way we look at the old religions. Well, it at least changed how I do. Since I read The Iron Druid chronicles before finding out about this book, I can honestly say as a personal journey, American Gods smothers the emotional fire. Kevin Hearne is one of my favorite authors and the way I read his books was as an RPG of sorts. Neil Gaiman on the other hand, while having written a brilliant book, stays a little farther back from Shadow than I liked, and I couldn’t get the same insight as into a first person POV. The greater advantage to third person in the case of American Gods is, Gaiman had the opportunity to sell back story and exposition a lot better than The Iron Druid could in first person.
This was a ballad written by a bard who lived on this fantastic journey, but to tell his story, he must go on the occasional tangent. While somewhat disjointed as a result, American Gods was an encouraging read filled with truth and lies, fiction and nonfiction, and progress in the face of tradition.