Author: Neil Gaiman
Paperback, 608 pages
Publisher: Harper Torch
Publication date: April 2002
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Have you ever wondered how the Gods of immigrants to American handle Their worshipers in the homeland as well as the melting pot? Or what happens to Gods that people have forgotten? Neil Gaiman has apparently given the matter some thought, and his response is the 2002 Hugo Award-winning novel American Gods.
The story opens with a man named Shadow waiting to get out of prison. We learn a bit about him, a bit about his roommate, and a fair amount of information that seems extraneous at the time. On his flight home, he ends up sitting next to a man who, when asked his name, replies, "Well, seeing that today is certainly my day -- why don't you call me Wednesday? Mister Wednesday. Although given the weather, it might as well be Thursday, eh?"
Throughout the tale, we are gradually introduced to a number of such Deities, sometimes directly, more often through clues such as the above. While this is enjoyable for any sf/fantasy reader with a modicum of mythology under their belts, it may be particularly intriguing for Pagan readers to see how their Deities are portrayed. The one Pagan person we actually get to meet is, sadly, a rather poor specimen.
The plot advances at a fairly constant pace, with brief interruptions that seem at first to have little to do with the main storyline, but eventually they start to fit in. Gaiman keeps the reader (and Shadow) guessing as to the true nature and motives of the Deities involved. As those natures and motives unfold, underlying themes about the nature of Deity and worship are subtly explored. This adds layers of depth that do not intrude on the action, but are there if the reader chooses to delve into them.
If you are looking for a book that will entertain a passive reader, you may wish to skip over this book. However, if you enjoy fiction that not only provides a certain amount of mystery solving, but also offers fodder for philosophical and theological musings, then I highly recommend American Gods.
Reviewed by Diane Verrochi