American Gods was written some ten years ago. It has won a number of prestigious awards. It appeared on the best seller lists last January about the time HBO announced they were going to turn it into a multi-season television series much as they did GRR Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It is certainly a long enough book with enough action to provide several seasons worth of television.
I’ve got to be honest, I struggled with this book. I’ve been trying for a few days to put into words exactly why. Perhaps it is the hodge-podge of religious imagery, myth and legend. Perhaps it is my ignorance of some of the pantheons involved. Perhaps it is because the main character is dazed and confused through most of the story. Perhaps it is simply that the themes are a bit dark and disturbing.
The story centers on a man known as Shadow, an ex-con who is preparing to be released from prison a few days after the start of the story. He is actually released a day or two early due to the death of his wife in a car accident. On his way home he meets a man named Wednesday with one glass eye who wants to hire him as a driver. Being at loose ends and knowing that jobs are going to be tough to find for an ex-con, he accepts.
Wednesday is an odd duck with even odder friends. As the story proceeds, Shadow also discovers he has some pretty odd enemies. Apparently, gods who are in vogue are wealthy and powerful. Gods who have fallen out of favor with the local population have to make their way as best they can as taxi drivers, butchers and even prostitutes. Now Wednesday is trying to get all the old gods together to fight a battle against the new gods so they do not become extinct in America. However, as all war mongers do, Wednesday has ulterior motives.
I spent large portions of this book feeling confused and wondering where Gaiman was going with his story. As I mentioned above, this may have been due to my own ignorance about many of the old gods the story revolves around. But I kept slogging through it. I really liked Shadow and wanted to know how things turned out for him. He is the perfect underdog, having made a couple of bad choices and then having a lot of bad luck come his way. But Gaiman makes it clear that he a good man and I kept waiting to see how things were going to turn around for him.