Finally! My first Gaiman! As a fantasy fan I have been meaning to pick up one of his novels for a long time and finally got around to starting with American Gods. American Gods follows the story of Shadow who is finishing up a stint in prison and looking forward to getting back to his wife Laura and his old life. A day before he was due to be released Shadow receives the devastating news that his wife and his best friend have been killed in a car accident. On his way home after this life-changing news Shadow agrees to work for the mysterious Wednesday as his body guard and so begins their journey road tripping across America getting into all sorts of trouble.
Just quietly this book blew me away. Whatever I was expecting, Gaiman surpassed it and this is just the beginning of a love story between myself and his works. The short way of describing this book for me would be: have you ever watched the TV series Supernatural? (If you haven’t, please go out and watch the first five seasons immediately). There is an episode where my favourite demon-hunter brothers stay in a hotel that is inhabited by a host of pagan gods dining on the human inhabitants. This book is exactly this: a parade of pagan gods from around the world that are clustered in current day America. I love the way Gaiman explains how they came to be in current day America and all the little side stories interspersed with Shadow and Wednesday’s story. I found myself constantly googling to understand the background of each of these gods as I made my way through the book.
The gods themselves are a colourful bunch and I love Gaiman’s modern day versions of these ancient deities and the creation of society’s current gods. A true parody of today’s culture. This is an intelligent novel on so many levels but also superficially enjoyable as story plain and simple. The characters are a highlight. Each of the gods, as mentioned, are vibrant, eccentric and everything you would expect of a pagan god. Wednesday is mysterious and elusive, a character you try desperately to understand. Shadow is a great narrator, steady and constant his point of view is a pleasure to experience and I found myself only wanting a happy ending for him. The bad guys are fantastic – so much so that I am desperate to read his second book, Anansi Boys. They were imaginative and hilarious, capturing the essence of today’s society.
What caps it off is the excellent twist. I certainly did not see it coming and enjoyed every minute of shock and horror as I discovered how I was played. Do pick this book up if you have any interest in the gods of old. Do pick this up if you are a fan of Supernatural, it certainly has that same classic American vibe. Do pick this up if you like an epic adventure topped of with a plot twist. This is an excellent piece of work in my opinion and I look forward to not only reading this again but making my way through Gaiman’s back catalogue. I give American Gods five cards from the deck of life.