Friday, March 4, 2011

Don't mess with these gods

Neil Gaiman is a born storyteller, I think. His works of fiction, including his young adult novels and graphic novels, have straightforward narratives. If one is looking for a good story, especially one with lots of fantastic elements, then he or she can't go wrong with picking up a Gaiman novel.

Having read most of his novels and a few of the Sandman series, I believe that his storytelling gift is at its best in American Gods. It's a doorstop of a novel with elements of everything -- horror, fantasy, mythology, romance, adventure, and even a murder mystery. The novel does have something for everyone, and I think that very few readers would finish it unsatisfied.

American Gods focuses on Shadow, an ex-con who's hired by a mysterious character named Wednesday to do errands for him. Later on, we get to know that Wednesday is actually the Norse god Odin. Wednesday has taken it upon himself to rally the gods of the old world to band together against the new gods, who have declared war against these forgotten old world gods. There are no Christan gods in the novel. Gaiman has decided to focus on lesser-known mythological characters from different cultures such as those worshipped by Indian, Native American, Japanese, and Irish peoples, just to name a few.

It's difficult not to like Shadow. Gaiman has created a protagonist who is flawed, but one that is flawed in all the right places. Shadow is a huge guy, but he is gentle. Shadow may appear crass, but he can quote lines from the classic book Herodotus. He comes off as someone who'll play a trick on you, but he never goes against his word. There were times in the novel that Shadow's actions seem too predictable. Fortunately, Gaiman's storyline is always surprising. And the way Gaiman presents his other characters, most especially the gods, is a delight. I felt that I had to Google a particular mythological character just to have enough context regarding him or her.

I used to think that The Graveyard Book was Gaiman's best work. Now, I believe that it is actually American Gods. The story is rich and wonderfully detailed, the characters are multi-dimensional, and the writing is clear and tight.

Read this book if:
  1. You love mythology.
  2. You believe that gods do walk among us.
  3. You'll read anything by Gaiman.

19 comments:

Ryan G said...

Love this book though I haven't read it in years. I bought Ansani Boys, the sequel in a way, but haven't read that yet either. Glad you liked it.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ryan! I was actually introduced to Anansi Boys first. I listened to the audiobook and it was fun! American Gods though is very much darker.

Tin said...

I loved this book too. It's the first Neil Gaiman book I read and probably my favorite (over Anansi Boys and Graveyard Book which are both great nonetheless.^^)I also found myself doing a Google search on the Egyptian Myth characters as well as re-reading the Norse Mythology section on my Edith Hamilton Mythology book. I plan to get his other works but still undecided as to which to spend my dwindling funds on first. How's the Sandman Series? :)

Stepford Mum said...

I love this book.

Peter S. said...

@Tin: I love Gaiman's Sandman series. My favorite is Fables and Reflections. Yes, graphic novels are indeed expensive.

@Stepford Mum: Me too! I can't believe that it took me 10 years before I finally decided to pick up this book.

Vivienne said...

I read this when I started blogging and thought it was brilliant. I still have Neverwhere to read!

Spiral Prince said...

I have to find time to read this sometime. For now, I still think The Graveyard Book is his best work, but we'll see. :)

Peter S. said...

@Vivienne: Oh, I love Neverwhere as well!

@Spiral Prince: Well, it all boils down to what you like of course. Personally, I think American Gods is hard to surpass!

Anonymous said...

still on mt to-read list. i hope i am lucky enough and find a copy in booksale.

-geek

Peter S. said...

Hi, geek! I hear you on the mt TBR thing. I do hope you get to find a copy of this book soon! It's perfect for those long weekends!

blooey said...

I am not a Gaiman fan, but I loved the Graveyard book. I think I should give this a try.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Blooey! This doorstop of a book would be perfect for the readathon!

stokedbunny said...

you had me at Odin. haha! :) I should read Gaiman. =) - joko

Peter S. said...

Oh, you should, Joko!

Spiral Prince said...

I just finished reading it this morning! It's really, really, really good! I'll have to agree that it's better than The Graveyard Book, and so, it's his best yet! :D

Peter S. said...

Hi, Spiral Prince! I know, right? I think it's his best work too. Very detailed, well researched, tightly written. And an awesome story too!

Jaime said...

Oh man! I love this book! I about fell over giddy from excitement when my Sci-Fi/Fantasy book club picked this for June's read! Yay! Love it and any reason to read Neil Gaiman is a win to me. I also loved Neverwhere!

Shawn said...

I would have to agree, he is a great story teller.

psychosomaticaddictinsane said...

Hi Peter! :*

Galing-galing ng American Gods! I can't wait for the tv series! Wooohooo! nahilo lang ako sa sobrang daming characters dito. Mwehehehe. I never really thought I'd like Gaiman coz I didn't like Stardust (movie). I first liked him when I read his collection of short stories, Smoke and Mirrors. :)


- IYA