Wednesday 7 March 2012

OOohh :-) American Gods by Neil Gaimon

Now I’ve started with this book reviewing thing, the list of books I need to review is rapidly expanding, and yet I haven’t yet posted another review.  Well I guess, given that it’s the weekend and I have some spare time, I should remedy that.

So I discovered, or rather finally explored, the rather wonderfully shiny City Library in Newcastle a week or so ago.  It’s a new glass building with 3 floors, and as a friend of mine commented, on first glance you can’t see any books.  Well after further investigation, they definitely are there!  The fiction section seemed quite small to me, and so when I started searching for something specific (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, review imminent, following my trend of classic sci-fi), I first checked online whether they had it.  Turned up, couldn't find it, and asked a librarian, who went to a special backroom to find it.  Amazing!  I mean I can see why that copy wasn't on's rather old and battered and is a boring hardback without a decent cover.  I just got so excited by the idea that they had more books in storage somewhere...  It's like the University Library all over again - a secret chamber of hidden books, that only the librarians get to see, unless you are lucky enough to work out how to use the catalogue and request one.  Anyway, I picked up Fahrenheit 451 and The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht at the City Library just after I came back from my trip to Germany a few weeks ago, where I had devoured American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  So, review...

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

We meet and follow an ex-con as he tries to come to terms with the death of his wife.  He travels around the States, getting mixed up with a bunch of gods.  That is, the old gods, the ones that came over with all the different settlers from around the world.  Mainly the ones we focus on are the old European gods who are waging war on the new gods, the gods America itself has created.  But by the end we have also met Indian gods, gods of technology and communication, gods of the moon and the stars.

Crazy things happen.  Shadow (that's the main character, good name actually) learns to see the world in a different way, meets his dead wife, solves a murder that has been recurring for decades...  And I followed it.  The crazy suspension of disbelief, which practically starts from the first chapter, just keeps on going because I believed in Shadow.  He was real and those gods were real.  Can you imagine being dragged to a new country, adored, and then put aside?  Well, yes actually, that sounded exactly right for the consumerist culture of today.  And it's all interspersed with short chapters about the history of other gods, so that we're not trapped with Shadow the whole time.  I swallowed it whole, just like the female god does to a man in one of the chapters.


The first I'd heard of Neil Gaiman was a friend raving about Neverwhere, and then another friend claiming he just couldn't get anywhere with American Gods - had started it and floundered.  Well I guess this might not be a book for everyone.  But if you like journeys, epic books, thoughts that will stay with you long after the memory of the plot has gone (slightly true of me honestly, as my short review above will testify), then read this.  If you are completely plot driven, I can see how you might flounder...

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