I don’t know if this is cheating because I read this book 6 months ago but I have been thinking about it ever since and thought I would write a review before I embark on the TV show.
I’m not going to get into specifics because, and I’m not going to lie to you, I can’t remember everything. I am going to comment on the impression it has left me with, because really that is all that is important in the end.
American Gods follows Shadow Moon, a large burly man, who has been released from prison after the death of his best friend and wife. Newly released and alone he encounters Mr Wednesday, a curious gentleman who we later learn is Odin, who offers him the position of his bodyguard.
The central premise of American Gods is that all of the gods and spirits that humankind have worshipped over the years have infact been willed into existence. We encounter many of these including Odin, Loki, Thor and the Queen of Sheba, but unfortunately they are losing power as belief in them diminishes and are being taken over by society’s new ‘gods’: the internet, television, money etc.
What I really loved about this book was how it showed that we are all changing, yet still the same.
We may not sacrifice animals anymore but we do sacrifice our time, our attention. We don’t worship Gods at altars, we worship money, we worship with money. Our lives are so devoted to different forms of media, they might as well be our gods. I wouldn’t be surprised if written later, instead of the internet and television, he had written in Google and Amazon, these are now the people who control our fate.
There is also a lack of belief now, and before reading this book I wouldn’t have necessarily thought this was a bad thing, I like facts, figures and proof, but sometimes you need a belief in the unknowable, the unseen. A belief in each other. You need that belief and a little bit of selfless sacrifice to give you your power.
I’m not sure if that was Gaiman’s intention, he was probably aiming for people to talk more about America’s multiculturalism upon reading the book and the shaping of beliefs through time as these all these people converged together. I did really enjoy the snippets of these old God’s origins, how they came to America, but this didn’t affect me as much as the symbolism of the war between the old and the new Gods.