I had been meaning to read this book for a while, and finally got around to it in advance of the upcoming TV series. I actually read a new edition, illustrated Daniel Egneus, which is longer than the older editions of the book (so it’s taken me an absolute age to finish). The illustrations are dark and creepy and a fantastic complement to the story.
American Gods asks the question: what if all the gods that people have ever imagined are still with us today? We follow Shadow, a man who is released from prison a couple of days early following the death of his wife, as he is recruited by Mr Wednesday – a strange man planning a war between the old gods and the new. Along the way we meet a host of characters from both sides – including Easter, Ibis and Jackal, Technical Boy, and Mr Nancy – and watch as Shadow finds himself drawn right into the middle of a war between gods, full of impossible happenings (including the return of his dead wife, Laura).
It is, essentially, a road book. Shadow travels all over America following Wednesday’s orders, meeting strange characters and being followed by FBI-style agents, Mr World and Mr Town. Regular humans also come into the story along the way, making the whole thing somehow believable. It is a long and fantastical tale, but you will find yourself truly drawn in, and rooting for Shadow and the old gods, despite their many quirks and flaws.
There are two particularly great things about this book: the characters and the writing. There is such a massive mix of characters and all of them are special in their own way, and incredibly interesting. And Neil Gaiman’s writing is magic. Even if the story was bad (which it isn’t), Gaiman’s writing style would make it worth reading.
Finally, it does make you think, about gods and where they come from and where they go. What would happen if they decided to go to war, old vs new? Who would win?