Back in June, Tim and I went to see Neil Gaiman do a reading and then get some of Tim’s books signed. I was familiar with Gaiman’s work – I was introduced to his writing through Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, and the Sandman comics that many of my friends were reading at the time. I’d read a few things he wrote, but for some reason, I never got into him enough to read his whole collection.
That changed when we went to the signing, half because of his excellent reading from The Ocean at the End of the Lane and half because I started reading Anansi Boys during the FIVE HOUR wait for him to sign Tim’s books. Yes, 5 hours. He is very popular.
Anansi Boys is a sort-of sequel to American Gods, a book I read more than 10 years ago and totally forgot, so I decided I’d better start there.
American Gods is, in a general sense, about a war between the gods of America – those who came to the new world with immigrants and those created by American culture. An ex-convict named Shadow becomes the unlikely helper of Odin, an elder god leading the charge against new gods like Media and Technology. His journey, which is both grand and personal, takes the reader through small town USA and introduces the personifications of deities from many parts of the world. Then they all fight. Yep.
- The gods are fascinating characters. Gaiman clearly did his research, but the gods aren’t general outlines of holiness. They’re real characters. Odin is a morally ambiguous charmer, Czernobog is a grumpy old man, Mr. Ibis is a vaguely effeminate poet who occasionally eats parts of dead bodies, and Technology is… well, just picture a Redditor. They’re not one-dimensional and many are not even ‘good’ in a straightforward way, so they really succeed as characters independent of their own folklore.
- The book works as both a heartfelt story about Shadow’s personal journey and an epic of god-against-god battle. That’s not easy to do. Many authors lose their characters in grand adventures and high stakes, but American Gods manages to feel like a personal story.
- The pace is perfect. It meanders when it needs to – it is largely a road trip tale, after all – but with enough suspense to keep the reader moving right along. Again, that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Gaiman is a crafty writer.
- Ummmmmm… I got nothing. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
- Neil Gaiman is a prolific creator and all around interesting dude. While he’s only written 6 adult fiction novels, he’s put out 4 non fiction books, 6 volumes of Sandman comics, 14 juvenile fiction books, 14 short stories, and at least one issue of over 40 other comic books.
- In addition to writing prose and graphic novels, Gaiman has done quite a bit of writing for movies and television, including Dr. Who.
- Gaiman is a fairly public and accessible person. He keeps up a great blog where you can read about the process of both writing and being a writer. He also tweets on the regular and often discusses his life. In fact, if you want a good cry, you have to read his post about the death of his dog.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Read this book!
What’s next? Actually, I already finished another book – Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire. I am WAY behind on my blogging, y’all. I’ll be going on vacation next week and I always read at least two books on vacation – one serious and one silly. I’m thinking One Hundred Years of Solitude and a Sookie Stackhouse novel this time.