Saturday, November 17, 2007

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating: Great!
Alt Review Link: forum review

I've read several reviews of books by Neil Gaiman, but I had no idea who he is or what he wrote. Not a clue. Someone - I'm not sure who, but I suspect it was Terry from the stone carving class I teach - said I might like American Gods though. When I asked, I got a vague description that sounded interesting enough to cause me to request a copy via I thought I might like it, but I wasn't ready to buy the book just yet.

The book arrived some time later and for various reasons - mostly having to do with which books were on top of the pile - I started in on it pretty quickly. I quote the dedication that I read first:

For absent friends - Kathy Acker and Roger Zelazny, and all points between

Interesting, I said to myself. I like Zelazny. Maybe this will be a good read. So I turned the page.

Several hours later I came up for air. I was about a third of the way into it and clearly was going to finish it quickly. So much for worrying about whether or not the book was any good.

I'm not going to write a spoiler review here, but I can tell you that the hero is named Shadow, and that he's employed by Mr. Wednesday - also known as Wotan or Odin. We're dealing with gods here, but we're dealing with the American versions thereof. The writing is good, the story is intriguing, and the characters are well developed. All in all, this is a winner.

Interestingly, American Gods is basically an updated Roger Zelazny novel, or it might be viewed as an homage to Zelazny. Either way, it's got his finger prints all over it. And that explains at least some of why I enjoyed it so much. Gaiman gets a lot of points from me for writing this tale, and for crediting Zelazny with getting to similar ground first (along with a couple of other authors) in his acknowledgments. Talent and honesty. Nice.

I'd call this a great modern fantasy, but you don't have to take my word for it. It won a bunch of awards, including the 2002 Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel, among others. It also places very highly on the Internet Speculative fiction Data Base top 100 lists, which you can learn about here:

More importantly (to me, at least) is that if you miss Roger Zelazny, this is definitely a book that will make you smile. Gaiman's other work may be different - I don't know yet - but I do know that American Gods was a fun, fast, and wonderful read. Give it a try!