American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Shadow has been in prison three years and is being paroled soon. He's let out early due to his wife's death. With nothing left to go home to, Shadow is approached by a man who calls himself Wednesday who basically wants him to be an "errand boy", but Shadow's job description goes way beyond that as he travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday. He learns about himself, life, beliefs, and people.
This was my first Gaiman novel. I've read some of his comics, but this is the first novel that I've ever read by him, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like mythology, and this presented a whole cast of "godly" characters for me to figure out. That's some of the fun in the book, recognizing mythological characters and saying, "I know who that is!"
Despite what Shadow (and others) see as character flaws, he was perhaps one of the most endearing characters that I have ever encountered. Despite what he's been through, despite everything, he seems to have no trouble accepting what he's told by these gods. It's obvious he's a bit skeptical, but the side that believes seems to outweigh the side that doesn't believe.
That gives Shadow somewhat of a naive quality. This made him very likable, very human, even though you don't know much about him or his family. You don't even know his real name, but you can tell that he's a good man, and while others think he's big and dumb, you can see that he obviously isn't.
And the gods were amusing for the most part, they've "adapted" to the ways of new world by using what they know to get by. So, we have goddesses who are prostitutes, gods that are embalmers, gods that specialize in conning others, and a whole range of gods in between. And you have the new gods--internet, media, etc--who want to get rid of the old gods.
But what really made this story really enjoyable for me was the fact that I was tricked. I'll admit that many of the things in this book is obvious, but while I was paying attention to many minute details, I missed the most obvious thing of all.
This book wasn't without flaws like any book. There were some odd sentence structures in the book and sometimes didn't even seem necessary, but the sheer force of what a good book this is made most of that easy to overlook. I will definitely reread this in the future.
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