The second to last book I read in 2013 was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’ve wanted to read the novel for a long time. Partly because HBO is adapting the novel for cable and partly because Gaiman’s work appears to be very divisive amongst readers. I’ve also wanted to read the novel because of its influence on the writers of the CW’s Supernatural. During the fifth season of the long-running series, the Winchester brothers were caught in between demons and angels as the apocalypse was on the verge of beginning. Former showrunner Eric Kripke admits to the inspiration and how much Gaiman’s novels have influenced that season. Especially episode 519, “Hammer of the Gods.” In the synopsis according to Goodreads:
Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.
This novel was many things at once. It was a buddy road trip, a battle for good and evil, a murder mystery, and a treatise on how Americans have become consumed with technology. At the heart of the story there’s Shadow, a man recently released from prison who finds himself sucked into a situation he never wanted. By his side is his new employer, Mr. Wednesday, a man who proclaims himself to be a God. Why Mr. Wednesday wants Shadow to work for him and how he knew who he even was is part of the mystery the reader has to unravel. Through the course of the book, the reader meets a myriad of different deities from many religions. Some Gods older than time and others more “new.” These Gods are fighting for their lives in the face of Americans’ new Gods – Media and Technology. No longer do people worship in churches or make sacrifices upon alters. People don’t believe the Gods are responsible for good crops or healthy children. Now people have chemicals and doctors.
“There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”
Gaiman does a brilliant job of entertaining his reader with snappy dialogue and a crazy cast of characters. Aside from the mystery of Mr. Wednesday’s interest in Shadow, Shadow also stumbles upon a small town murder mystery. American Gods poses the idea of “what if?” and makes you wonder if there’s a world beyond the one we see daily. Do Gods exist and if they do are our souls in danger? Whether or not you believe in the Gods, the Gods believe in you. Shadow discovers that those he trusts harbor deep, dark secrets and that the past never dies. Through him we glimpse the war for our souls and ponder if our love of technology has led us towards damnation. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and highly recommend it for all lovers of myth, legends, and mystery.
“There’s none so blind as those who will not listen.”