Thursday, February 21, 2008

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
ISBN: 0-380-97365-0
Publisher: William Marrow-An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 461/Hardcover
Rating: 4/5

I had won this book from Dewey in October 2007. For some reason or other, I could only get around it now. Usually I finish a book within three days maximum. This took me a while, around three weeks.

American Gods is not an easy book to review. To read too, one needs to concentrate a lot. You miss something, you have to go back. I did that numerous times. Yet it holds interest.

Shadow is in the jail for the past three years and waits for his release so that he can get back to his wife Laura and a new job with one of his closest friends. When he is unexpectedly released one day before his due date, he is taken by surprise by the turn of events. He is a free man yet in one stroke of luck he loses everything he had held dear. He meets a strange man named Wednesday, who offers to give him work. He accepts it. There is start of an adventure which takes us in a picaresque journey across America where we meet strange people who are either God or really evil. In every page there is that touch of the unexpectedness which keeps us totally riveted.

The story flows via magic, fantasy and hallucinations and in dream like sequences. It takes us to forgotten Gods of olden times and emerging new ones, juxtaposing the two somewhere in between. Although mystical, each page makes us believe in it. There are contradictions too which somehow make this tale of imagination somehow inevitable. Here dream and nightmare merge at some points.

We meet such intersting characters like Easter, Mr Nancy, Czernobog, so-called Gods and people or non-people who think that they are in the side of the good. Taken as a whole, it can be read as a classic tale of good versus the evil. Shadow manages to emerge out of the shadow of lies, deceit and falsehood.

As an Indian, I particularly liked references to Indian Gods like Kali and Elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Our Hindu Gods are like humans and can interact with us at all levels. That's way of the American Gods too in this novel.

I have read Neverwhere by Gaiman before this. Whatever said and done, I think I prefer Neverwhere more than American Gods.