You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

American Gods

The theme behind American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, is that the gods of the Old World came to the New World along with their followers. The old gods, including those of the Norse, the Irish, the Indian, the Egyptian, the African, the Russian, and others, are fading away, and the new gods of America are ascending.

The book details the events surrounding a big clash between the old and new gods. The old gods are losing their potentcy due to their followers dying away and losing their beliefs. Obviously the gods need followers to keep their powers. Americans apparently worship new gods such as Media, the Internet, and Money.

The main character, who we only know as Shadow, leaves prison after learning that his wife has just died. He meets a man calling himself Wednesday, who convinces Shadow to be his bodyguard. Shadow comes to understand that Wednesday is really Odin, and he is traveling to meet fellow gods and get them to join him in the fight against the new gods.

Much of the book is devoted to scenes where they meet new gods and discuss the problems facing them. They travel across the country, mostly by care but sometimes by plane. Most of the gods are reluctant to join Wednesday, since he has a reputation as a con man. But he has allies, and convinces others of the need to fight against the new gods, who are determined to wipe out the old ones.

Shadow spends a good amount of time in a small town called Lakeside in a cold northern state in the winter. There Wednesday says he will be safe from the other side, who has kidnapped him and interrogated him. He only escaped because his wife, back from the grave, comes to kill the kidnappers and release him.

The story starts strong, gets bogged down in the middle, and has a somewhat satisfying end. There's a pretty good twist (keep in mind Wednesday's reputation). Shadow goes through a lot, including a trip through the underworld, or afterlife, but at least he has guides from the people he's met. But I don't think the story as a whole works as well as it could. The middle third is too slow, and I was a bit disappointed. Seeing Shadow and Wednesday go "backstage", into a shadow realm, and then visit a Native American spirit, was the high point.

I'd give the book a B. Somehow I expected a little more for a book with its setup. But it was generally satisfying, with an interesting theme. The plot lines and themes did come together pretty well.


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