Have You Read …? These gods must be crazy | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Have You Read …? These gods must be crazy

Samuel McCauley

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

Where do you think the old gods have gone? You may know their stories, I’m sure you know many of their names: Zeus, Thor, Ra, Coyote and so on. Their stories tell of how they helped create the world we live in, of how they battled other gods and demons, of how they tricked and cheated each other. But almost none of them really tell what happened to them or why they have seemingly ceased to exist.

Just two days ago, Shadow had been released from prison, finally a free man after three years, waiting for nothing more than to spend the next few days locked in his bedroom with his wife, Laura. When the warden had called him into his office three days before his release date, Shadow was worried; he thought the parole board had lengthened his sentence. Instead the warden gave him news that would do away with all his big plans for the outside world. Laura was dead, killed in a car crash just yesterday, along with his best friend, Robbie, who was getting him his old job back at the fitness gym where he used to work.

Shadow met Wednesday on the flight back to his hometown. Wednesday was an older man dressed in a smart gray suit, with a short-cut beard and mismatched eyes, one of which looked like it might be glass. He offered Shadow a job working as his errand and go-to boy, driving his car, meeting associates and the like. Shadow refused, yet somehow a day and a half later in a bar two days’ drive away, Wednesday found him again and made the same offer. After several glasses of mead and some powerful words, Shadow agreed. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Neil Gaiman, author of other gems of fantasy like “Anansi Boys,” “Stardust,” “Neverwhere,” “Good Omens” (with Terry Pratchet), and the acclaimed graphic novel series “The Sandman,” weaves a tapestry of multicultural theology together with seamless precision.

Wednesday leads Shadow on a recruiting mission, making contact with as many of the old gods that have come to live here in America as they can find. These ancient deities have done their best to fit in to the normal world, but with no one praying or offering to them, let alone believing in them any more, their powers and strength have diminished, in many cases, to that of mortals.

Wednesday is trying to prevent the old gods, the gods of the seasons, of life and death and of many other things, from being systematically killed off by the new gods, the gods of mass media, of highways, TV and the Internet. The lines have been drawn and the storm is coming and Shadow finds himself right in the thick of it.

Neil Gaiman has quickly risen to become one of my favorite authors. He spins yarns and tells tales, creates worlds and characters, as easily as if he were breathing. This is a great book for anyone who enjoys serious writing rather then fluff fantasy, as there is real character development mixed with out-of-this-world descriptive imagery. By the end, you, too, will keep a watchful eye out for the last of the American Gods.

— Samuel McCauley is a sales associate at Neighbors Bookstore.

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