Friday, November 11, 2005

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I'm off to hear Neil Gaiman at a book talk/signing at the local Borders store this evening, so I have been reading American Gods this week. It starts out a bit peculiar - I could even say it remains peculiar - but it quickly became very compelling, so I stopped noticing the peculiarity !

The story follows the adventures of ex-convict "Shadow" Moon, upon his early release from prison due to the death of his wife, Laura, in a car accident. He is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday to act as an escort and bodyguard, and travels across America visiting Wednesday's colleagues and acquaintances. Gradually, it is revealed that Wednesday is an incarnation of Odin the All-Father, who is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology (whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in numbers), to participate in an epic battle against the New American Gods, manifestations of the internet, mobile phones, media, money, and modern life.

The mythological characters prominently featured in the book include Odin, Anansi, Loki, Czernobog, Thoth, Anubis and Kali. Other mythological characters are featured in the novel who are not divine, but are legendary, such as Paul Bunyan. Various real-life American towns and tourist attractions, including the House on the Rock, are featured throughout the book. Gaiman states in the introduction to the book that he has purposely obscured the precise location of some actual locales, but others can be found.

I confess I'm now eager to read Anansi Boys and hope I can get hold of a library copy soon. I shall report back on the talk by Gaiman tomorrow.

*****

Aftermath

HAVE you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same,—and War's a bloody game....
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz,—
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench,—
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack,—
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads, those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the Spring that you'll never forget.


Siegfried Sassoon 1919 (c) George Sassoon

4 comments:

Mrs. Coulter said...

I have to confess that I didn't like American Gods very much. I think I don't care much for Gaiman's writing style, and Lee read the book first and basically told me all the cool mythological stuff (which he thought was super-neat). So, about half-way through, I felt very slogged down, and l already knew all the cool plot premise stuff. No point in continuing...

Too bad--it's a neat premise.

Michele said...

Interesting... I must admit I found Gaiman's style hard to get used to - and he writes some very odd (to me) stuff, but once I get into the prose, I'm compelled to finish it !

mindy said...

I really liked American Gods when I read it a while back, and I don't normally read much fantasy. After that I read Neverwhere and really liked that one too.

Michele said...

In that case, be sure to come back tomorrow because I'm going to both discuss the talk and give a list of forthcoming Neil Gaiman projects, two of which are Neverwhere related !