American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Why I give American Gods 5 stars:
I read this twice, a number of years ago, and don’t bother (often) to update older readings on Goodreads, but a recent posting giving American Gods “only” three stars prompted me to post my own review.
American Gods needs to be read at a number of levels (since I believe it deserved to win the Hugo and Nebula awards that it did win, along with Bram Stoker award).
One level is the pure fantasy part, which is an inventive permutation on gods (or God) gains power only through worship and belief. Larry Niven did a short story on this (if my memory serves) long before Gaiman, but of course the idea is as old as Greek philosophy. Gaiman’s twist, that an echo of the god exists with immigration, spawning if you will a new god, is interesting. Additionally, having that god able to procreate with mankind is interesting and is a bit of the philosophy of “we are god” that was also part of the debate that the Greeks put forth as well as much debate in the 18th century of “enlightenment” in Europe.
The second level is the examination of immigration in a subtle way, the loss of our heritage, our melting pot destroys the past. Gaiman, as a Brit, has a bit of the ability to look at this from the outside. Yet, within this loss of the old identity is the message that it never totally dies, there is this small spark that just keeps going, weaker and weaker, but there.
Of course Gaiman was friends and a fan of Roger Zelazny. I am a huge fan of Zelazny’s work and mourn his early passing as a loss to great fantasy writing.
Gaiman has explored this theme a number of times and Anansi Boys is another permutation of this theme, worth reading, but it feels a bit like an echo.
Gaiman has a story teller voice, a voice that has almost an oral tradition and one that is used by magical realism authors and I would say even by Salman Rushdie at times.
I would recommend The Graveyard Book, by Gaiman, for both children and adults, well done permutation on the orphan boy raised by “other” people.
Neverwhere is another Gaiman book that I recommend, along with the British series based on it.
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