American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods Book Cover Image

Here is the summary from the back (goodreads):

“Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies…and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.”

*** Spoilers to Follow ***

I love Neil Gaiman stories. They are a bit dark and sometimes edgy and American Gods is both. If you love mythology and you aren’t super religious then this is the book for you. I will admit that you could become offended by the portrayal of some of the gods, especially if you really love Jesus and hate minorities. So, if you are racist then you might want to skip this book. If you love, love, love Norse mythology then you and Gaiman share a wheelhouse and you’ll love this book.

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman through a blog post (can’t remember the blog’s name) about where to start with Neil Gaiman. That post praised Neverwhere and I raced out to the bookstore and I saw American Gods on the shelf, but I was only there to spend $10 and get out. I thought about picking it up again when I bought one of Gaiman’s short story collections, but I really wanted the bits and pieces instead of a long novel. Finally, I saw the book was being turned into a show and I wanted so badly to read the book before the show premiered. I downloaded the audiobook from my local library and started listening to it on my cross-country move. I got almost to the end of the book when the library got rid of audiobooks on the app I was using and it took forever for me to find out they were using a new app.

The differences between the show and the book:

There is more foreshadowing in the show. I noticed a few hints at things that happen later on in the book. The foreshadowing seemed a little obvious to me (I hadn’t reached those parts of the book at the time). There are scenes added to the show that did not exist in the book. Jesus shows up quite a bit in the show and I think he only has one scene in the book. Not only were scenes added, but characters were added. I especially like the way guns were handled as a new form of religion.

Both the show and the book make you think differently about the modern world and religion. The main idea throughout the whole story is that there is power in things people believe in or have their attention. Today, fewer people attend religious services on a regular basis and instead holy days, such as Sunday, are spent in front of the TV for football. Fewer people are seeking advice from religious leaders and instead hop on Google or Youtube to find out solutions to problems. All this attention we pay to other things are portrayed as substitutes for things humans used to worship and that, to me, is a really cool thought. How things shift like that and evolve over time.

It’s not like it hasn’t been happening since the dawn of time. If you look at Christmas, it is a combination of Pagan and Christian beliefs here in the U.S. If you look at Christmas in other countries, they all have their own unique traditions. Pickles, wreath crowns, shoes filled with toys. It is clearly not a unified holiday. It has been tweaked to fit the religious beliefs that were dominate before the missionaries came over, or before the country was conquered. Today’s Christmas is barely recognizable from the Christmases of the Founding Fathers. It has evolved. Not saying the evolution was good or bad, just that it happened. It makes me think that we could eventually move beyond religion like in Orville. The episode where Kelly becomes a god and it took a couple millennia for the planet to give up religion in favor of science and technology. It makes me wonder if that is where we are going.

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