Book Cover
Title American Gods
Author Neil Gaiman
Cover Art ---
Publisher HarperTorch - 2002
First Printing William Morrow - 2001
Book Cover
Title Anansi Boys
Author Neil Gaiman
Cover Art ---
Publisher HarperTorch - 2006
First Printing William Morrow - 2005
Book Cover
Title The Monarch of the Glen
Author Neil Gaiman
Cover Art ---
Publisher 2006
First Printing 2006
Book Cover
Title Black Dog
Author Neil Gaiman
Cover Art ---
Publisher ---
First Printing ---
Category Urban Fantasy
Warnings None
Main Characters Shadow, Mr. Wednesday, Mr. Nancy, Fat Charlie, Spider, Laura, Jennie
Main Elements Gods

Click to read the summaryAmerican Gods

Click to read the summaryAnansi Boys

Click to read the summaryThe Monarch of the Glen

I had never read Gaiman before though I new he very popular, and in particular American Gods was particularly well regarded. So, I was worried when I started reading it that I had very high expectations of these books, but for once, I was not disappointed. From nearly the first page I was sucked into Gaiman's writing.

American Gods is dark and depressing. People told me about The Magicians by Lev Grossman as "Harry Potter for adults", well, I guess you could say that American Gods is "Percy Jackson" for adults. People are in prison, they drink, gods are relegated to work in slaughter houses (at least till they got automated, then the gods were unemployed living in a small smelly apartment), djinn's drive taxis, cleaning out vomit from the backseats. In fact, it is a tale of what happens to the old gods when the people who believed in them migrated to North America, and then over time, forgot them. The gods didn't go away, they just sort of faded. In their place new gods rose, like the god of the internet, and some rose and fell, like the gods of the railway.

Shadow is just an ordinary man waiting to get out of prison. When he does he finds his wife was killed in a car accident while cheating on him. With nothing holding him back, he takes the offer of a strange old man named Mr. Wednesday. One of the few gods I could recognize right off, for what it's worth, most of the gods referenced are quite obscure and I had to look them up, some are so mysterious that people are still trying to narrow down who he might be (my favorite one of course, the one no on one could remember, I loved the effect he had on scenes).

This is a book you have to work a bit to read. It can be confusing at times, lies and deceptions abound, and you never know if someone is a god, a creature, or just a regular mundane. And frankly, it's not even really clear what the war between the gods is all about. But it is nearly all explained at the end, so it's worth it, it's not what you think. This is definitely a book I will read again, the little hints and cameos of the various mythological beings were well done. I'm sure I'll find out a bunch of stuff I missed the first time around.

Now, I saw someone complain that Anansi Boys is terrible compared to American Gods, but I disagree. Though in the same world, it is a bit of a stretch to say the same "series", it's really a completely different take. In American Gods the main god theme is dark, dangerous, a trickster but also one that demands human sacrifice. In Anansi Boys is just about the tricks and living a good life. While American Gods should be read in the dark of winter, Anansi Boys can be read on the beach. I laughed out loud a lot, it was silly, and fun, with just enough dark scary moments to remind you that even trickster gods are not a joke. I even found myself reading quotes aloud to anyone who happened to walk by at the moment. I mean come on, imagine Hitchcock's The Birds only with flamingoes...

American Gods is written at the end of the world level. Anansi Boys is written at the end of a boring life of one person level.

I loved both books, but for very different reasons.

I then discovered I was lucky enough to already own Legends II edited by Robert Silverberg which contained The Monarch of the Glenn. If you are a fan of American Gods you HAVE to read this one. Usually short stories are asides, and don't give out major information that isn't present in the core novels of a series, but here, you learn Shadow's real name. So if nothing else, you must read it. It might also help to be conversant with Beowulf (which I wasn't so I struggled to match up the characters and events to existing mythological basis).

Overall, an excellent portrayal of the old gods in the modern world. Also, covered a vast range of deities and beings from all cultures. I thought I was pretty up to date on my ancient gods but apparently I have some work to fill in the gaps!

Now I just need to get ahold of Trigger Warnings, the Gaiman anthology that contains Black Dog...

Posted: August 2017


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