“BRIEF REVIEWS”, Rocky Mountain News, 13 July 2001, 29D
AMERICAN GODS, by Neil Gaiman (Morrow, $26).
From Asia, Europe and Africa they came. They crossed the oceans in reed boats, Viking vessels, Spanish galleons and British frigates. They emigrated for religious freedom, wealth and adventure. They were taken from prisons and sent as indentured servants; they were forced from their villages, packed into sailing ships and sold as slaves. They brought the clothes on their backs, their languages, what riches they could carry. And they brought their gods.
But in the dawn of the 21st century, most of those gods are forgotten, and those that remain fear extinction. Most of them have descended from their lofty perches and taken jobs. The Egyptian gods of the dead run a funeral home. Several others are grifters and con men. One god drives a cab. And the Norse pantheon feel it is time to rebel against the gods that Americans worship now. As Wednesday (Odin) says to a gathering of deities, “there are new gods growing in America . . . gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance.”
As American Gods begins, its protagonist, Shadow, is about to be released from prison, secure in the love of his wife and the job that awaits him. But when his wife and the friend who has promised the job die in a flaming car crash, his world falls apart. Thus, he is easy prey for the strange and magical man who is sitting next to him on the airplane, as he heads home for the funeral. When Shadow agrees to his proposal, he becomes the emissary of the gods. He will either help them save themselves or see his world destroyed.
Gaiman is fast becoming one of the most important of modern writers. In American Gods, he has crafted a novel that is unique, literate and highly readable. Don’t miss it.
– Mark Graham