American Gods Review – The Big Issue in the North

Maria Siu-Lee was kind enough to transcribe this 4 star review of American Gods from The Big Issue in the North.

American Gods
Neil Gaiman
Rob Haynes – The Big Issue in the North, August 6 – 12 2001

When waves of immigrants – Norsemen, African, Irish – came to America across the millenia, they brought with them their gods who, for a short while, prospered in their fertile new environment. Now though, human faith has withered and the gods are stranded, left pathetic and near-powerless, unnourished by worship. Odin travels the country, working low-level scams on banks. A Slavic trio of guardian goddesses ply an undignified living as fortune tellers. Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, works as an undertaker.

And now the modern technological pantheon – the media, the Internet – has joined forces with a half-legitimate government assassination bureau in order to wipe out the old gods altogether.

During his stint as writer for the influential Sandman comic in the Nineties, Neil Gaiman devoted one episode to the tale of a man who begs the gods to give him the gift of storytelling – they do, but the man cannot stop and ends up insanely scrawling stories on to brick walls with his own bloodied fingers.

One suspects that there was a little metaphorical autobiography there, because Gaiman seems similarly overburdened with stories. In the expansive tapestry of American Gods he has constructed a darkly entertaining soap opera of belief, a mythology of mythologies, more Stephen King or Clive Barker than Terry Pratchett.

As always Gaiman’s prodigious reading shines through. There’s fun to be had playing Spot The Deity (I kept my dictionary of mythology to hand throughout) and there’s a nice underlying metaphor, treated warmly and kept on the right side of earnestness, about the power and necessity of the human imagination.

Overall, 500 pages are an appropriately broad canvas for the sheer scale of the plot but not necessarily a good length for a consistently paced adventure. Still, for sheer ambition, erudition and imagination, this takes some beating.