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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Review by Mike

Neil Gaiman has a rare talent. He can mix supernatural elements with everyday life and make it seem like they fit as naturally as a heron mark blade fits Rand al'Thor. This is, of course, necessary if youíre going to make a book about a war between gods in modern America work.

"What gods?" you ask. All of them, I think. Ever since people started coming to America, their gods have followed. Not necessarily because they wanted to, but gods are created and sustained by being worshipped, and when the worshippers move, so do they. Over the years a great number of gods and mythological beings have gathered on American soil - Norse, Hindu, African, Chinese, etc. The list is long.

But the New World is a tough place for deities. When the people who have brought them are dead or have found new things to believe in, their powers dwindle and they have to get by more or less as ordinary humans. That is not easy for them to accept, and they are quite jealous of the new objects of human worship - Technology and Media for example. These new gods are not particularly fond of the old ones either. As we enter the story, a great confrontation is on the way.

The main character, Shadow, has served a three-year sentence, and is released from prison only to become involved in this conflict. He is employed by the mysterious Mr Wednesday as a bodyguard. In this position he gets to travel all over the country and meet all sorts of weird creatures. Before long they start to take an interest in him too...

This is a rather weird book, but it is also firmly anchored in the real world. I loved the parts that described ordinary America. Itís difficult to judge for a European, but they seemed genuine, very much like something Stephen King could have written.

The plot is also excellent. For a long time there were things that didn't make sense, but some unexpected twists made everything come together beautifully in the end. Very impressive!

With Stardust and Neverwhere Neil Gaiman got me hooked, so I had high expectations for American Gods. It lived up to every one of them. Great plot, excellent characters and an fitting dark atmosphere. Gaiman is definitely one of the best writers of contemporary fantasy. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 amulets.


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