Throwback Review: American Gods, a Delicious and Rare Treat

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We here at Lytherus are always trying to come up with new and better ways of bringing you interesting news and reviews. Recently we decided to divide up the reviews we do into different categories. There will be definitions of these coming in the future, but for today I wanted to introduce you to the Throwback Review.

There is a lot of amazing older stuff out there. We want to cover these things though, to introduce them to a new audience who may not have heard of them, nor had the chance to experience them.  So today we’re going to bring you two throwback reviews, one a book and one a movie.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman came out in 2001. It has won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and is a New York Times bestseller. A friend gave me this book after he started it and didn’t particularly like it, but I took it with the hopes that I would get what all the hype was about. Reading it was an interesting experience. I felt like I was reading mythology literature. The story was well-written, detailed, and though it seemingly had a lot of little rabbit trails, they all connected in such an interesting fashion that I found myself wondering about the characters during the times between reading, wondering what their future held as the story progressed. It took me longer than my usual quick devouring time to read this book, but I found myself relishing it, not wanting to plow through. It felt like a delicious and rare treat, like girl-scout cookies or Shamrock shakes, something to be savored because it doesn’t come around every day.

The premise of the story is that our main character Shadow is released from a three-year prison sentence a few days early, because his wife and former boss died in a car accident together. Now, with no direction, he is courted by a man named Wednesday, who offers him a job working for him. Shadow turns him down, but Wednesday is persistent, and Eventually Shadow decides to take him up on his offer.

Wednesday is none other than Odin, the Norse god of old. He is rallying all the other older gods who are living throughout America for a battle. This battle is against the new American gods, the gods of TV, the internet, and cars, to name a few. As we journey with Shadow and his boss, we discover why these gods are in America, living simple, human lives, and what is in store for them if they lose.

It was really fun trying to figure out who the gods were as we were introduced to them. Gaiman doesn’t come out right away and tell us who they are, and for some of them I still have no idea. He definitely did his homework, and this book is chock-full of ancient gods from all eras and areas of the world. He also did a great job integrating them into modern society. My favorite had to be Misters Ibis and Jaquel, who owned a funeral parlor and did the best embalming in the country, though people didn’t realize this. I loved the creative process that must have gone on in Gaiman’s head. “Okay, ancient Egyptian gods. We have Thoth the Ibis-headed god of writing, and Anubis, the jackal-headed guardian of the underworld. What could they do today? Of course! Run a funeral parlor and keep wonderful well-written records of the deceased’s’ lives.” Of course I don’t know for sure if this is what he thought, but it is how it came across, and beautifully. The entire book was full of little details like this, and it was fun to continually discover them.

I had no idea where the story was going, other than to some sort of climactic battle between old gods and new, but the journey was so interesting that I didn’t mind that it took almost 500 pages to get us there. But the ending. Wow. Surprises left and right, things I didn’t see coming, clues planted from the very beginning revealed as Gaiman seamlessly tied up the story. I felt satisfied with the ending, and he wrote both an epilogue and a postscript to sum up a few loose ends, which left all questions answered.

If you are into mythology, and you like books that take you on a complicated ride, check out American Gods. The only warning I’d give is that it was way more vulgar than I was expecting—I mean, this is the guy who wrote Stardust! And sometimes the details were shocking in nature, but I really do believe they served a purpose and weren’t there for no reason, so it didn’t bother me. If anything it made the story more real and believable. Nothing was taboo, and he wasn’t afraid to go there, and I adore that quality in a writer.

This book was, in a word, fantastic. I think I need to have a little chat with my friend and see if he’ll give this book a second chance. But there’s no way he’s getting his copy back.

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