I picked up this book in a bookstore some months ago due to the fact I was in a bit of a buying mood and I’d never read any Neil Gaiman. His writing had basically passed me by somehow. But the Internet had made quite a big deal over the fact that he’d written the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife“. And I had definitely recognised this as a very special episode. So I bought “American Gods”.
Without giving too much away, in the vastness of the United States Of America, there are numerous – for want of a better word – beings that exist because people believe that they exist. But these aren’t just manifestations of today’s modern secular society: no, there are many who come from The Old Country. Beliefs made corporeal that came from other places on the planet that people brought with them when they emigrated. Immigrants usually bring more with them than we usually realize when they make such radical moves. More than anything else I’ve ever read ever, the way Gaiman portrayed this concept drove home to me just what an incredible melting pot of diversity American life really is and was. (And, to some extent, all of western society.)
This is a story with lots of secrets, callouts, callbacks and foreshadowing. It is clichéd to say there are twists in the plot, but I have to say nothing felt deus ex machina. Even one big scene that feels setup, the main character even lampshades it – but then he finds an in-universe explanation. And it’s a wonderful, chillingly complete one.
This story also set me thinking about what we believe in, what we worship. These are words I believe many people do not understand. But I’m sure Gaiman does. People have habits, routines, rituals that they perform. Some of them are big and important, like always spending Christmas Day with family. Others are not so big, like devotion to favourite TV series. Others are really small, like always putting your left sock on first.
This is more than just a good story, although it is that, first and foremost. It is also an exploration of when our modern society still has trace remains of what has gone before.
(This review was of the 10th Year Anniversary edition, also referred to as the Author’s Preferred edition.)