Monday, July 28, 2014

Book review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

From Goodreads: “Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations.”

I’ve literally had this on my bookshelf, wasting away in TBR limbo, for 2 years. Gods only know why I never got around to reading it until now, because this was a fantastic book that I enjoyed immensely. I’ve always been a fan of Gaiman’s writing, and how it feels grounded and human at the same time as being highly imaginative and whimsical. In American Gods, mythology is weaved with contemporary sociological commentary; it deconstructs belief and non-belief in gods and magic and contrasts that faith against our ‘worship’ of technology, something that seems so tangible and accessible but itself contains elements of the unknown. Each of the gods live in human form, in this story, with the ‘old gods’ becoming weak, irrelevant characters due to vanishingly small numbers of Americans worshipping them. Though we like to think of our reverence of technology as a belief and reliance on something real, with a tangible benefit, Gaiman cleverly constructs ‘new gods’ of technology, also in human form, and posits that our worship of the new gods is as subservient and blind as it ever was.

Shadow’s journey leaves him — and us — with a main takeaway, and that is that anything other than oneself is unpredictable, with its own ever-changing motivations and responses. The problem with obeying any god, old or new, is that god might not be looking out for you, and even if s/he is, s/he might be powerless to really do anything for you. It’s a humanist message, overall. We’re ultimately responsible for ourselves, since what we worship is only as strong as our worship itself, and we’re fickle beasts.

Book reviews for June and July

In further confirmation that I was just never meant to be a blogger, I haven't even been cross-posting book reviews for the last few months. Here's a masterpost for all of them.

Saga, Vol 1-3 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples 4 stars
The Darkest Kiss by Gena Showalter 1 star
Lick (Stage Dive #1) and Play (Stage Dive #2) by Kylie Scott 3 stars, 4 stars
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar 4 stars

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin 4 stars
A Duke Never Yields by Juliana Grey 2 stars
A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin 4 stars
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull 3 stars
Secrets of a Summer's Night (Wallflowers #1) and Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3) by Lisa Kleypas Both 4 stars
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black 5 stars