American Gods

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American Gods  

Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author Neil Gaiman
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy novel
Publisher William Morrow
Publication date June 19, 2001
Media type print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 480 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-380-97365-0
Followed by Anansi Boys, "The Monarch of the Glen"

American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman. The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on a mysterious and taciturn protagonist, Shadow. It is Gaiman's fourth prose novel, being preceded by Good Omens (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett), Neverwhere, and Stardust. Several of the themes touched upon in the book were previously glimpsed in The Sandman graphic novels, for which Gaiman may be best known to some.

The book was published in 2001 by Headline in the United Kingdom and by William Morrow in the United States.

A signed and numbered limited edition has been released by Hill House Publishers. It is 12,000 words longer than the mass market editions and represents Neil Gaiman's preferred edition. This is the version now in print from Headline in the UK.[citation needed]

Gaiman's subsequent novel Anansi Boys was actually conceived before American Gods, and shares a character, Mr. Nancy. It is not a sequel but could possibly be of the same fictional world. Although Anansi the spider god of African legend appears in both American Gods and Anansi Boys, implying a connection, one of Neil Gaiman's signature touches is the use of allusion, both to works by other authors and to mechanics and themes used in his own books. The novella, "Monarch of the Glen" (from the Legends II anthology, later collected in Fragile Things), continues Shadow's journeys. This latter anthology also features the characters of Mr. Alice and Mr. Smith, a pair of dubious men who also appeared in a Gaiman short story called "Keepsakes and Treasures", suggesting that this tale is a part of the American Gods universe as well.

On February 28, 2008, Gaiman announced on his journal that for one month, the complete text of American Gods would be available to the public on his publisher's website.[1]


[edit] Plot summary

The book follows the adventures of ex-convict Shadow, who is released from prison a few days earlier than planned on account of the death of his wife, Laura, in a car accident. He discovers at the funeral that car crashed because Laura was performing oral sex on Shadow's late friend Robbie, who was driving. Because Robbie was to give Shadow a job, Shadow finds work elsewhere as the escort and bodyguard of the confidence man Mr. Wednesday, and travels across America visiting Wednesday's colleagues and acquaintances. Gradually, it is revealed that Wednesday is an incarnation of Odin the All-Father (the name Wednesday is derived from "Odin's (Woden's) day"), who in his current guise is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology, whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in number, to participate in an epic battle against the New American Gods, manifestations of modern life and technology (for example, the internet, media, and modern means of transport).

Mythological characters prominently featured in the book include Odin, Loki, Czernobog, the Zorya, the Norns, Anansi, Eostre, Kali, Thoth, Anubis, Horus, and Bast. In addition to the numerous figures from real-world myths, a few characters from The Sandman and its spinoffs make brief cameos in the book. Other mythological characters featured in the novel are not divine, but are legendary or folk heroes, such as Johnny Appleseed. Shadow himself is implied to be the Norse god Balder, which is confirmed in the follow-up novella, "Monarch of the Glen". The story also features, in its most erotic chapter, a succubus-like re-invention of the Queen of Sheba, who while posing as a prostitute literally swallows a man through her sexual organs. "Bilquis", as she is called here, is later killed by one of the New Gods. Sexuality as a rule plays a prominent part in the plot and subplots; Mr. Wednesday courts several young women on the journey across America and offers himself to Eostre, while Shadow is successfully seduced by a humanoid version of Bast.

When the New Gods murder Wednesday – thus galvanizing the Old Gods into action – Shadow obeys Wednesday's order by holding his vigil. This is accomplished by re-enacting the act performed by Odin of hanging from a "World Tree" while pierced by a spear. Shadow eventually dies and visits the land of the dead, where he is guided by Thoth and judged by Anubis. Eostre later brings him back to life, obeying orders that she does not fully understand. During the period between life and death, Shadow learns that he is Wednesday's son, conceived as part of the deity's plans.

At the climax of the story, Shadow reveals that America is bad "growing ground" for Gods, in that the power of gods eventually wanes the longer they spend time in America. Wednesday's attempt to rally the gods is proved to be a deception, in that the deaths of gods on both sides of the war would restore some of Odin's powers. The leader of the New Gods is revealed to be Loki, who was secretly working with Odin to create the "sacrifice of gods". Odin would feed on the gods' deaths, while Loki would feed on the chaos of the battle to empower himself. Shadow conveys the truth to the warring gods, thus stopping the battle before it could begin. Odin's ghost fades, and Loki is impaled on a shaft of the World Tree.

In a extensive subplot, Shadow follows a clue given to him by the Hindu god Ganesha to discover that a man called Hinzelmann, who had sometime been Shadow's neighbor, is a kobold who annually sacrifices children to empower himself and prevent the small town of Lakeside from succumbing to the economic decay that has claimed many similar towns. Shadow confronts Hinzelmann, who is then shot by a local policeman whose father Hinzelmann had previously killed to keep his secret. The presence of Hinzelmann as a kobold refers to the book's premise, stated in a number of flashbacks, that dwarves, elves, leprechauns, and other spirits are derived from earlier myths of gods, and that whoever brings a story to a land brings the characters with it.

Following this, Shadow visits Iceland, where he meets the original Odin, of whom Wednesday is an incarnation. He accuses Odin of Wednesday's actions, whereupon Odin replies that "He [Wednesday] was me, but I'm not him". Shadow gives Odin Wednesday's glass eye, which Odin places in a leather bag as a keepsake.

Various real-life towns and tourist attractions, including the House on the Rock (and its 'world's largest carousel') and Rock City, are featured through the course of the book. Gaiman states in an introduction that he has obscured the precise location of some actual locales.

According to Gaiman, American Gods is not based on Diana Wynne Jones's Eight Days of Luke, "although they bear an odd relationship, like second cousins once removed or something". When working on the structure of a story linking gods and days of the week, he realised that this idea had already been used in Eight Days of Luke. He abandoned the story, but later used the idea when writing American Gods to depict Wednesday and Shadow meeting on the god's namesake day.[2]

[edit] Website tie-in

While Gaiman was writing American Gods, his publishers set up a promotional web site featuring a weblog in which Gaiman described the day-to-day process of writing, revising, publishing, and promoting the novel. After the novel was published, the web site evolved into a more general Official Neil Gaiman Web Site, and as of 2009 Gaiman still regularly adds to the weblog, describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting his current project.

[edit] Awards

The book won the 2002 Hugo, Nebula, SFX Magazine Award and Bram Stoker awards, all for Best Novel, and likewise received nomination for the 2002 BSFA Award, World Fantasy Award, International Horror Guild Award and Mythopoeic Award.[3] It won the 2004 Geffen Award.

[edit] Translations

[edit] References

  1. ^ *Gaiman, Neil (2008-02-28). "Kids! Free! Book!". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved on 2008-02-29. 
  2. ^ *Gaiman, Neil (2001-09-25). "Neil Gaiman - September 2001". Neil Gaiman's Journal. Retrieved on 2007-01-03. 
  3. ^ "Honor roll:Fiction books". Award Annals. 2007-08-16. Retrieved on 2007-08-16. 

[edit] External links

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