Friday, 19 February 2010

Just finished: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

By Jove it's been a while. I've been rubbish! I have, in my defence, been busy drinking away my salary, and my recent return to Debt's cold embrace should mean that between now and the end of February I should have plenty of time to dedicate to my neglected blog.

When I was young, I had a book on Greek mythology. The illustrations were gory and gaudy and the various myths and legends separated into tasty chapters with titles like "Wicked Women" and "Evil Men". I read it cover to cover, even spending hours on the "Who's Who" section at the back. This inspired an interest that I've never really given up - N discovered my love for all things mythological soon after we met (despite my efforts to keep it hidden, for fear of being branded a geek) and encouraged it with even more mythology books. I was in my element... Often with things like this though once you've read one version you've read them all - with them being such old and well-known stories - so it was great to read about the gods and goddesses of old in a completely new light. The Greek pantheon might be left out (perhaps being too well known?), but Odin, Kali and Anubis are all included, alongside a host of more obscure deities and monsters that I'd never heard of, but don't disappoint.

The basic premise is that when immigrants arrived in the Americas from the rest of the world, their belief in their particular gods brought their gods, or versions of their gods, over with them. So when an Irish woman who believed in leprechauns arrived in the newly formed US, leprechauns existed there, too, as well as back in Ireland. Am I making sense? Perhaps not. Hope so! Anyway, there's loads of these gods about, from all over the world. They've experienced a drastic drop in popularity though, and this has forced them underground where they are being hunted down one by one by a new group of gods who influence technology, media and infrastructure. The book's protagonist, an ex-con called Shadow, is drawn into this war when a Mr Wednesday gives him a offer he can't refuse the day he leaves prison and learns that the lift he'd hoped to return to was impossible after the death of his wife.

He accompanies Wednesday all over America, meeting old gods and dodging new ones. Every few chapters you'll be taken somewhere else entirely, to learn about another god and how they've adapted to life in the States. They stop off at various places around the US that I'd never heard of, away from the beaten track we're used to seeing on the telly or at the cinema. The road-trip builds like a crescendo, with plenty of bumps and surprises along the way, to go out with a bang with a great ending.

I appreciate that I probably haven't really sold this very well, and not everyone shares my obsession for mythology, but it's definitely worth a go - and it's definitely not one for the kids - there's a fair bit of gore and the odd lashing of something saucy on the side ;)

Tis my favourite this year.

Next up: London Belongs To Me by Norman Collins.

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