pondělí 11. července 2011

Neil Gaiman: American Gods (Američtí bohové)

   This is my first A to Z Challenge Review, the book (accidentally) even begins on A. My friend chose this book for our reading club so it was not entirely my choice but I have always wanted to read something by Gaiman, anyway (I have read only Sandman so far and it was great).
   The story is about Shadow – a big guy in his thirties who tries to survive the time he has to stay in jail without problems. We don’t know how precisely he go there, it just seems that it was not completely his fault. He comes out of jail in the beginning of the novel only to fin out that his beloved wife is dead and his best friend (who was supposed to give him a job) is also dead. Than he finds out that they died together. In a car. Doing…things. Nasty things.
    He is accosted by a man who calls himself Wednesday and who says he wants to give him a job as bodyguard. He takes the job and they begin kind of a road trip across America  and meet Wednesday’s friends (or rather acquaintances). It doesn’t take a long time to Shadow to gather that all those people are gods and to reveal Wednesday’s real identity (if you would happen to read the Czech translation, try not to look at the translator's note here - for some reason, he decided to explain who Wednesday is when he appears for the first time). In the world of this novel, all gods that someone believes in actually exist. They came to America with different settlers from all over the world and they had to change and adapt in the new place. But now, new gods appeared – gods of malls, TV, Media (no, that’s not the chick who murdered her children) and Internet (well…I think the fat kid was supposed to be Internet but no one says it openly). Naturally, the old gods dislike the new ones and vice versa so there is going to be war and Wednesday is recruiting his holly buddies for the last stand.
    Gradually, I started to enjoy this book. The first half seemed a little slow and I felt like nothing has actually happened for the first 200 pages but later it is really….ehm….compelling (I just hate this word) and I felt sorry there are so few pages left (I started to feel this way like 250 pages before the end so you see what a torture it must have been to read on and on seeing the number of pages grow). Obviously, it is a great book for people interested in mythology, especially the Germanic, but I am pretty sure you will see there Gods you have never heard of. There is even a goddess that Gaiman claims to have made up completely (Zorya Pulnochnaya, to be precise). It is maybe better to read something about Germanic mythology, especially about the sacrifice on tree, before reading this book. Otherwise, you may get a little bit lost in some important parts and that would be a pity.
   There is not only the main story line but there are some short chapters about people coming to America and their gods – there are stories about Vikings, about some pre-historic tribe, black slaves, Irish girl or a young Arab boy – all of them from different historical periods.
   Gaiman is a great storyteller and he can capture the reader and never let him go until he finishes the last page (I made really ugly faces on my Mum when I had to stop reading and go mow the lawn). He also mixes quite many genres – there is a love story (Shadow’s wife comes back as a zombie), there is a detective story (actually…there are two of them), road trip, mythological stories…well, let’s just say they are numerous. A huge theme is obviously the confrontation of the old and the new – of values, ways of life and different priorities people used to have and have today. Gaiman shows this difference on his characters of gods – not only on the difference between the old and the new gods but mainly on the old gods who live in America and their original version (because the American Kali is not the same as the Indian Kali). It would be simplifying to say that it is a criticism of American way of life (if there actually is anything like that), Gaiman just show us that there we should sometimes stop and think a little about the way we live. And of course, people don’t focus their lives on technology only in America, it is quite plausible for all developed countries.
   As I have said, it is a really great book with an enjoyable story but it also…makes you think (OK, this sentence is an awful cliché but…but it is also true).

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