Tuesday, October 25, 2011

American Gods- Book Review


I know that I hung on a windy tree
nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on the tree of which no man knows from where its roots run.

No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.

Nine mighty spells I learnt from the famous son
of Bolthor, Bestla's father,
and I got a drink of the precious mead,
poured from Odrerir.

Then I began to quicken and be wise,
and to grow and to prosper;
one word found another word for me,
one deed found anther deed for me.
~Excerpt from The Poetic Edda

I thought I would start this post off with some Norse mythology since it fits the topic so well. The passage above describes Odin's sacrifice on the world tree Yggdrasil. He sacrifices himself to himself so that he can gain wisdom. Aside from the fact that Norse myth is quite morbid (lack of daylight and summer, I suspect...), I find this passage interesting, since it ties into the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman. If anyone has read the book, then you'll know why this excerpt relates. If you haven't read American Gods, I suggest you run to a bookstore or a library and hope you can find it. Stop everything and read it!

Written in 2001, the book has won the Hugo and Nebula awards for good reason, and sometime in 2013 it will be adapted into an HBO TV series just like Game of Thrones. I highly recommend this book not just because the excellent writing, but for the themes in the book that revolve around the idea that humans create their own gods.

The book begins with Shadow, the main character, getting out of jail and heading home on an airplane. On the plane he meets Mr. Wednesday who comments, in an omniscient voice, that a storm is coming. Shadow doesn't know it, but he has just stumbled into a war between the old and new gods who live in America. The old gods include but are not limited to Anansi from African myth, Kali and Vishnu from Hindu myth, Horus and Ka from Egyptian, Wisakedjak from Native American
, and two main characters from Norse (I'm not going to say their name, I'm not giving anything else away.). In the novel, many of the old gods migrated to America when their people did the same, creating a mythological melting pot. As humans began inventing more technology and the industrial revolution occurred, new gods emerged. Gods for Internet, TV, cars, airplanes, and electricity. The old gods resent the power the new gods hold over the world and their envy leads inevitably to a clashing between the gods. Now if that doesn't sound interesting, I don't know what does!

Unfortunately, American Gods is the only book I've read by Neil Gaiman, but I will be reading Neverwhere in 2012 for the Goodreads reading challenge that I mentioned in my first post.

For fun, I found a blog post from Super Punch that lists artwork related to American Gods. My favorites include the ones by Rory Phillips and Dean Reeves. Also, I found this webpage that lists all of the gods, heroes and creatures mentioned in the book, but it has spoilers so do not look at it until you've read the book!
If you want to know more about the HBO series, visit my article at technorati.com.

Alas, I must leave you. Thank you for listening and feel free to ask any questions or leave comments.
Chao!