Shadow just got out of jail. That would be great, except he just found out his wife is dead, killed in a car accident. As he flies home to bury his wife, Shadow meets a strange man with a glass eye who offers him a job. Realizing that his happily ever after has been indefinitely postponed, Shadow takes the job, and his life changes forever. Soon he is rubbing elbows with the gods of ancient mythology, brought to these shores by their worshipers in days long forgotten. They are still here, most of them, and they are not alone. Since the idea of worship can take many forms, new gods have appeared, distinctly American gods like Television, the Internet, and Technology. A battle is on the horizon, and Shadow suddenly finds himself smack in the middle of it all.
Neil Gaiman's American Gods is a very fascinating book. It is interesting to note that the gods themselves, what we would think of as supremely powerful beings, have been reduced to the level of a mere mortal. Though people once bowed down to them and worshiped them, these very same gods must now get a job and make ends meet just like everyone else. It almost seems like modern society has taken what once made these beings special and cast it aside as irrelevant, revealing that they are not really so powerful after all. The result is at once absurd and pitiful. Odin, the king of the Norse gods, now a conman and drifter. The Leprechaun, fairy of Irish folklore, is just a drunk and a drug addict. Horus, the Egyptian god, prefers spending his days as a falcon eating roadkill rather than face reality. And Thor, Norse god of lighting? He shot himself out of despair.
This sounds really dark, and I suppose the book is in some ways. But it is also a hell of a lot of fun. Trying to figure out which mythological figure is represented by each new character is very diverting. If you decide to give it a try, make sure to have your mobile device close by with Google search loaded and ready. Overall this is a very enjoyable book that will refuse to let you put it down. Gaiman's postmodern outlook on the gods in modern society is more than a little depressing, but the story in itself is worthwhile. Shadow is a very compelling character and, by the end of the book, you will definitely care about what happens to him. Treat yourself to American Gods. It is more than worth it.