Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did you hear the one about Medea? (Books - American Gods by Neil Gaiman)

I have about 100 pages left in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, but this will probably be my final post on it. Gaiman has created a world in which modern notions of commerce, technology, and media are personified as modern-day gods who wage war on the gods of old - the pre-judeo-christian deities. Shadow, a mild, bookish, ex-con, ends up as bodyguard/chauffeur/errand boy for a latter-day version of Odin, one of the Norse pantheon.

Odin, here named Wednesday, stiffs a waitress in order to have some money to carry out his pre- war preparations.
"This isn't necessary," said Shadow. "I said I get the idea. You could do this to anyone, couldn't you? Tell me bad things about them."

"Of course," agreed Wednesday. "They all do the same things. They may think their sins are original, but for the most part they are petty and repetitive."

"An that makes it okay for you to steal ten bucks from her?"

Wednesday paid the taxi and the two men walked into the airport, wandered up to their gate. Boarding had not yet begun. Wednesday said, "What the hell else can I do? They don't sacrifice rams or bulls to me. They don't send me the souls of killers and slaves, gallows-hung and raven-picked. They made me. They forgot me. Now I take a little back from them. Isn't that fair?"
In what I am assuming was the climax scene, although I could be surprised, the warring parties meet at a motel that is in the exact center of America for a purpose I won't divulge. One of the modern-day gods trying to win Shadow over to their side is Media.
"Media. I think I have heard of her. Isn't she the one who killed her children?"

"Different woman," said Mr. Nancy. "Same deal."
Neil Gaiman is a funny guy. He finds lots of opportunities for clever humor admidst his premise of a war for governance over the American soul. He manages to turn his many spiritual/cultural notions into page-turning fiction. His creative fantasy is prolific and well-meaning, but the whole things never rises above mildly entertaining for me. And I am still waiting for the thirty-page tangent about a serving girl from Cornwall and the various graphic sex scenes that popped up through the narrative to weave themselves into the vast cloth that is American Gods. I am sure they are going to figure soon, in what feels like the book's denouement, but 500 pages seems a long time to wait for it. So far, my favorite book of Gaiman's is still Coraline.


Anonymous said...

I've been pretty on the fence about whether I want to read this or not. I've read Gaiman's short story collections and I've read Coraline (which I really found just okay), but I've been pretty ambivalent about diving into his novels. I have "Stardust" on my shelf now. Have you read it? I'd love to know what you think of it, if you have.

Ted said...

JSP - I have not read Stardust (but I saw the movie, which is pretty nicely done, great star turn by Robert de Niro). I tried to get through Neverwhere, but I just couldn't. I haven't tried the stories.