American Gods by Niel Gaiman presents a thrilling theater of conflict between the ancient and ageing folk gods – who landed in America through the centuries from all over – on one side; and the modern, thriving gods of plastic money, technology, consumerism and more on the other. The characters are very human-like, conspiring, conniving and collaborating to win the war of human faith. Playing out on the highways, this is one fantastic road trip where you discover a unique America, rarely seen through the pages of pop literature or the lenses of Hollywood.
It begins when Shadow, a man charged with criminal assault is released from prison and meets a mysterious person name Wednesday, who offers him a job. Down in life and out of luck, Shadow reluctantly accepts being the bodyguard. Only to realize later, that his employer is no ordinary mortal. He is Odin, the Norse God. Shadow gets introduced to others, like Loki and Thor, Anansi and the Lion-God, Leprechauns, Kobolds, Banshees, Ashtaroth and Kubera. All of them arrived here riding in the hearts of their believers who settled in America; and live to this day because somewhere, somebody still believes in them. But their numbers are dwindling fast, succumbing to the new, modern gods of speed, of money, of glitz, of technology. Odin and his army of assorted mythical heroes have to fight a great battle of survival, to prevent the fate of extinction from the conscience of mankind. Our man Shadow soon realizes he has a big part to play in this cosmic turbulence.
As you go along, you get distinct flavors of the rich ingredients in this great American melting pot with thousands of different cultures. Gaiman beautifully weaves incidental sub-tales about the Egyptian, African, Celtic, even Indian myths in this modern mythical fantasy.
This is one exhilarating ride into the badlands of Gods. Savour it. It is long enough, but you’d not want this to end.