American Gods (by Neil Gaiman)
Six of us met to discuss one of our most controversial book choices: Neil Gaiman's American Gods. A book outside our usual choices. After some initial negative feedback we agreed on an alernative choice: The Ocean at the End of the Road, Gaiman's most recent book. So 3 of us had read American Gods or some of it, and the rest of the group the newer one.
We considered the range of his writing from graphic novels: The Sandman, short stories and children's books such as the Blueberry Girl and the Wolves in the Walls.
We discussed the rambling novel American Gods, which had a blend of styles from noir to fantasy, sci fi, gothic and maybe even a little David Lynch thrown in. Some of the group found the novel boring, and had trouble finishing it. Others found it confusing and hard to follow. I found it readable, and intriguing, with a few slow patches, and perhaps a bit of confusion of ideas. The concept of the historical gods and mythological figures being personified by a group of characters living shady lives in contemporary society is quite an appealing one. These gods, based on Greek, Norse and similar gods are capricious, powerful but vulmerable, and dependant on people believing in them for their existence. Gaiman was i think contrasting these traditional gods, which have come with the arrival of the Europeans to the continent of America, with the new gods of media, and the somewhat shady CIA agents, which was an interesting but inconsistently developed part of the book.
The main character the Shadow, who gets caught up in all of this, is a typical noir character, a tough guy who goes along with the dark forces around him, while retaining a certain moral heroism, and an ultimate vulnerability. The ghoulish figure of his dead wife appearing as a decaying zombie, was a surreal element which also contained an element of black humour. Likewise the reference to Christian beliefs with Shadow's final sacrifice, death and resurrection was a little heavyhanded. So a fascinating book, somewhat flawed, and obviously not to everyone's taste.
Those who read the Ocean at the End of the Road enjoyed the story, finding it a fairly straightforward narrative, with a real fantasy element, but rather charming nonetheless. As I didn't read this book, I can't comment in depth on it, but it is another side to Gaiman's storytelling, where he tells rather dark fairy tales, exploring parallel realities, and a journey into people's magical alternative lives.
It was a lovely discussion, with wonderful hospitality by Deb, and I think stimulating to read genres outside our usual gamut!