10 April 2011

22. American Gods

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

This is another of those books that I added to the list because it got tremendous reviews. Many of those reviews said things such as "the greatest book ever" or "my all-time favorite". As far as my own experience with American Gods...it fell well short of the expectations.

Maybe I just don't get Neil Gaiman? That could be. I enjoyed Good Omens (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett). I have heard that Neverwhere was outstanding. Maybe I will try it out some day.

I did find something interesting early on in the story. When Shadow met a bunch of folks with what sounded like Slavic names. I know some Russian and recognized that the names meant more than just being a name. Well, I thought Mr. Gaiman had a little fun when naming the characters. I did a quick search on the names and found that he did not make it up. They were actual names of "gods" from old Slavic beliefs. So, I didn't find out that Neil Gaiman was a multi-lingual practical joker, but I did find out that the names and what I thought were actual Russian words was dead on. I understand Russian better than I thought. Woohoooo!

Russian word for for black: cherny
Russian for god: bog
Man's name: Czernobog (guy just happens to be a bad fellow) (found this Czernobog)

Czernobog has a brother Bielebog
Russian word for white: biele
Bielebog happens to be a good guy (found this Bielebog)

These guys had sisters they called Utrennyaya, Vechernyaya and Polunochnaya. Shadow had some "thoughts" about Zorya Utrennyaya. She just happened to be the youngest and prettiest. Explanation to follow.
Russian words:
Morning: Utra (the youngest sister)
Evening: Vecher (the older sister)
Polunoch: Midnight (the oldest sister)

And then I looked up Zorya, which I thought had something to do with stars. I found this: Zorya. It explains the Slavic mythology associated with the morning star, evening star and midnight star.

So, Gaiman has written a book about "gods" that exist because people believe in them. When immigrants came to America they brought the gods with them. Over time the belief in these gods faded and the gods were no longer gods in the way they were in the past.

There is a buildup to a battle between the new gods and the old gods for supremacy in America. Shadow thwarts the war by explaining to them all that America is not a good place for gods and they should all return to the old countries. Blah blah blah.

It is very interesting in concept. The capabilities of such stories are endless. But, the book seemed to drag on and on and on. It was slow. It took so much time to build in the old mythology into a current American world that it lost excitement and, well, fun.

I didn't hate it. I didn't "like" it either. Fun at times. Boring as all heck at others. I read it because it helps me with two challenge goals this year. This book counts towards the Chunkster Challenge because it is 588 pages. it also counts for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge because Neil Gaiman is from England (not American).

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