Author: Neil Gaiman
Synopsis: After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the minutes, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr. Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.
Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace... Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Neil Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to finding the soul of America.
Why did I pick it up?: I read and loved Stardust and Neverwhere. I have every intention to read all of his books and I got this one from the library.
Favorite Line: "I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself."
That's only one line from Sam's "I believe" speech. I was tempted to post the whole thing, but decided it was too long to include. Though apparently not too long to put on a shirt.
My Review: Though there are gods and mythological folks throughout the story, this is not a retelling of any kind. Gaiman doesn't cling to the commonly done Greek-Roman stories. Instead he reaches into the farthest corners and pulls out the gods who are forgotten. And you probably won't know who they are and Gaiman probably won't explain it because it isn't a history lesson in ancient beliefs.
Americans now worship the gods of television and Internet. Digital gods, credit card gods. They have the masses supporting them and they don't want to share America with the washed up old gods any longer.
Gaiman lets the story build around Shadow. It doesn't feel rushed or forced. I wanted to know more details about Shadow, his life before prison and what led him to his incarceration. That's not a criticism I think the back story was sufficient enough to intrigue and leave the reader wanting more. If there had been some huge information dump, I wouldn't have enjoyed the book as much as I did.
America is a character in her own right. The journey takes the reader through small economically depressed towns and popular road side attraction varying from the expected to the so bizarre I wanted to google to find out if they really existed. Trust me, they probably are real as my parents have stopped at half of them.
Note on Library-Amazingness: I read this as an eBook from the library. It was so convenient. If you have an eReader, you should check out your library's options. My favorite thing so far is the surprise of getting the email that a book is ready for download. Sometimes I know what is next on my to be read list, but I still get stuck not knowing what to read and the fabulous library helps by giving me deadlines and forcing me to read what I added to my list weeks ago. For instance, today I was emailed that The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan is available and I have three days to download it.
Sorry for gushing. It's been a while since I had a library card and with all those free books at my reach without leaving my apartment I'm as pumped as I am lazy.
Recommendation: Strongly suggest for adult fantasy fans, though non-fantasy fans could still enjoy it.
Next Week: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.