In Chaos there is Cosmos

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods follows Shadow, a recently released ex-con with a knack for coin tricks, on an expansive adventure across America’s heartland. He is your typical hero with a devil may care attitude but a heart of gold. Teamed with a lecherous god Wednesday/ Odin, his employer, they go on to recruit the old gods who travelled to the new lands along with their believers. They are now mortal and humbled because of a paradigm shift that has resulted in the diversion of faith towards the newly emerging gods of media and technology. Odin wants a showdown with the winner drawing vitality and gaining fresh control over the minds of the people. Written in an surrealistic western tone, the novel carries an inherent sadness and an undertone of melancholy as it goes on to describe the coming of the old gods to America and their current situation. Sad huh?

Gods are immortal, omniscient, omnipotent. Gods are to be feared and worshipped. Gods are a physical manifestations of ones beliefs. They are as real as faith. Wait…

Gods are human. They are faux pas. They are cliches. But that’s talking about the Old Gods right? Not really.

All gods seem to be popular à la mode. Best served with ice cream? Well in America, yes they are! Gods in America are like pies served a la mode. You may like them for a while, then the health conscious you cuts down on them and then they are entirely forgotten. They really are passing trends. You may once have  believed that god in a giant man with a cows head and 10 arms who summons dark clouds and asks for children to be sacrifices at his altar. He may have been your god back then. Now it may very well be your I-phone. You may not perform naked intoxicated  rituals to worship it (or one might, whatever) but you do so by devoting your time to it. By giving it importance, by feeding it with your belief. Crazy right?

Well this is what Neil Gaiman thinks as he writes American Gods. His book is about gods old mythical ones with cool axes and fairy tales and they’re fight with the new “trending” ones like technology. The story is bland. There is a storm coming. Gods are going to fight. Our hero must save them above all odds. Typical. Routine. Not Really.

This is misdirection. The coin is up his sleeve.

This book is not some fantastical tale about gods. It about self discovery or the solemn journey of a man down the road less taken. A tale of self discovery and redemption with a supertnatural flavour. A hero with a heart who pays your bills for you and who is still love with his er… dead? Wife. The hero must choose.  A bit of surrealism her a bit of horror there. Ha! fooled ye again. The coin itself is the misdirection.

This book really is a critique of the American Culture. In the book,  he introduces us to the personified representations of Americans’ dreams, the old gods and the new ones created in the fast-paced technological world of modern life. He has woven a contemporary myth, as relevant a commentary on society as those of old. It a satire on these modern times which  are often defined in terms of conflicting morals and ideals, as well as ethnicities and languages, and somewhere, standing undefined, is that elusive figure suggested by the term “American”. But it’s  not just about America. It’s about how loyalties change with time. It’s about the fickle-minded humans that we are.

I can go on raving about what this book is and what it is not. You may think why haven’t I mentioned Shadow, the protagonist, or any other characters as such. But that would be detail. The tale is surreal mystifying and profound and very well beyond details.

P.S. Neil Gaiman has a good taste in music.