"It's a bad day for a cop when he has to commit arson, just to cover up a murder." -Neil Gaiman, American Gods.
'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman is easily one of the best books I have read in a very long time, perhaps even in the all of time. Gaiman has written a brilliant, thought provoking and serious book with ease and hilarity. American Gods captures what I assume is the essence of being American.
Set in the modern day America, American Gods is the story of Shadow who is a released prisoner and of course, the story of Gods of America. Strange things begin to happen to Shadow (whose character develops wonderfully over the course of the book) when he drinks the mead of Mr. Wednesday (perverse, confident and demands a respect he doesn't deserve) and agrees to work for him. As the pair of them take a trip across America, Shadow gets kidnapped, watches his dead wife come back to life, robs a bank and makes it snow (among many other things). Shadow meets several others on his journey like Sam (smart, quirky and attractive), Anansi who goes by the name of Mr. Nancy (arrogant, wise and helpful to Shadow), Laura (Shadow's dead wife), Hinzelmann (who tells way too many stories), Low-key Lyesmith (subtle) and Inspector Mulligan (friendly and slightly clueless).
American Gods is long (between 500-700 pages, varying as per different editions) and complicated. The book has different angles and layers to it, regularly interspersed with short stories about the Gods. It is well thought out and gripping from the beginning. The pace dramatically increases 1/3rd into the book, and each plot line and character is dealt with utmost delicacy. A good portion of the story remains in suspense keeping you on the edge and towards the end, a final plot twist finally pushes you over.
When Neil Gaiman tells you in his unique style that Gods exist in America and they are dying, it becomes very hard to not believe him. His theory is that when people from across the world came to America, their brought their belief and this belief brought the Gods to life. Gods of different cultures and regions have been mentioned highlighting the multi cultural society of America. But faith is dying steadily in America as the people move to the next big thing and without faith, without a blood sacrifice in their names, so are the Gods.
The language is easy to understand although profane. Due to scenes of graphical nature, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone younger than 15 years. I would categorize this book under fantasy fiction and adventure and would definitely recommend it to anyone who has even a little interest in these genres. The themes of this book reminds me of 'The Lonesome Gods' by Louis L'amour.
Gripping and unique, this book is the work of a genius or a mad man or both. It is secondarily a book and primarily, to it's core, a story. And as far as stories go, this one deserves an audience.