What a book, guys. And what a story! I’m absolutely blown away and can’t wait to see the words on screen now. Sadly, the whole book hasn’t been converted into a complete series so I cant binge watch, but nevertheless, something is better than nothing 🙂
I decided to read this book, since I saw trailers of the screen adaptation and had been meaning to read another Neil Gaiman book since Norse Mythology and Good Omens for a while now. I just hadn’t made up my mind on which one, and well, ‘Gods’ or ‘The Universe’ decided it for me, when I bought this book on the spur of a moment at a book fair.
The storyline is simple – It’s a battle between the Gods, the old Gods and the new Gods. And in between this battle, is our protagonist Shadow, who has been released from prison and straightaway thrown into a strange and crazy world, that one would have only imagined to be stuff of fantasies.
Actually, the story is not so simple in hindsight. It is really complex, fantasy set in the present age America, where Gods are nearly powerless and walking around like you and me, losing out on faith from human beings and being replaced by the new Gods of money, plastic, TV, media, you get the drift. There are stories within stories, small chapters about the origins of the old Gods, and how they came to America, which all tie into a grand finale at the end.
But the book, even though it seems to be of the fantasy genre on the surface, in terms of the characters and the way the story moves, also felt like a story about love, faith, belief, betrayal, power – all talked about with elements of magical realism added in.
There are Gods from across the world who have a scene in this story, and from across religions and beliefs. I couldn’t even imagine the amount of research it would’ve taken Neil Gaiman to learn about all these Gods and Goddesses and their origins, the way they look and their powers, or their history, and give them all a part in the overall story.
The main characters are: Shadow (our protagonist), Mr. Wednesday (referred to as the All-father, or Odin, as many of us would know this figure more, thanks to the Avengers series), Mr. Nancy (Anansi God), Low-Key LyeSmith (who plays a double role, and is also Loki), Bathsheba, Bilquis, Mr. Ibis, Mr. Jackal, Mata-ji (Goddess Kali), the Ifrits, and many more. It is interesting to note that in Neil Gaiman’s book, the old Gods are all on the same side now – the good and the evil ones. They are fighting together to try and get more back from the new age Gods now.
There are themes of what it means to be an immigrant in America, what it means to be a God, who gives Gods their power?, what do humans believe in, what is the purpose of life and how love affects each of us differently, how friendships can be formed in the strangest ways, and how one can care about someone who betrayed them or used them as well. So many things to discuss about, that I think I have highlighted half my paperback already!
I loved the simple writing, and the subtly humorous way Neil Gaiman writes in. Even in scenes that are tragic or painful, he makes them matter of fact, which makes the storyline easy to digest. Even though it is a 500+ page book, its a super fast read, because you really want to know what will happen next.
Brilliant descriptions of locations, made up and real apparently, of a cold winter that made me shiver, even though its not that cold where I live at the moment, and interesting additions of the daily mundane activities that Shadow does, like eating a lot of fast food and simply walking, and sleeping and dreaming, makes the character relatable and the story very plausible.
All in all, I loved this book and can easily say, that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing. No wonder he and Sir Terry Pratchett were such good friends. I sometimes secretly wish I had powers of invisibility and could time travel, just so I could hang out or eavesdrop on their hangouts and delight in their wit and intellect 🙂