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American Gods    by Neil Gaiman order for
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Shadow has survived his sentence of three years in prison with the help of his cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith. He has spent the time learning tricks with coins and waiting patiently for his release and return to his adored wife, Laura. But only a few days before the due date, he is informed of Laura's death in a car accident, and given immediate compassionate release.

On the plane back to the funeral, he meets an old man, Mr. Wednesday, con-man by profession, who offers him a job. Reluctant at first, he leaves Wednesday on the plane and gets off at the next small airport and rents a car. However, stopping to eat at a roadside restaurant, he finds Wednesday waiting for him, and meets Mad Sweeney, who calls himself a leprechaun, (though he drinks Southern Comfort and Coke, not Guinness.)

So begins Shadow's mythic journey across America, starting at his wife's grave, where he learns that she has been having a torrid affair with his friend and former employer. In farewell, he leaves a gold coin pulled out of the air by Mad Sweeney buried with her. In return, she haunts him on his travels. A restless ghost is a minor inconvenience, as he meets many of the old gods brought to America by the immigrants from other countries, now grown shabby and almost forgotten, eking out a living as best they can.

Mr. Wednesday has embroiled him. in fact, in a conflict of these old gods with the new gods growing up in America, of Transport, the Media, Technology and the Internet. Shadow becomes increasingly involved in the turmoil which is building up to full scale war between the factions; the old gods led by Mr. Wednesday, and the new led by Mr. World. Between missions with Wednesday he is allowed to stay in a small town called Lakeside, surprisingly happy and prosperous among its depressed neighbours. He is happy there himself until he begins to suspect the price that is being paid.

This is a novel of truly mythic proportions, written in a matter of fact style that makes the most monstrous aberrations believable; a War of the Worlds, New and Old, fought by humanity's gods; or if you like, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn if they had been written by Stephen King. True fantasy at its best.

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