I was awed by the author’s writing style, right from the beginning, even
though he was describing the everyday actions of an individual, such as
walking, turning a knob, touching something, and so on –so mundane, but
so well described, to the point where the author made it interesting.
The material, while not my usual interest, was still kept interesting,
especially as we observed it from Shadow’s point of view. Seeing
Wednesday’s scams, and the way he tries to wheedle people into doing his
bidding, we can understand why Shadow follows him –he’s charismatic, and
it’s in his nature to trick people. The discovery of the forgotten gods,
which were brought to America by various immigrants, was compelling. As
is probably true of most people, I’ve never thought about the beliefs
people shed as they crossed the Atlantic, looking for a better life.
Pieces of gods brought from the old worlds, and the new things that can
be considered as worship, from TV to cell-phones, litter our collective
memories. It’s interesting to see them come to life here. Unfortunately,
I found the ending to be disappointing, in the way Shadow resolved
everything. The con job and the disappearances in the small town were
revelations when they came, but to think the actual war could end this
way seemed unlikely. I was expecting the story about the messenger, told
somewhere in the middle of the book, to become his fate.
Not knowing much about this book, other than that
a released convict traveled the US, I put off reading it for a long time.
I was expecting a boring rampage through a post-apocalyptic society,
overrun by wars between the gods, or something… I was so wrong. The
writing is very casual, but in a way that brings the reader into
Shadow’s world, as he is in prison, waiting to get out, then he’s
released, but only after being told that his wife is dead, and then
becoming employed by Wednesday, even though the job isn’t specific at
The author describes the most mundane aspects of Shadow’s
life, but in the way that makes the reader nod and accept that this is
natural –and inviting. Like the way Wednesday cons people, we are being
conned, even as Shadow becomes an unwitting pawn in the war, between
whom, Shadow doesn’t know, but begins to suspect. I thought the way
Wednesday had people donate money to him by posing as a security officer
outside a broken bank deposit slot was hilarious, and potentially
devastating, as people might actually try it. According to the author’s
afterword, somebody did, and got caught.
Wednesday turns out to
be Odin, the Allfather of ancient Norse mythology, and he’s trying to
gather the old gods behind him to battle the new gods of technology and
money. Shadow accompanies him on several of these escapades, spending
time with a whole bunch of gods I knew absolutely nothing about. But
that doesn’t matter, because they were all interesting, even the Russian
ones who were stuck in the run-down building. They travel to various
places in the US, stopping at powerful spots, marked by all those
strange “biggest *blank* in the world” locations –people were prompted
to build things there because they had magical properties, links to the
He dreams of native Americal gods, buffalo men,
strange birds, and more. Some of them promise to bring his dead wife
back to life. While he was in prison, Laura started having an affair
with one of their good friends, and was calling it off when Shadow was
released. I’m pretty sure Wednesday set up her death, giving him oral
sex while they were driving, just so he could have Shadow to himself.
But Shadow was given a magic coin of the gods, and he dropped it into
Laura’s grave, and she came to life as a decaying zombie. It was pretty
disgusting, especially as she coughed up maggots and pieces of herself.
But he still loved her.
There is an interlude as winter comes,
and Shadow stays in a nondescript small town. He befriends an old man,
his female neighbor with her son, and the sheriff. He bets on the local
wreck that’s pushed out onto the ice, as to when it will sink in the
spring. There are curious things he sees in the town, and events
conspire to have a pre-teen girl go missing, then to force Shadow to
flee. He’s sorry to go, because he pretty much fit in there. Still,
Laura’s friend, whose husband she was cheating with, comes to town and
starts a commotion, which gets Shadow arrested. Wednesday’s people pick
him up, though, and they continue to gather gods. It’s almost time for
The new gods are so afraid of Wednesday that they bring
him to the FBI and kill him. Shadow holds vigil tied to the tree of
life, where he dies, too, and learns that Wednesday was his father.
Easter finds him, though, and brings him back from the dead, and he
travels by firebird to the most powerful location in America, where the
battle is ready to start. But Laura gets there first, and kills the
leader on the opposite side of the battle, who turns out to be Loki.
Wednesday and Loki plotted together to bring about this battle
between the gods, a blood sacrifice that would give them both more
power. It was a clever plot, reminiscent of the plots Wednesday and
Shadow had discussed earlier in the book, and it worked really well.
Unfortunately, the part where Shadow overcomes the resurrected
shadow-Wednesday then tells all the other gods, new and old, that they
were being manipulated, doesn’t work as well. He gave a nice speech, but
then the gods turned around and went home. There was an earlier story in
the book where the messenger who tried to keep the two sides apart were
killed because of the fear and rage that had built between two warring
factions, and I wondered if Shadow would get this fate. But the whole
thing was anti-climactic.
Laura finds her rest, after being a
zombie for the whole book, and Shadow can move on with his life, even
going to Iceland, drawn to the old gods in their earlier form, before
they were inadverdently brought to America. He even confronts the old
man from the small town who was killing children as sacrifices in the
trunks of old wrecks out on the ice every winter. A mystery solved. The
sheriff burns the man and his house to the ground.
enjoyed this book, especially the writing style, which was very smooth
and natural. The interactions with the different gods was done in such a
way that they were all very interesting, as Shadow suspects, then can
confirm, that they are indeed gods. His belief grows through the book,
even as he impassively does whatever Wednesday wants. Sometimes he’s
left on his own, like in the small town or when he gives Sam the
hitch-hiker a lift southward. As a side note, I had no idea that frigid
winters wound their way so far south, but had to smile at how the author
described the frigid cold, which is a normal winter here.
recommended, just for the writing and the idea that the remnants of the
old gods are still lurking around here. I also quite enjoyed the
side-chapters that showed how some of the old gods came here, from the
Vikings, to immigrants, to prisoners sent from England and other old
countries. Very enjoyable and entertaining.