American Gods (2001) Neil Gaiman

American Gods (2001) Neil Gaiman


I read (heard – audio book with George Guidall narration) this book in 2003 but with the new TV version thought it might be fun to review it now.


·      Shadow Moon – An ex-convict who becomes the reluctant bodyguard and errand boy of Mr. Wednesday.

·      Laura Moon – Shadow Moon’s wife who died in a car crash at the beginning of the novel a few days before Shadow is due to be released from prison.

  • Samantha “Sam” Black Crow- A hitchhiking college student Shadow meets during his journey.

  • Chad Mulligan- A kind-hearted chief of police in the town of Lakeside.

Old Gods:

  • Wednesday– An aspect of Odin, the Old Norse god of knowledge and wisdom.

  • Czernobog– The Slavic god of darkness, twin brother to Belobog, the god of light.

  • The Zorya Sisters- The Zorya Sisters, relatives of Czernobog, are sisters representing the Morning Star (Zorya Utrennyaya), the Evening Star (Zorya Vechernyaya), and the Midnight Star (Zorya Polunochnaya). In Slavic lore, they are servants of Dažbog who guard and watch over the doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the “little bear”. If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the world.

  • Nancy– Anansi, a trickster spider-man from African folklore. He often makes fun of people for their stupidity, a recurring aspect of his personality in his old stories.

  • Ibis– Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. He runs a funeral parlor with Mr. Jacquel in Cairo, Illinois. He often writes short biographies of people who brought folkloric beings with them to America.

  • Jaquel– Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead and mummification. He is an expert at preparing bodies for the wake at funerals.

  • Easter– Ēostre, the Germanic goddess of the dawn.

  • Mad Sweeney– Suibhne, a king from an old Irish story. Though not portrayed as such in his story, he calls himself a “Leprechaun,” and is a foul-mouthed, a frequent drinker, and taller than expected.

  • Whiskey Jack– Wisakedjak, a trickster figure of Algonquian  He lives near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with John Chapman, where he is mistaken for Iktomi, a trickster of their culture.

  • John Chapman– Johnny Appleseed

  • Low-Key Lyesmith– Loki, the Old Norse god of mischief and trickery.

  • Hinzelmann- Hinzelmann, a kobold who was formerly revered as a tribal god by ancient Germanic tribes. He protects the town of Lakeside, in the guise of an old man, by sacrificing one child each year.

  • Bilquis- Queen of Sheba, as mentioned in the Bible.

  • Mama-Ji- Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and destruction.

New Gods:

  • The Technical Boy– New god of computers and the Internet.

  • Media– New goddess of television. She appears in the form of Lucy Ricardo from the well-known show “I Love Lucy” and a female news anchor.

  • The Black Hats– Mister World, Mister Town, Mister Wood and Mister Stone exist out of the US’ obsession with black helicopters and the men in black. They work as spooks for the new gods.

  • The Intangibles- New gods of the modern stock market, the personification of the “Invisible hand of the market”.

The main character in this classic Neil Gaiman book is Wednesday Moon. He is our guide and chief protagonist through this world of old and new gods based on belief. I thought that the “side stories” were in some ways more memorable then the main plot. I do especially like “media” as Lucy. What a hoot. It is purportedly about old versus new beliefs (gods) but in the end it is a tale of tricksters. It is one of the most interesting and remarkable books that I have read and after fifteen plus years I still think about it. I have yet to see the TV version and am reluctant to be disappointed as I frequently am when books are brought to video.


This entry was posted in Book Review, Buckeye Zealot, Nathaniel Mauger and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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