In celebration of his blog’s seventh anniversary, Neil Gaiman has put up one of my favorite novels, American Gods, for free on the internet for the rest of the month.
American Gods is one of those sprawling, epic tales that combines characterization, tone, and theme to bring everything together. A young man who goes by Shadow is released from prison a few days early because his wife is killed in a car accident. On the way home, he crosses paths with an old man who goes by Mr. Wednesday who knows precisely who he is and offers him a job traveling with him across the country. From there, the book takes a journey into a world of gods – both the new and the old – vying for their right to exist and remain viable in modern America.
Not your typical fare? That’s precisely why you should read it. Gaiman lays out several themes as threads throughout the novel, letting them cross over each other and weave a tight tapestry focusing on identity. The question of who one is, how one sees themselves, and how others understand them is one of the oldest stories, particularly in America – a country founded upon the creation and discovery of identity. That said, the novel is image-driven, never letting the story take a back seat to its themes – a lesson young writers could learn when it comes to balance.
If that doesn’t entice you, keep in mind Gaiman’s American Gods has won the Hugo Award for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel, the Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It’s a New York Times bestseller, and it’s one of my favorite books. If you still need convincing, Neil Gaiman let his readers vote which book to make available for free. How many writers do that?