Any book that has the phrase “don’t fuck with me” in the second sentence probably has something to tell me. This story is about paradigms and, more specifically, religion. It’s built upon the premise that when people moved to what is now the United States, over the previous milennia, they took their gods from their homelands with them. These gods had to set up shop in a new world and eventually most were almost entirely forgotten and lingered on in various half-alive ways. If you’ve seen The Year Without a Santa Claus, you’ll know what I mean. Now the new gods of technology, media, computers and so forth have challenged the old gods to some unspecificed battle. In the center of all of this is ex-con Shadow who is all human but gets to interact with the gods as they get together, discuss strategy and eventually fight. He meets other humans and other gods-as-humans and generally tries to make sense of his world.
Knowledge of religion is not necessary in this thick and well-written fairy tale. Some of the gods that Gaiman outlines were familiar to me, others less so. He takes care at the beginning to say that while many of the characters and locations in the novel are fictional, “the gods are real” so it’s fun to see how to moves them to this country and tells their stories. The book is really a great parable for just about any “out with the old and in with the new” tale, and this is less a story about religion than it is about faith or belief or even just how to get by when the chips are down. With my perspective, I saw it as a story about libraries, but I’m sure you could get your own particular pet topic to be reflected in Gaiman’s broad and well written set of ideas.