- Megan Bingham
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American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she's been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever he the same . . .
American Gods is now a television series on the Starz network, based on the novel of the same name. The television series was developed by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green (Heroes, Gotham). Gaiman serves as an executive producer along with Fuller, Green, Craig Cegielski, Stefanie Berk, and Thom Beers. The series focuses on Shadow Moon, who meets a strange man named Mr. Wednesday after being released from prison. However, he soon finds himself a part of a large-scale conflict between the Old Gods and the New Gods, who grow stronger each day. The first episode premiered on the Starz network and through their streaming application on April 30, 2017. In May 2017, the series was renewed for a second season.
The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them (a type of thoughtform.) Immigrants to the United States brought with them spirits and gods. The power of these mythological beings has diminished as people's beliefs waned. New gods have arisen, reflecting the American obsessions with media, celebrity, technology, and drugs, among other things.¹
If you enjoy American Gods, either the novel or the Starz series, check out these similar adult fantasy titles below . . .
Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
Since time immemorial, humans have worshiped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and the those they thought were gods changes forever. Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer. Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom. And Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun. (catalog summary)
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (this title ties in with the Starz series)
When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat Charlie." Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrassing "gifts" his father bestowed—before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie's life. Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie's doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who's going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun . . . just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie. Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself. (catalog summary)
Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer
At the highest level of a giant forest, thirteen kingdoms fit seamlessly together to form the great city of Canopy. Thirteen goddesses and gods rule this realm and are continuously reincarnated into human bodies. Canopy's position in the sun, however, is not without its dark side. The nation's opulence comes from the labor of slaves, and below its fruitful boughs are two other realms: Understorey and Floor, whose deprived citizens yearn for Canopy's splendor. Unar, a determined but destitute young woman, escapes her parents' plot to sell her into slavery by being selected to serve in the Garden under the goddess Audblayin, ruler of growth and fertility. As a Gardener, she wishes to become Audblayin's next Bodyguard while also growing sympathetic towards Canopy's slaves. When Audblayin dies, Unar sees her opportunity for glory—at the risk of descending into the unknown dangers of Understorey to look for a newborn god. In its depths, she discovers new forms of magic, lost family connections, and murmurs of a revolution that could cost Unar her chance . . . or grant it by destroying the home she loves. (catalog summary)
Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez
Like many people in this world, Phil & Terry are just looking for their personal slice of divine assistance. It's not their fault that they decide to settle on Lucky, a raccoon god of good fortune. At first, everything seems to be working fine. But they will soon learn that the world of divine powers is not to be entered into casually. (catalog summary)
Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips
The twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse—and none too happy about it. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed—but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world? (catalog summary)
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel by Helene Wecker
Chava, a golem brought to life by a disgraced rabbi, and Ahmad, a jinni made of fire, form an unlikely friendship on the streets of New York until a fateful choice changes everything. (catalog summary)
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
The trickster god Loki describes the rise and fall of the gods of the Norse, detailing how he left Chaos to serve Odin until the fall of Asgard. (catalog summary)
The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky
The Relentless One, the Bearer of the Bow, the Untamed . . . those are only a few of the names Selene DiSilva's answered to over the years. But these days she's content to work in secret, defending the women of Manhattan from the evils of men. She's reclusive, stubborn, and deeply unfriendly to everyone but her dog. But when a woman's mutilated body washes up in Riverside Park wearing a laurel wreath, Selene finds that she can no longer hide in the shadows. As more women are threatened, Selene is forced to embrace the one name she's tried hardest to forget—Artemis. For who better to follow the killer's tangled trail than the Goddess of the Hunt herself? (catalog summary)
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he presents his fashioning of the primeval Norse myths into a novel, which begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds, delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants, and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly recreating the characters—the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendencey to let passion ignite their actions—and making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. (catalog summary)
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood returns with a shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope. Describing her own remarkable vision, the author writes in the foreword, "I've chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself." (catalog summary)
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt
Presents a retelling of the Norse myth about the end of the world that follows the blitz-era evacuation of a young girl whose worldview is dramatically changed upon reading "Asgard and the Gods." (catalog summary)
The Wicked + the Divine: Vol. 1, The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen
Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. In a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods, remember: just because you're immortal, doesn't mean you're going to live forever. (catalog summary)