American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean; Folio Society, $120.00, 560 pages, ages 14+.
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning American Gods (2001), rejoice: the Folio Society has recently released a commemorative edition of the 560-page genre-crossing tale of myth, fantasy, and faith. The timing is spot-on; recently adapted for television, American Gods debuted last month on the Starz network to such fanfare that the show has already been renewed for a second season.
In the Folio Society edition of the book, Gaiman’s exploration of faith in ancient and modern mythology leaps off the pages with the assistance from longtime collaborator Dave McKean, who previously illustrated Gaiman’s Sandman and Violent Cases. Here, twelve surreal acrylic and cut paper illustrations, including three double-page spreads and an otherworldly slipcase design, create, as McKean writes in the introduction, “an off-kilter, unrealistic place, where perspective doesn’t work.”
For the uninitiated, American Gods centers around a recently released convict named Shadow, who wanders aimlessly after learning of his wife’s fatal car accident during his time in prison. Shadow hooks up with con man Mr. Wednesday, and together they travel across America encountering Mr. Wednesday’s various associates–manifestations of old gods from ancient mythology now half-forgotten and wholly unimportant to 21st century folk. Gaiman’s premise is that the gods only exist so long as people remember them, and some gods resort to desperate measures to remain relevant. While the old gods fade into memory, a new breed of gods have taken over the American psyche, ones who represent humankind’s newfound obsession with social media, narcissism, and sexual power. A battle is looming, and Mr. Wednesday (who turns out to be an incarnation of the Norse god Odin) is leading the charge in a fight for the soul of America.
The Folio Society’s version of American Gods includes Gaiman’s “preferred text,” from the 2003 edition as well as the introduction from the 2005 edition, and fans unable to procure a Hill House 2003 limited edition–which fetch anywhere from $450 to over $1,000 these days–will find $120 for the Folio Society’s American Gods a relative steal.