The first season of “American Gods” has officially wrapped its eight-episode first season and what a winding, strange trip it has been. The series immediately announced itself as one of the most visually arresting, bizarre, and captivating shows on TV. Like the novel it adapts, “American Gods” was an epic fusion of folklore, mythology, fantasy, and Americana – a beguiling road trip through the seedy backroads of an America populated by craven, past-their-prime gods and endless struggle for power. Thankfully, Starz has already cleared “American Gods” for a second season. Unfortunately for fans of the series, we’ll have to wait a bit for the sophomore outing to arrive. But fear not, there are plenty of options in the literary world to make that potentially interminable wait, well, more terminable. As you count down the days until Shadow Moon, Mr. Wednesday, and company make their return to Starz, the novels below – a smattering of Americana, fantasy, the weird, and the thought-provoking – should help those days roll by a little faster.
Season one of “American Gods” covered roughly the first third of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning bestseller. On the off chance that you haven’t picked up the book, now is the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse at what to expect in season two. And if potential spoilers are a concern, there’s no need to worry: “American Gods” season one, while faithful in a number of ways, made just enough alterations and additions to the story to keep things interesting for fans of the novel. Expect season two to follow suit.
Robert Jackson Bennett
If the increasingly surreal road trip aspect of “American Gods” piqued your interest, The Troupe from Robert Jackson Bennett might be just the place to land next. For one, Bennett is a captivating storyteller with a definite Gaiman-esque sensibility. The Troupe centers on George Carole, a sixteen-year-old pianist who joins up with a vaudeville troupe and its eccentric and charismatic leader, Heironomo Silenus. All is not as it seems, however, and George soon discovers that Silenus and his troupe are on the run from a nearly unfathomable threat. The Troupe is a haunting and surreal tale tinged with magic, heartache, and a lurking cosmic horror.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from Michael Chabon is modern mythmaking at its best – steeped in humor, adventure, and the American dream. The story follows the adventures Joe Kavalier and his cousin Sammy Clay. Joe is a budding magician and escape artist; Sammy is a talented artist. Together they create a hero who takes the golden age of 1940s comic books by storm and sets the two on an extraordinary, continent-and-decades-spanning adventure.
Orlando Jones proved electrifying in his charismatic turn as the storytelling trickster god. Anansi Boys serves as a sort of follow-up to American Gods, in spirit at least. The novel follows the sons of Mr. Nancy – who drops dead on a karaoke stage in Florida – and their struggles against one another and their begrudging alliance. It’s an eclectic, imaginative, and oft-hilarious thriller and fans of “American Gods” should feel right at home.
At seventeen novels and counting, it can seem a little daunting to dive into the world of Chicago’s only professional wizard, Harry Dresden, but it’s well worth the effort. In this now classic urban fantasy, we’re introduced to Harry Dresden, a private detective who keeps the seedy and decidedly supernatural underbelly of Chicago at bay. Butcher’s novels move at a breakneck pace through a world populated by werewolves, vampires, demons, and occasionally gods. Storm Front is the first novel in the Dresden Files series and the perfect spot to dip your toes into the chaotic world of Harry Dresden.
G. Willow Wilson
This novel from G. Willow Wilson centers on a young Arab-Indian hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern country named Alif. Alif stumbles onto The Thousand and One Days, a secret book of the jinn that could allow him to meld magic with technology and thrusts him into a life-or-death struggle with forces he barely understands. Alif the Unseen is one-part high tech adventure and one-part thought-provoking meditation on spirituality, philosophy, and technology.
Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a classic literary masterpiece and a bizarre and hypnotic read. It centers on a small midwestern town and the fallout following the arrival of a strange carnival, Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show. Filled with the iconography of Main Street America, but nonetheless tinged with an otherworldly darkness, Something Wicked is Bradbury at the height of his storytelling genius.
Storytelling and the power of belief are central pillars in the world of “American Gods”; the same can be said for Patrick Rothfuss’s stunning opening shot in The Kingkiller Chronicles. The Name of the Wind is, in essence, a novel of stories, and begins with a man named Kvothe recounting his life’s story to another man named Chronicler in a small inn. Kvothe’s story is one of survival, magic, and sorrow, or in Kvothe’s words, “I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.”
The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book One
Atticus O’Sullivan lives a relatively peaceful life in Arizona. He runs an occult book shop and spends a fair amount of time with his Irish wolfhound. It’s not a bad way to spend your days. The bad news is that Atticus has drawn the attention of an ancient Celtic god. Fortunately, Atticus is a 2,000-year-old Druid with a bevy of supernatural cohorts that includes a seductive goddess of death, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and a team of werewolf attorneys (you read that right). Hounded is an interesting and worthwhile introduction to the Iron Druid Chronicles to say the least.
If you ignore the fact that she lives in a library possessing all the secrets to the universe and that the man who raised her after her parents’ death, a man she knows simply as Father, could very well be God, Carolyn lives a fairly normal life. Of course, with Father mysteriously missing and the Library left unprotected, what Carolyn viewed as a relatively normal life has since been upended and war is on the way. At turns hilarious and unnerving, The Library at Mount Char is a thrilling, provocative, and endlessly imaginative tale.