books / reviews

American Gods, a review.

In between reading about Watchmen’s philosophy, recovering from bread-cheese-meat-cookie-wine holiday nirvana, drinking more wine, and learning how to become a handyman through the trials and tribulations of room renovation, I decided to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. For reasons I can’t really justify (forgetting it at my grandparents, putting it in a “safe place,” restarting it twice, laziness), this book took me a long time to read, and it isn’t because it’s a bad book—in fact, the book is damn amazing, and has my seal of approval.

Plot in a nutshell: An ex-con named Shadow is hired by a mysterious old dude named Mr. Wednesday after he’s released from prison and becomes privy to the information that his wife died in a car crash with his buddy’s lower horn in her mouth. Mr. Wednesday (aka Odin aka the All-Father) tells Shadow that his job is to protect him, not ask questions, run errands, be a chauffeur and, when the situation calls for it, to hurt people who need to be hurt. Mr. W is losing his powers because the New Gods (Highways, Technology, etc) are the only thing Americans believe in, so he’s becoming weaker, as are all Old Gods—and that’s just not going to fly. When Shadow is like “well, ok, sure,” Mr. W is stoked and it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

 

Admittedly, when I first started reading this book, I was hesitant. Despite my utter and deep adoration of fairy tales and folklore, I had a lot of mixed feelings about an ex-con meeting a bunch of mythological Gods and helping them escape from obscurity. I mean, with a name like Shadow, I was expecting some sort of weird, vague and defiling fanfiction revolving around Sonic the Hedgehog. What I received was something much better than Shadow doing unspeakable things to fellow animals and followed a tale of personal growth, self-realization, an in-depth analysis of modern consumption, and a sprinkle of what defines an “American God.”

 

Words can’t describe how happy I am that I was totally wrong.

This novel takes the melting pot theme of the United States of America and amplifies it times infinity and beyond. It is an amazing account of a mixture of cultures and an investigation of just how those cultural influence hold up to the test of time. Those gods who survived (such as Easter, luckily embraced by Hallmark–though, unfortunately, Noël was nowhere to be found) lived in the lap of luxury, while others became gas station attendants, morticians, or even con artists, but as long as they had the occasional thought or still recalled the blood that was shed in their honor, they survived and found strength. Old gods fighting against new gods, infidelity, brutal murder, bull-headed men and dead wives, and the more the story proceeds, the grander and more sensational it becomes.

 

The best part? While you’re reading about Norse Gods, Irish Gods, Egyptian Gods, Indian Gods, Hindu Gods, the Gods of Technology, the Gods of Media, and Gods from everywhere else you can think of, Gaiman is setting you up for one of the biggest “no fucking way” twists that I have read in recent years. Seriously, after I finished the book, twist and all, I flipped through the whole book again to see if I missed the signs (I did) and if there was anything else that I missed (probably). The world created by Gaiman is so in-depth and detail-oriented that these little moments are just thought of as quirks of his style, which made it even better that they led you to such a shocking revelation. I’m starting to repeat myself, but it was seriously that good.

 

I can’t praise this novel enough and everyone should read it!

 

Agree/disagree? Let me know below!

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3 thoughts on “American Gods, a review.

  1. It’s about time i say something here too. Since Neil Gaiman is my absolute favorite author (signed edition of American Gods on my shelf). American Gods is not the easiest read and if you’re not a voracious reader it’s easy to become discouraged with it.

    I usually recommend Gaiman novices try one of his earlier books such as Neverwhere (urban fantasy at it best) or Stardust (traditional fairy tale/fantasy, also great movie adaption) to see if they like his style before tackling the magnum opus.

    Did you know there is a sequel of sorts? In “Fragile Things”, one of Gaiman’s many collections of short stories. You can find “The Monarch of the Glen”, a short story featuring Shadow and taking place post-American Gods.

    Also as I’m writing this in 2016. Starz TV adaption of American Gods is gaining steam with some nice casting reveals. Who knows, maybe you’ll review that show once it airs.

    • Honestly, I have since turned into a massive Gaiman fan! I devour his short stories and absolutely adored Good Omens (co-written with Pratchett), but I have also read Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane – the mixture of fantasy and fairy tales gets me every time. As someone who has read American Gods three times now (!!) I am heavily considering reviewing the show.

      • I think it was Good Omens that was my introduction to his writing, that and the Sandman comics. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was my most recent read, very enjoyable tale.

        Another surprising favorite was The Graveyard Book, though the style is more aimed toward young adults just like Coraline. But it’s plenty entertaining even for adults.

        The only one I can remember not enjoying as much as I normally do was Anansi Boys.

        BBC has also done two amazing full cast radio dramatizations of Good Omens and Neverwhere that I heartily recomend. The Neverwhere one was up and avalible (without region locks) just last month.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01r522y

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