REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
by Neil Gaiman
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies…and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.
4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This is another one of those novels that I read because it has been adapted into a TV show, and I wanted to experience the source material first. If the Starz series is at all faithful to this book, it will be dazzling to watch.
Shadow, upon being released from prison, learns that his wife has died. With nothing else to lose, he takes a job as a bodyguard of sorts for a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. Shadow soon finds himself in a dreamscape world of gods, monsters, mythological beasts and much more. A battle between old gods and new seems to be on the horizon, and though he doesn’t know it yet, Shadow will be an integral part of the shaping of the future world.
At around 700 pages, this is the largest novel I have read in quite some time. Still, I read it rather quickly. Shadow is not particularly smart, or charismatic, or interesting, but something about him makes you root for him anyway. He is an open book with almost everyone he meets, and I suppose that is endearing.
I did enjoy the weaving in of all the the different major and minor gods throughout the story. A lot of them I could figure out, but some I did have to look up. A fantastic thing about American Gods is that, like America, there is a melting pot of deities in this book; gods from India, ancient Egypt, Norse mythology, Ireland, and lots of places in between are included.
There is far too much to mention to explain why I liked this book so much. Suffice to say that when it was done, I was sad that I had to leave Shadow’s world. The author does a superb job of making sure there are no loose ends left behind, and that is a feat with the sheer number of characters and subplots going on in the story.
That’s not to say American Gods is perfect–there are a number of stories told which seem to have no point in relation to the main plot, but are entertaining to read regardless. There are characters that shows up once, briefly, then never again. At times the author seems to be including gods and their background stories just because he knows them, an info dump of sorts.
I never lost interest even though the pace moved slowly, because there is a tone throughout the novel that something big will be happening just around the next corner. And that’s for sure–Shadow’s ride is anything but boring. This is a book you have to experience to learn what others are talking about.
About the Author
Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.