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American Gods: A Novel

An urban fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, with an introspective look to mythology and American culture.

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Did I Like This?

  • Jan 2, 2004
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Quite honestly, I am not sure. Gaiman's premise sparks with imagination---as I am unfamiliar with most of the writers that he thanks in his Acknowledgements---as to whether or not it is his own imagination or that of others, I am not sure. The main character, ex-con,Shadow, seems like a nice enough guy who reads Heroditus and has garnered quite a few other literary allusions even though we are told that his education is basic. On the eve of his release from prison, he discovers his wife has died in a car accident, a little later on in the story he learns that she died in the company of her lover, Shadow's friend. With this crushing truth weighing down upon him, Shadow meets and accepts a job with Mr. Wednesday, a man who seems to turn up when you least expect him and knows a little too much about Shadow's life. Suddenly, Shadow finds himself immersed in a battle royal in which Wednesday and an assortment of odd characters struggle to maintain some hold on an America they were forced to voyage to while in the believing minds of Old Country immigrants. Wednesday and his cronies are the old gods---Odin, Bast, and a cast of others---old, cranky and disillusioned by their diminished presence in American life as they are rapidly replaced by new gods of technology, wealth and power. Wednesday tells Shadow that "a war is coming"--a war in which the two will battle for supremacy.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, it is in parts. I found Shadow's sojourn into the small lakeside town in Michigan throughly entertaining--in fact if Gaiman had concentrated his efforts on making that his major plot, I think he could have successfully spun off all of his major themes in a more concise and precise manner that would not have left the reader scratching his head at major points in the story. Not being that well-versed with some of the gods and legends that Gaiman alludes to, I would have found an appendix detailing some of the minor aspects of this lore paramount to my understanding and enjoyment of the story.

After reading this nearly 600 pager, I regret to say that I don't think that there was much to ponder over, other than the rather obvious message that American life is consummed with immediate success and gratification rather than those which are founded on ritual and tradition. Shadow's role is never fully defined; other than his experience on the tree, he is very American; voyeur rather than participator---he may feel more alive, but what he does with that life, the story never defines.

Bottom line: Many of the other reviewers claim that Gaiman is a better comic book writer than a novelist. I have not read his Sandman series, but I have read some good graphic novels that promote conversations and make good observations on modern and not-so-modern life in an entertaining way. On a whole this book, does not do this. A good premise basically goes wasted. The tale of Hinklemann and the one untainted town in Michigan should have been given a little more detail and basically the same story could have been told with more impact. Recommended to those who want to read a 600 page book with aspirations to compare it with "The Stand".

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More American Gods reviews
review by . July 02, 2010
This novel by Gaiman is my absolute favorite of his. The main character, Shadow, starts out kind of neutral, and a bit non-emotional. You start to realize as you read however, that he is you. perhaps a little more calm, a little more cynical, but for all intents and purposes, what else could you do in these situations but go along with them, much like he does.      "American Gods" begins with an upsetting situation for Shadow, but things start to look up (or at least …
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Neil Gaiman's best novel. Very much feels like The Sandman.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
this is pretty good, y'all. gaiman's more traditional novels are the bomb diggity.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
Alright enough.
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
This was well-written, though not really my cup of tea. I tried to like it because a friend recommended it, but I just couldn't.
Quick Tip by . May 26, 2010
Who knew it would take an Englishman to truly understand America?!
review by . January 06, 2010
The premise is brilliant: America, the immigrant nation, where old Gods had to be imported by the poor huddled masses because there were none already here, finds it has grown new Gods after all - styled after the new Americans' "worship" of their gadgets, media and consumerist lifestyle. The people now *consume* their idols: in the old days, the idols demanded it was the other way around - that was the sustenance of the Gods, and consequently we find the old Gods now worn out, power weakening, in …
review by . November 29, 2009
Pros: Interesting idea.     Cons: Takes forever, book blurb is hugely misleading     The Bottom Line: Though I can see why other people like it, I was very far from impressed.     I love Coraline.  I love Mirrormask.  I love Neil Gaiman's weirdness and unique ideas.  So finally I decided I should read some of his adult work since I am, after all, an adult.  So I picked up American Gods from the library and read it.   &nbs …
review by . February 26, 2009
American Gods, Urban Fantasy by Neil Gaiman
I'll admit that urban fantasy is a genre with a particular amount of interest to me. I write in my free time, and a fair amount of my work is in this strange genre. However, I have to admit, a lot of my inspiration in this genre came from reading this book. Not to mention a fair amount of knowledge on Mythology and a new appreciation/view for American culture.    American Gods tells the unlikely tale of a recently released convict by the name of Shadow, who was let out of prison …
review by . May 11, 2006
Some fantasies are impossible to classify, and are almost impossible to review. "American Gods" is one of them. Zelazny's "Lord of Light" is a story of a 'gods versus gods' war, and so is this book. But in Gaiman's book, everyone is either a god, an unusually decent American, a serial killer disguised as a decent American, or a wife who returns from the dead. The only gods who don't show up are Big J and his only begotten Son. My favorite characters are the Egyptian deities who run a funeral home …
About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #166
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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American Godsis Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit. Gaiman tackles everything from the onslaught of the information age to the meaning of death, but he doesn't sacrifice the razor-sharp plotting and narrative style he's been delivering since hisSandmandays.

Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations. For instance, Shadow's dead wife Laura keeps showing up, and not just as a ghost--the difficulty of their continuing relationship is by turns grim and darkly funny, just like the rest of the book.

Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. Shadow's road story is the heart of the novel, and it's here ...

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ISBN-10: 0060558121 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780060558123 (pbk.)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date Published: September 2, 2003
Format: Novel
First to Review
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