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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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American Gods is Not Godlike

  • Nov 29, 2009
Rating:
-2
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.

And took forever to do so.

The summary on the book jacket goes something like this:

Shadow has just been released from prison after hearing that his beloved wife has died in a car crash.  Not long after, he's approached by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday who wants Shadow to work for him.  With nothing else to lose, Shadow agrees, and finds himself thrown into the mix of old gods and new gods who plan to have a huge war that will decide the fate of America.

Whatever.

Ok, now before a bunch of American Gods/Neil Gaiman fans crucify me, I will admit that I can understand why people enjoy this book.  Yes, it is thought provoking.  Yes, it is interesting.  Yes, it has funny and exciting moments.  I can see all the things that people enjoy about it, from the unique stories that feature gods to the sacrifices that Shadow makes.

But it just took too long.

This was like when you see a trailer for a movie advertised as a comedy, and then you see the movie and realize that all the funny parts were in the trailer and the movie, in fact, sucks, and it's really not funny at all.

I went into this expecting the weird (which I got), the exciting (sometimes), and an epic battle (not even close).  I literally had to drag myself back to this book and force myself to finish it because I only had about 50 pages left but I really wanted it just to end and be done with because nothing was happening.  So much of this book could have been cut.  Half the time you're reading about Shadow eating delicious pasties and cruising around town with a policeman and going shopping and doing coin tricks.  And for a main character, Shadow was rather underdeveloped.  You never learn anything about his past or his reason for being in jail until near the end of the book.  All the man runs on is his own ignorance (not his fault), coin tricks, and his love for his wife.

It just kept going.  Shadow hiding out.  Meeting a few people.  Having deep discussions about belief and America and all sorts of other things.  I stayed interested for quite a while before finally getting incredibly impatient (and I'm a rather patient person), and not excited about the idea of finishing the book.  Though the end had a unique twist that I did approve of, it also meant the war was not going to be what I thought, and even after that it kept going into another country and I'm not even sure what the fudge Shadow was doing there (though I have my guesses).

The thing is that I know what Gaiman was doing.  I understand what he was writing and what he was going for.  However, it wasn't until I read the thing that I got it.  But I was misled by the summary on the book jacket, so I went in expecting one thing and got the complete opposite.  I think maybe if that hadn't happened, I'd be more inclined to give this book 3, maybe even 4 stars.  But I'm jaded and unhappy and did not have the best of times, so on a personal level, I simply cannot.

To other Gaiman fans that have yet to read this book, I do encourage you to read other reviews to find out what people enjoyed about this book, and you may very well have a good time reading it.  To those that have not yet read anything by Gaiman, I would not start here.

NT

Recommended:
No

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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 . 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 …
review by . January 06, 2005
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 …
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Nicole ()
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Age: 27 Currently: Freelancing my butt off and querying my other novel, Blood for Wolves. Who likes seriously factured fairy tales? =D      Like books? Then take it from a real, live … more
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About this book

Wiki

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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Details

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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