American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001)

L: 7.5/10

M: 8/10

Analysis from a cloudy summer holiday:

American Gods is a strange and sometimes maddeningly twisted road of a tale. The story follows a mortal man with an already uprooted life, thrown in the air with the pieces randomly falling here and there, drawing a route to his higher purpose. The hook is a great one: Gods, new and old, waging war for the future’s keys. The path to the finish line just takes some strange detours.

The main character, Shadow, just kind of goes with the flow. After some early dragging of his feet, he stops asking questions and assumes the shotgun position to his life. At one point, other characters even question his willingness to just go along with the flow, asking, “Why don’t you argue? Why don’t you exclaim that it’s all impossible? Why the hell do you just do what I say and take it all so fucking calmly?” This can be said for the reader as well. Just stop wondering about the why and how of things, and the story is much easier to digest.

The concept of Gods fighting Gods for the throne of America is hashed out, coast to coast, with a majority of the midsection, focused on God recruitment. The story hits the breaks, while the main character Shadow lays low in a sleepy midwestern town. I found this part of the story a nice little detour and found myself wishing the rest of the story would just keep the minimal focus of the small town. The gas pedal is mashed from here, throwing the story into its final stages: the afterlife and the last war, and then some loose ends are nicely wrapped up.

The ending of the book revolves around a twist that, in some ways, undo the vast majority of the story. So many pages and conversations are rendered meaningless when the larger grift of the Gods is unfolded, and the magic trick is explained.

This is a crazy story and an ambitious one to cram into the pages of one book. I’m curious if a story taking place on a smaller scale would be more enjoyable with his writing style. This is my first taste of Neil Gaiman and will lead me to find some of his other work when I find myself in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section of my local bookstore.

Analysis from a stop sign that feels more like a yield:

This book, if nothing else, was a refreshing change from the norm. I believe I referred to this little literary gem as “wack” on several occasions. I loved the uniqueness of the story and what it implies about the mind of the author. This was at times one of those books where I couldn’t wait to pick it back up at the end of the day, and at other times one I happily skipped over because my mind wasn’t prepared to engage in the insanity.

Following the story of Shadow was frustrating in that he seemed to just accept each new obstacle and/or bizarre situation at face value and never really stopped to thoroughly question or process the reality of what was happening. We would not be able to follow along with had he paused at all, but sometimes your frustration with a character can put a damper on a book, and at times, that rang true for me.

I did love how each chapter had a glimpse into a new god and a little of the back story. Getting a little story within a story was a creative way to keep me invested in the outcome of the gods’ lives. I think each story was a little insane and sometimes had a bit of an ick value, but it was still a great read.

Where I am usually disappointed at the end of a book, that was not the case here. I feel the author took a unique story and gave it a proper ending. The characters had a resolution that I did not see coming, and it wasn’t all forced into a few final pages as an afterthought.

In all, I found this to be an enjoyable and somewhat bizarre book, but I would definitely recommend it to someone and, in fact, already have. Every library needs a bit of “What the fuck?” and American Gods delivers.

neil gaiman
Neil Gaiman

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