American Gods

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
★★★★☆

I have an odd relationship with this book. I first read it in 2007 after Stephen King recommended it in Entertainment Weekly. I’d never heard of Gaiman before and I thought I’d check it out. Whoa.

So as most people who have read Gaiman before might know, American Gods might not be the best place to start with his work. It is dense and complex. It has weird plot lines and skips across the entire country. And yet there’s something about it that just hooks you. After reading it I went on to devour Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens and Fragile Things.

The first time I read the book I think I was so distracted by the strangeness of the plot that I missed the depth of the story. There's so much to take in and it's such a wild tale that I couldn't appreciate it fully until the second time. Part mystery, part fantasy, part character study, American Gods is a mixture of so many things. There are too many characters to mention, but each one is more creatively drawn than the last.

A man name Shadow finds out his wife has died in a car crash only days before he’s being released from prison. Soon he meets a man named Wednesday and against his better judgment he agrees to work for him. The rest of the plot defies explanation, but rest assured it’s a wonderful ride. Whether Shadow is exploring the ineffable world of The House on the Rock or he’s hunkered down in a sleepy town of Lakeside, it’s hard not to root for him.

BOTTOM LINE: Weird and wonderful, Gaiman manages to infuse his love of fantasy into an epic road trip novel. Re-reading this one doubled my appreciation for both the novel and the author. I was able to focus more on the overall story and less on the odd elements this time. This is not the best novel to read if you aren’t sure if you’ll like Gaiman. Read it when you already love his work and only if you like fantasy and aren’t easily offended.

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

10 comments:

Ekaterina Egorova said...

By your definition, I'm already ready for this :) And indeed, I've even downloaded it recently ;) I hope I'll have time to read it for this RIP. Thanks for the review!

Brooke said...

Weird and wonderful works for me! I haven't read this one and have been worried about it because I hear such mixed things. I look forward to figuring out the weird for myself!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ekaterina Egorova - Good! Just go into it with an open mind. Hope you like it!

Brooke - It's especially fun if you're a fan of mythology. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah, this guy doesn't really walk on the well-worn path, does he? I've only read a few of his books, but you have to appreciate him for being...UNIQUE.

Jeanne said...

This is the book that got me reading more Gaiman, actually. I loved his shifting views of the gods--it seems the only way to see them, really.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - So true. There aren't many authors who have the ability to tackle any genre with their own unique twist.

Jeanne - Me too. It's an odd one to start with, but it's pretty amazing.

Mary R. said...

I read this and didn't love it even though I thought Anansi Boys was brilliant and Stardust is one of the best books ever (IMHO). You make a good point about the strangeness of it being a distraction. I may need to re-read this. Thanks for the well considered review!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mary R. - I didn't love it the first time around either. Stardust I loved the first and second time I read it!

Trish said...

Gaiman has been a bit hit or miss for me. Actually, miss isn't correct--just haven't loved everything he's written (Neverwhere was just OK for me). I do have this one, though, and I really look forward to it and reading through your thoughts convinced me that I'd find it very interesting. Glad to go into it knowing that it might be a bit challenging.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - It is in a category all on its own. I'm really glad I re-read it because the first time around it was just too overwhelming.