American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming — a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path.

My first Neil Gaiman novel! Hurrah! If you haven’t already, check out this stupendously awesome address! So for months, I’d been hearing about Neil Gaiman from my friends (yes, I know he’s prolific and I know he’s been around, but apparently I’ve been living under a rock. Sue me.) Next up, my list includes Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and Fragile Things. Neil Gaiman also wrote Stardust, which just happens to have been turned into one of my favorite films (again, I realized this recently. Basically made me even more excited for my first Neil Gaiman experience). If you’ve never seen it, go watch it. It’s amazing. Seriously. Watch the whole thing.

I’m always impressed by people who have such an interest in and a command of mythology. It’s so vast that anyone who chooses to undertake projects that deal with it directly gets my vote. I find it interesting myself, but I confused/mixed-up too easily. At least for formal learning. I tend to learn more and more by default the older I get.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was how Gaiman played with reader conceptions. Some things that happen in the novel are very expected. But instead of seeming trite and cliched, they work. It’s almost as if, by giving the reader some givens, Gaiman can go further and do more with this crazy universe he’s creating. And as you read, in no place do you catch the tell-tale signs of a lazy author. Everything is methodical and thought-through. There are places where one sentence contains an unexpected detail that connects back elsewhere in the novel, without ever being directly dealt with. That probably didn’t make sense. But if you’ve read or when you readAmerican Gods, you’ll see what I mean.

One friend told me that one thing that bothered her about this novel was that Shadow isn’t really a character you can relate to or connect with. But I came away thinking that’s okay. I don’t think you’re supposed to connect with Shadow. It’s not really a book about Shadow. It’s a book about mythology and the intersection of old and new. It’s also about the clash of the rustic and the rural with the industrial and the city. In this way, I don’t think it matters whether we relate to Shadow or not. He’s there so that the story can exist, but he’s not the base of the story. If that makes sense. Shadow tends to go along with most things without really putting up much resistance. On the one hand, I see why, and on the other hand, I don’t. I think it’s this tendency in Shadow that makes him hard to relate to. People are kind of ornery and stubborn by nature. Shadow is extremely compliant. But, after all, he’s called Shadow. The general definition of a shadow is:

-A dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light.

And that is Shadow, to the utmost extent. He’s somewhere between a person and a non-person, somewhere between death and life, always in between, trailing, on the margins.

You see what I mean about Gaiman being a careful writer?

14 thoughts on “American Gods

  1. renee says:

    I’ve been wanting to get my hands on Gaiman for a few weeks now (I, too, must have been living under a rock!), so this review makes me even more excited to get started. And to read/watch Stardust, which I remember hearing about but never saw!

  2. Leah says:

    I’m still living under the I’ve-never-read-Gaiman rock 😛
    I’ve always found mythology fascinating, and what you said about the intersection of old and new/the clash between rustic and industrial sounds really interesting. I might have to add this to my list!

  3. racingthestates says:

    That’s right! You love Stardust too! (I named my dog Tristan specifically from that movie) You haven’t read that book yet, though?? You should. I really enjoyed it. It’s a bit different from the movie, but I like each story variation individually. If you lived closer, I’d let you borrow it! lol

  4. Osmond says:

    I don’t know how you feel about comics, but I’d recommend the entire Sandman series, also by Gaiman. Just something to add to the bottom of the backlog.

  5. Tanya says:

    As someone who has just been through an entire Neil Gaiman phase, may I have the honour of welcoming you to the family? 🙂
    Also. Might I suggest adding The Graveyard Book to your list?

  6. Tanya says:

    As someone who has just been through an entire Neil Gaiman phase, may I have the honour of welcoming you to the family? 🙂

    Also. Might I suggest adding The Graveyard Book to your list?

  7. darkjade68 says:

    Brilliant… I’ve been wanting to read something by him since I watched the Video you Linked Recently… I Love the Way his Mind Works… I was considering “The Sandman”… Like you say, he’s been around for a while, but I haven’t read anything that he’s done… I was wondering about this one.

    Great Review

    DJ-

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