American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
From Gaiman's repertoire to date, I have read Stardust, Neverwhere, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I very much enjoyed all three and had high hopes for American Gods as many people have recommended this book to me and it has decent reviews.
Unfortunately, I found that American Gods was simply so different from his other works in tone and nuance, I could not enjoy it. In the other works I read I enjoyed the almost childlike fantasy that emanated from his stories. Stardust, after all, has been made in a children's movie. Clearly Gaiman had written American Gods for a much different audience, but as I was not expecting this I did not find it an enjoyable read.
It starts out promisingly enough with the story of Shadow, a convicted thief, who finds himself released from serving his time in jail. With his release, a series of terrible events occur including the untimely death of his adulterous wife--double whammy. In a way, he is driven into the arms of "Wednesday", a mysterious man who we later discover is actually a Nordic god.
The concept of this novel isn't terrible. There are a group of gods who have become irrelevant to society because they are no longer worshipped--Odin, Easter, etc. Most of the gods seem to come from a Gaelic or Middle Eastern descent. Either way, the idea is interesting, but unfortunately spirals into a giant confusing plot.
Not only are there this older gods, there are new god (Media, Technology) who are convinced there is no room in America for both older gods and them. They decide they need to start killing off the older gods. Shadow is in essence, Wednesday's Yes-Man, chauffeur, etc.
The two characters who are most interesting in this novel are Wednesday and Shadow, but everything else is just ridiculous frippery. Gaiman adds extra back stories of the birth of gods to contribute to their explanation, but unfortunately it just causes more confusion and makes the novel unbearably long. I was much more interested in the narrative of Shadow and felt irritated by this useless interruptions on the birth stories of random gods.
Ultimately, it was just a much different book than any I had read by Gaiman, so I shouldn't fault it for that. However, I do fault his editor for not slashing more of the fluffy wasteful extras from this book that bloated it into a 588 page paperback.
Whether I continue reading Gaiman...I'm not sure. If this was the first Gaiman book I had read, I probably wouldn't.
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