Posts Tagged With: American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Date of Publication: 2001, HarperCollins

Number of Pages: 588

Synopsis (from back cover): 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.

Review: Neil Gaiman, originally from England, explores an issue that every American, whether they realize it or not, has struggled with. Who are the gods of America? Where do they come from? America is a country founded by people from all over the world, depriving us of a central mythology or religion. Even the people who crossed the land bridge over the Bering Straight brought their gods with them…they weren’t here already. This is the problem that face the unique characters in Gaiman’s story. They are gods…but what happens to gods when people stop believing in them? People brought them here, and then abandoned them. The gods in the story are  a wandering people,misunderstood, forgotten, and fighting for survival.

Shadow unwittingly gets put in the middle of the fight between the old beliefs and the new. As a main character, Shadow is mysteriously incomplete. Although much of the story is told from his point of view, he seems to simply react to things and doesn’t ponder them. In any other book, this would be a drawback, but in this one, Shadow fits perfectly. He is a man without a past; after the death of his wife, he lets go of his past and unflinchingly accepts his new fate.

As an American reading this book, I really identified with the idea that the country is a difficult place for gods. My ancestors came from all over Europe; there is no one defining culture or belief system. But the book provides a warning, that as a society, in place of the old gods, we have set up new ones: technology, mass media, fashion. To what or whom will we sell our souls?

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 

Synopsis (from back of book):
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.

Review:
American Gods is the winner of several prestigious awards: Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, SFX and Locus. This goes some way to alerting the reader just how many different genres it spans. It doesn’t quite seem to know which genre it is part of – neither does anyone else – but that doesn’t matter. It’s well-written, pithy and witty, with well-drawn characters, and it draws on mythology from all around the globe before setting it in that most mysterious of all countries –
America!

Gaiman’s style, though often dark, is surprisingly light-hearted throughout this lengthy novel and I found myself playing a fun game of “Spot the God” as I progressed. Large chunks of his thinking are similar to that of Terry Pratchett (his Small Gods and places of power theories in particular), and, indeed, Gaiman gives Mr Pratchett a nod of recognition early on in his lengthy acknowledgements.

With this being the extended “Author’s Preferred Text” version, there are some additional goodies in the shape of an interview with the author and a set of suggested questions for reading groups (a nice touch), as well as some 12,000 or so extra words in there, which the original publication back in 2001 did not have – a major bonus, I think, as you get a little more bang for your buck.

It’s a long book, even when not reading the extended version, but it’s a good, hearty read and there are a few twists and turns I wasn’t expecting, smattered throughout, rather than just the revelations at the end, which keep things interesting, as well as a few red herrings and a few more obvious plot points to keep you feeling smart.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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