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.
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