Book info

American Gods (2005)

American Gods (2005)
Author
Rating
4.1 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0747263744 (ISBN13: 9780747263746)
languge
English
series
genre
publisher
headline review
Rate book
American Gods (2005)
American Gods (2005)

About book: My literary promiscuity being what it is, I have read and loved a lot of novels in many different genres. However, among the beau coup books that I have loved long time there are a select few that hold a special, hallowed place in my pantheon of favorites…American Gods is one of these elite. Gaiman’s writing is both subdued and poetic. It is deeply emotional, but without a hint of melodrama. His descriptions are elaborate yet not drawn out. He tells a huge, complex, eternal story, one small tale at a time. I don’t know how else to say it, in this book Neil Gaiman took story telling and made it his bitch. Therefore, upon learning that I had the opportunity to read Neil Gaiman’s preferred and expanded version of AG containing an additional 12000 words, my reaction is what you might expect. I exploded into tears of ecstasy, lost my bowels and wept uncontrollably for well over an hour. This made for a particularly awkward moment at the book store but at least I was prepared… Later, when I was calmed down, cleaned up and baby powdered, I sat down and tore through this over the weekend. Since this is the 10th anniversary edition of this modern fantasy classic, I am going to assume that a fair number of you reading this are at least familiar with the story. However, I will still avoid major spoilers in this review, except for disclosing (1) the identity of Wednesday and (2) the basic plot. Both of these things are revealed pretty early in the book so I don’t think I’m story flashing any of you with this information. I just think it is difficult to explain the novel without these two nuggets of bookformation. Therefore, for those of you that don’t want any spoilers, you may want to look away now…….for everyone else, let’s talk AMERICAN GODS….and English gods…and Irish gods…and Norse/Scandinavian gods…German and Russian gods…and Egyptian gods…and Greek gods (plus those “FUCKING Albanian” gods)…and Indian, Hindu and Japanese gods…and Hungarian gods…and Babylonian and Persian gods…and Native American gods…and Voodoo gods…and African gods….and even “forgotten” gods...plus all manner of dwarf, sprite, imp, giant, kobold, vampire, mythological beast, djinn, witch…and one very large and mysterious SHADOW!! Just listing the countries represented in this book makes me smile and break out in goose zits. THE TALE OF AMERICAN GODSSo our guide throughout the story is Shadow. Shadow’s a big, soft spoken, even tempered bad-ass, ex-con whose life is shattered by the tragic death of his wife in a car accident (there is more to it than that, but, you know, spoilers and such). While reeling from the aftermath of his loss, Shadow is approached by smooth-talking and mysterious grifter named Mr. Wednesday. [HERE COMES MINOR SPOILER #1]. Turns out, Wednesday is actually a manifestation of Odin, ruler of the Norse Gods, and king of all things Asgardian. Why you ask is the “AllFather,” the god of war, wisdom, poetry and magic scraping his way through life as an aging con man? Ah….that brings us to the heart and soul of the story. You see gods are sustained and kept strong, according to the novel, by people’s worship and their belief in them. Thus, when the ancient Norsemen came to America, they brought belief in their gods with them. When they made sacrifices to Odin, Thor and the rest of the Norse gods, it made them strong and powerful. Conversely, as the people forgot about the gods and stopped telling their tales and making offerings to them, their power waned, until now at the beginning of the 21st century in America, Odin’s godly “vigor” is all but lost. Meanwhile, the “gods” of the 21st century have grown strong and powerful. These new gods of Media, Technology, Internet, Electricity, Highways, Drugs, etc. are young, brash and dripping with vitality due to the worship and adoration they receive from you and me. Now, these godly young turkers and looking to destroy Odin and his ilk forever and claim supremacy over all of godness.A war is coming…sweet!!!Realizing the powerful of the 21st century gods, Odin is on recruiting mission to gather up the old gods and get them to sack up in order to avoid being slaughtered at the hands of the upstarts. He hires Shadow to be a glorified errand boy at $500 bucks a week and to accompany him as he travels America (and places in between) trying to rally his gang of gods to fight in the coming battle. From a broad brush perspective, that is really the frame for this novel. However, as with all great art, the beauty of this story is in the details, the aspects, the shadings, the nuances. Odin’s mission acts as a terrific catalyst for Gaiman to explore the history of America, his great love of mythology and the enormous power of belief. ‘This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into the stillness, ‘that worries about what it is….The rest of them know what they are. No one ever needs to go searching for the heart of Norway. Or looks for the soul of Mozambique. They know what they are.’As with many of my favorite books, this is a “journey” story and not a “destination” story. Thus, if you’re someone who doesn’t like tangents, flashbacks, veer offs or segues in your plot and are constantly hoping to straight line towards the conclusion, than this book might frustrate you enough to cause hives. This is a beautiful, elegant, but long and meandering journey through the heart and soul of America full of rich and detailed landscapes, historical flashbacks, memorable characters and mythological anecdotes. Now, despite the novel taking its sweet, leisurely time sauntering towards the end, when it finally gets there, it is arguably my favorite 100 pages of any book EVER. In fact, the climax is so amazingly good that is it likely to cause one…so be prepared Of course, I am talking about the final dust up between the old and the new. This segment is filled with more gods and legendary creatures than I have ever seen assembled in one story (if you are a South Park fan, think Imagination Land and you will have an idea of the kind a concentrated star power I mean). There's never been a true war that wasn't fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.ADDITIONS TO THE PREFERRED TEXTFor those of you that have read the original and are wondering whether this expanded edition is worth your time, I say yes…with a caveat. I don’t see a need to go rush out and read this if you have just finished the original version of American Gods. The story is basically the same and the added text is not so extensive that they change the essence of the novel. However, it you are thinking of a re-read or have never read the story before, I would certainly recommend this edition as I think it provides some additional insight and clarifications that are interesting and worthwhile. Plus, this expanded version also includes a very neat “apocryphal” segment in the afterward showing Shadow meeting up with Jesus that I thought was interesting.Overall, I love this book. I have now read it three times (something I do not generally do with books) and I am fairly certain that a fourth time is in my future. If you love mythology, it is hard for me to imagine you not loving this book. One thing I would recommend is that you have handy either your own mythology guide or else a link to this website that lists all of the gods appearing in the novel. http://frowl.org/gods/gods.html#odinI think it enhances the experience of the story significantly being able to match up the people encountered in the book with their mythological persona. 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!P.S. BONUE QUOTEI couldn’t find a way to work this in above, but it is one of my favorite quotes from the book, so I wanted to share it: God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

I find myself shocked at the awards this book has won and the praise heaped upon it. How on Gods’ Earth could a book about Gods walking on the Earth among mortals be so pedestrian? Somehow Gaiman managed to turn a potentially cool premise into something boring. For those who love this book—and I know it is many—please forgive the sarcasm to follow as I blaspheme against the beloved Gaiman. But Gods help me, the more I read, the more I hated American Gods.First off, while the premise sounds interesting the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. The basic idea: the more worshippers a God has, the more powerful they are. The plot: there is a building power struggle between the old Gods (Norse, Native American, pagan, etc.) and the new Gods (Technology, Television, Money, etc.). Okay, I’ve heard the ratio-of-worshippers-to-power idea before so that’s not so original. But it’s not a deal breaker. It has potential. Here’s the unique twist in American Gods that caused my political antenna to start twitching—every God (like say Odin) has an “avatar” of him or herself in each country. Or is it each continent? Gaiman’s not quite clear about that. Would there be an Odin in Belgium and Luxembourg? Or does all of Europe get one Odin who is different from the American Odin? I find it politically disagreeable to suggest that every country (or even continent) has different God-avatars. To make this the premise turns intangible political entities (nations) into strictly bordered spiritual containers. It’s parochial thinking. I disagree with this premise radically because I reject that people of a given “nation” are somehow bonded spiritually. Countries are artificial. Like Afghanistan. Like how we stole the native people’s land to form America. I ascribe to the perspective that while people should always be fighting for political freedom and better political systems locally and nationally, we are truly citizens of the world together. The premise of American Gods manages to privilege the people in one country as somehow being united in their spiritual energy, feeding the Gods only within that country. As a metaphor (Gaiman repeatedly feels the need to state that this premise is a metaphor) it fails. There should be no metaphorical boundary between my spirit and my sister’s and brother’s spirits in Nicaragua, even if we have different local needs. Further, I could go on about how old Gods (religious deities) are in cahoots with modern Gods like wealth and technology. Just look at the fact that all the evangelists support the party of the 1%.Political oversensitivity on my part aside, the rant continues.The main character, Shadow, was about the dullest hero I’ve ever read. For Gods’ sake how many times do other characters have to refer to how “big” he is? Is he a big man? He sure is big. Wow, you’re big. Apparently he’s big. Is he big? Oh boy is he a big man. Yep, he’s big. He was big and boring and one-dimensional. So pure of heart that it grated on me. I found the majority of his dialogue to be trite and conventional. He struck me throughout as a pawn of the author (and yes he was a pawn of the Gods, too) more than a real being. His words were missing that spark of believability to bring the character to life. I didn’t even believe his repeated sleight-of-hand behavior. It felt like a character trait on a chart that Gaiman could pull out every couple of chapters. And when it came to the other God characters? I just wasn’t feelin’ it. They seemed phony as all get-out. I did not find his representation of them credible. I think my reaction to their characterizations were primarily due to a reaction to mediocre dialogue. The dialogue wasn’t awful, but I found it to be consistently off—slightly awkward, slightly unnatural, subtly stilted.Most of the story was told in very close third person from Shadow’s point-of-view. But every once in a while, Gaiman would throw in a chapter from another character’s point-of-view. These chapters read in some ways like short stories inserted into the novel to expurgate some backstory, elucidate the God/worshipper premise in more detail, or delve into a side character. I find such techniques utterly amateurish. One or two “interludes” in a book might be acceptable but to have an entire story driving in a close third person POV and then jump into another character because you can’t “explain something” from the primary POV is cheap. It’s an easy out. I react badly when authors feel the need to “explain things” to begin with. And to interrupt the flow of the structure you’ve created to do so pisses me off. It made me feel as though Gaiman were talking down to me as the reader, like I was a little kid who didn’t get it. Or like his storytelling just wasn’t good enough to tell the story without jumping out of it to explain it. Understanding should come organically. Or else the POV jumping should happen more frequently, such as, every chapter. It’s all about rhythm of storytelling.Swathes of American Gods were just plain boring. About 2/3 of the way through I started skipping whole paragraphs, then pages to get to plot events. All the stuff between the plot events was trying my patience. Shadow spends a great deal of time stuck in a small town in northern Wisconsin, meeting all these good-hearted locals and exploring bits of small-town life. I felt like I was stuck in a small town in northern Wisconsin during the winter the whole time. I’m like—this is not freaking Housekeeping and Gaiman sure ain’t Marilynne Robinson. He does not have the writing chops to pull off an intimate look at real small-town life.Modest spoiler: (view spoiler)[The entire chapter where the old Gods meet the new Gods in truce made no logical sense. Even if the place they met was neutral due to its magical qualities, the new Gods simply had to track the trucks when the old Gods drove off and bomb the hell out of them. It was just this weird excuse to have some conversations between the old and new, between Shadow and the new Gods. And to get that body back. Contrived. (hide spoiler)]
1
353
download or read online
Reviews
Lyn
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, by the author’s own description, is a work that has inspired strong emotions and little in between – readers have either liked it a lot, or loathed it entirely. Reading some of the reviews bears witness to this dichotomy. I liked it, liked it a lot, but I can also understand why someone may dislike the work. Gaiman, in his storyteller way, has stepped over boundaries and stepped on toes. And not just religious or theological ideas, but nationalistic ideals as well. Gaiman has painted a portrait of America that is not photographic, but impressionist enough to grasp a resemblance of us as maybe we are, and maybe he gets closer to the truth of the matter than some are comfortable with. And I’m not talking about myths, but rather, as he puts it, the myths we have lived with, tangled into the skein of our culture and even formed ourselves. Like many great works, and I do count this work among that group, the story works on multiple levels. It is on its surface a fantasy, rich in detail and fun to read, but also on the level of metaphor with complicated ideas and symbols thrown in, a novel that leaves the reader satisfied but still with a lot to consider once the book is put down. And like almost all great works, putting the book down is not an easy thing, and difficult to admit that the story is over.
Aubrey
I read this book in one day. Granted, I for a very long time was in a state where I didn't have much else to do besides read. But still. It's difficult to describe the deep sense of relief that I feel that I'm still capable of losing myself so fully in a work of literature. Also the awe at the work being capable of inspiring such a state.Norse mythology. What a coincidence, that the recent slew of superhero movies chose to focus so heavily on the subject. Focused in a highly skewed, screwed up fashion, to be sure, but it did provoke my delving into the subject a bit more fully. And I have to say, Gaiman did his research, and wrote the gods to their fullest capabilities. Their frustrating, fruitful, fascinating capabilities. And that's all that I'll permit myself to say about that. The book first sparks nostalgia for the old ways, a feeling carefully controlled by the vicious atrocities that these ways often propagated. The old gods worked in lively ways, full of hands on rewards that granted the ability to physically live life to the fullest. This liveliness, however, obviously required life. And it is this quality that prevents the old gods from gaining full redemption.Yes, the new gods are vapid and empty, inspiring lifestyles à la Brave New World and all that jazz. But they do not require, nor inspire bloodshed in overwhelming amounts. They do not beget eternal cycles of killing and physical compensation. Mental degradation and deadening of the soul, perhaps. But no worship is without its consequences, just as living is nothing more than the slow process of dying.Is this a dystopia? Is there no hope for mankind whatsoever, trapped between the murderous past and the empty future? To this, I say, look to Shadow. Look at his life, look at his choices, look at his nearly selfless balancing of principles in regards to the ordinary and the extraordinary. In my mind, there is no better guide than he when it comes to questions of man and his gods.If that proves no good, then look to literature, history, tales both real and imaginative. If one cannot have both implicit morality and imaginative vitality at all times, record the fleeting instances that the two manage to balance for posterity's sake. Read records of these times of peace plentiful in both health and creativity, and appreciate them and the fact that they managed to exist. For a short, brief moment, maybe even give thanks to the idols responsible, both falling and rising. Directly, indirectly, whatever your beliefs or theological propensities. At one time or another humanity created these beings, gave them life, and set them on their way. And who knows. In this driven, practical, scientifically proven world of ours, there may yet exist the phenomena that defies all attempts at comprehension. Truth is stranger than fiction, and fiction like this will always spark a sense of wonder at the truth.
Anne
High 3.5 maybe 4 stars?I can't say this is one I would recommend to everyone, and I certainly won't be shoving it down people's throats. But I liked it.Now, somehow I ended up with the extended 10 year anniversary edition. So, maybe that's why it took me forever to finish this. But I don't think that was entirely the issue. It's just a loooong fuckin' book. And not much happens in it action-wise, so you're not exactly flipping the pages with any intensity.There's not even really (in my opinion) a slow-build up to anything super-exciting. And what I mean by that, is that I never once thought to myself, Oh! Something GOOD is gonna happen in the next few pages!, you know?Thing is, it's got everything I could want in a book. Half-crazy gods, zombie ex wife, tarnished-but-decent hero, missing kids, and unlikely friendships. However, it's also got everything I usually despise in a book. Trippy/hallucinogenic dream sequences, random quotes from other pieces of literature, plodding storyline, and no action.But Neil Gaiman just oozes so much talent that somehow I still liked it. Which is saying a lot, because I'm normally a real asshole when I feel like a book needed to be chopped down by about 400 pages.Although, unless someone can tell me that Anansi Boys is an Awesome-Not-To-Be-Missed-Roller-Coaster-Thrill-A-Minute-Ride, I'm gonna have to say no to that one.
Review will shown on site after approval.
(Review will shown on site after approval)