Recently I finished reading American Gods, and I have a few thoughts about the book. I’m just going to keep this post fairly informal and go through what I liked and what I didn’t.
Why should this interest you?
With a lot of books and films, people are either for or against it. Neil Gaiman even said that he thought this book was especially polarizing.
Here’s a quick summary of the book. American Gods takes place in our world, but here, ideas, or more specifically, “Gods” that we worship, actually take form and walk the earth with us. The story follows Shadow, a man who has just gotten out of prison and faces a tragedy he did not expect, and is “hired” by a mysterious Mr Wednesday, a man who has big plans for both the Old Gods and the new.
So here you are going to get a quick, easy to read, informal “review” which covers aspects that aren’t likely talked about but anyone else.
So with that said, let’s get started.
What Didn’t Work?
We’ll start with the flaws. I’ll add a disclaimer that overall I enjoyed the book, and thought it of higher quality than most other fiction books out there. That said, it is far from perfect.
First off, a lot of stuff Gailman wrote felt like it was very surface level. What I mean by that is that he did not get creative when it came to some of the scenes and situations. For example, the main character, Shadow, is at one point forced into a villain’s limo and given a shaking down and a stern talking too. I’ve seen this scene so many times, and in American Gods. Also, there is a betrayal at the start that has been done in a lot of fiction, that really was not surprising.
This really isn’t a major flaw. It’s just an “oh,” a mild disappointment, as I saw the potential for more.
Another problem I had with American Gods is the mood of a lot of it.
Around the halfway mark the book had this strange “dead” feel. Like I was reading something stale, that was base, degenrate, and really focused on the sinister aspects of the human heart with no real light of hope. This may sound like a strange compliant, but for me it lessened the enjoyability of the book by some deal.
But again, not a major compliant. This is largely just my own personal taste, and as things picked up, it gained new energy and enticed me again.
So, What About The Parts American Gods Did Work?
First of all, the imagination here, and the concept are excellent.
The world really does feel “real.” The idea that the collective belief of humankind has created these Gods seems so believable in Gailman’s book.
Another thing that works, the characters. Shadow, throughout the book, was exceptional. You really do feel like he is just a well-meaning, honest and capable man who has just gotten messed up in something that is way above his head, yet he always finds a way through.
Mr Wednesday was great as well. The characterization in this book was far better than many novels I have looked at. They felt real, had distinct voices, and you could understand there motivations. There is one character who is the “villian” for a lot of the book, and by the end, you really get where he is coming from. Gailman has a way of making you feel empathy for everyone in his cast of characters.
Also, the visuals Gaiman generates are great here. There is one scene on a frozen lake that really stands out, that I think I’ll rememeber for a long time.
Another thing I liked was how Gaiman relied a lot on intuition. A lot of things that happen in American Gods don’t make “logical” sense, but in the end, it “feels” right, and what happened had to happen. Some people don’t like this, and feel like stories like this drift too far from reality, but I think that relying on intuition actually grounds a piece of fiction in reality, by making it a psychological event for the reader.
American Gods is a great book, and even with its flaws, it is worth the read.
Some people might find that it is a bit flimsy with its plot, or a bit meandering, but whatever flaws it has it makes up for with great characters, strong visuals, and a concept that could practically carry the entire book if it had to.
There are some aspects that are really interesting about it, like the idea that the “New” Gods are powerful, but fickle and at risk of being forgotten, while the Old Gods that have grown dust and linger, will always be there.
Anyways, I think if you need something to read, you should give it a shot, and try your luck.
Have a look at it here, and thanks for reading.