American Gods (Neil Gaiman, 2001)


American Gods, by Neil Gaiman (2001).

Score: I really tried to like it but didn’t.

Last year I started Neverwhere and left it half in as well. I picked up American Gods honestly wanting to like it, but to no avail. I even feel bad because I think Neil Gaiman is such a nice guy and follow him here on Tumblr and everything but he just doesn’t catch my attention as a fantasy writer.

American Gods tells the story of Shadow, a guy that has behaved like a pinball all his life and thus ended in jail for a robbery gone wrong. He’s left out of prison a few days early due to the death of his wife in a car crash. While flying to a hometown where no one’s waiting for him he meets Mr. Wednesday, who hires Shadow as a bodyguard. It turns out Wednesday is the incarnation of an old god and has some other god friends as well, who want to fight the new gods for their believers, since when people don’t worship them they lose their powers (it’s like Small gods, only less funny). The new gods being the internet, credit cards and such.

I read about a hundred pages of it before I decided I just didn’t find it interesting enough. I found Shadow a bit annoying as a main character because he’s just being pushed around (even though apparently there’s a reason for it that’s revealed later), and Wednesday wasn’t really as charming and mysterious as he fancied himself. The style is not dry nor bad but since the events weren’t entertaining me the other reason to keep reading was the narrating style (I put up with a lot of bullshit from writers like Stephenson and R.R. Martin for the sole reason that the fuckers do know how to tell me a story). So narration didn’t keep me on the boat either.

I decided to look up how the plot developed and it didn’t appeal to me either. ***Obviously, SPOILERS*** All this nonsense about Shadow being Odin’s son and his going to jail as part of a setup from him and Loki to stir up a war and cash on it. It didn’t feel as an original or interesting development to me. The original setting didn’t lend itself to much more but if the development looked liked it was going to be different i would have carried on. ***END SPOILERS*** Another thing that was supposedly unique about the book and its style was the ongoing theme about the United States, Americana as a genre and how American identity is such a vague and fleeting thing because there are so many people from so many different places and different customs, blah, blah, blah. I know that Gaiman is British but, god, I hate it when Americans behave like they’re the only multicultural country in the history of everything. The case of the US is not as unique as they want you to believe.

So to wrap it up, I didn’t like it but maybe you will, so give it a chance. I guess I’m a Greek mythology person after all.

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