American Gods

American Gods

Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a s...

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Title:American Gods
Author:Neil Gaiman
Rating:
Edition Language:English

American Gods Reviews

  • Stacey

    In 2003, I walked away from my childhood religion – a high control (some would say abusive) group with a tiny little worldview and a severe superiority complex.

    This was my reality:

    I believed with all my being that the things depicted above were real, and were just over the event horizon.

    Leaving meant losing almost every friend I had ever made since childhood, it created a rift with my still devout family, and quite possibly saved my life.

    Is it any wonder that fiction – alternate realities, fa

    In 2003, I walked away from my childhood religion – a high control (some would say abusive) group with a tiny little worldview and a severe superiority complex.

    This was my reality:

    I believed with all my being that the things depicted above were real, and were just over the event horizon.

    Leaving meant losing almost every friend I had ever made since childhood, it created a rift with my still devout family, and quite possibly saved my life.

    Is it any wonder that fiction – alternate realities, fantasy, and mental escape – helped me make that decision, helped me move on, and helped deprogram my cult-think? One fiction supplanted the other, only this time I

    I was working with stories.

    Some of this fiction I had read many times, not understanding why the stories resonated so strongly within me, just knowing that I was compelled to return to those worlds, over and over. Others were stories I read during the time surrounding my breakaway, and shortly thereafter.*

    made me observe and think differently. It gave me a new context for the mythologies I had accepted for most of my life. It was bigger than the story of Shadow, or the girl Sam, or Czernabog. For me, it was about how we allow our Old Gods to define our present worldview, and how we allow our New Gods to steal our awareness. Our mythologies set the boundaries of our culture, and paradoxically, as our culture changes, our gods sacrifice their immortality.

    The part of the story that affected me the most profoundly was the story of Hinzelmann and Lakeside. The mixing of good and evil, the blurring of lines, townspeople looking the other way – to such a degree that it never occurs to them to see what is happening right under their noses. Dead men's bones. Deaths of legends. It affected me to my core. During the time I was reading

    , it was

    which rocked me – I was doing the same thing – choosing and keeping and killing my own Gods, my own mythologies.

    It was tremendously painful, made a little easier by having the opportunity to process it within the bounds of somebody else's story.

    *The rest of the list:

  • David Monroe

    Anybody who tells you that the book is about old and new gods, or about a man named Shadow, or about coin tricks, or about having one's head smashed in for losing a game of checkers, is selling you a line, because those are just details, not the story itself.

    Much like any Neil Gaiman story, the devil is in the details, and you just have to resolve yourself to coming along for the ride or you'll miss it. It's not one story, or two, it's many, and it's all complete...and you have to just read it,

    Anybody who tells you that the book is about old and new gods, or about a man named Shadow, or about coin tricks, or about having one's head smashed in for losing a game of checkers, is selling you a line, because those are just details, not the story itself.

    Much like any Neil Gaiman story, the devil is in the details, and you just have to resolve yourself to coming along for the ride or you'll miss it. It's not one story, or two, it's many, and it's all complete...and you have to just read it, and enjoy it, and accept it. Or just don't bother.

    I might as well sell you a violin as sell this book to you, or pluck a synopsis of it from behind your ear and then deposit it in my hand, only to have it turn into a critical review while your attention is elsewhere. But I won't, you'll just have to find the magic yourself.

  • Patrick

    Whenever we have a cold snap here in Wisconsin, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite pieces of American Gods.

    I remember reading it back in 2002 or so. This was back in the day. Back when it was a bit of a secret that Gaiman lived in Wisconsin.

    I read the following section of the book nodding to myself, thinking, "Yup, that's exactly what it's like."

    Then I had another thought: "I bet this comes from that really bad cold snap we had here in Wisconsin about six years ago."

    It was prett

    Whenever we have a cold snap here in Wisconsin, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite pieces of American Gods.

    I remember reading it back in 2002 or so. This was back in the day. Back when it was a bit of a secret that Gaiman lived in Wisconsin.

    I read the following section of the book nodding to myself, thinking, "Yup, that's exactly what it's like."

    Then I had another thought: "I bet this comes from that really bad cold snap we had here in Wisconsin about six years ago."

    It was pretty cool for me, being able to guess where a this piece of this book got its start....

    For those of you who haven't read it: here's the excerpt. The main character, Shadow, has just come to a small Wisconsin town, and he decides to walk into town to buy some warmer clothes and groceries.

    * * *

    The cold snap had come, that was for sure. It could not be much above zero, and it would not be a pleasant walk, but he was certain he could make it into town without too much trouble. What did Hinzelmann say last night—a ten-minute walk? And Shadow was a big man. He would walk briskly and keep himself warm. He set off south, heading for the bridge.

    Soon he began to cough, a dry, thin cough, as the bitterly cold air touched his lungs. Soon his ears and face and lips hurt, and then his feet hurt. He thrust his ungloved hands deep into his coat pockets, clenched his fingers together trying to find some warmth.

    [...]

    Step after step after step. He glanced back. The apartment building was not as far away as he had expected.

    This walk, he decided, was a mistake. But he was already three or four minutes from the apartment, and the bridge over the lake was in sight. It made as much sense to press on as to go home (and then what? Call a taxi on the dead phone? Wait for spring? He had no food in the apartment, he reminded himself).

    He kept walking, revising his estimates of the temperature downward as he walked. Minus ten? Minus twenty? Minus forty, maybe, that strange point on the thermometer when Celsius and Fahrenheit say the same thing. Probably not that cold. But then there was wind chill, and the wind was now hard and steady and continuous, blowing over the lake, coming down from the Arctic across Canada.

    Ten more minutes of walking, he guessed, and the bridge seemed to be no nearer. He was too cold to shiver. His eyes hurt. This was not simply cold: this was science fiction. This was a story set on the dark side of Mercury, back when they thought Mercury had a dark side. This was somewhere out on rocky Pluto, where the sun is just another star, shining only a little more brightly in the darkness. This, thought Shadow, is just a hair away from the places where air comes in buckets and pours just like beer.

    The occasional cars that roared past him seemed unreal: spaceships, little freeze-dried packages of metal and glass, inhabited by people dressed more warmly than he was. An old song his mother had loved, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” began to run through his head, and he hummed it through closed lips, kept pace to it as he walked.

    He had lost all sensation in his feet. He looked down at his black leather shoes, at the thin cotton socks, and began, seriously, to worry about frostbite.

    This was beyond a joke. This had moved beyond foolishness, slipped over the line into genuine twenty-four-karat Jesus-Christ-I-screwed-up-big-time territory. His clothes might as well have been netting or lace: the wind blew through him, froze his bones and the marrow in his bones, froze the lashes of his eyes, froze the warm place under his balls, which were retreating into his pelvic cavity.

    Keep walking, he told himself. Keep walking. I can stop and drink a pail of air when I get home....

    * * *

    And that, my friends, is one of the many reasons I love Neil Gaiman....

  • Bill  Kerwin

    In this unique love letter to the United States, Gaiman manages to celebrate its underground spiritual traditions, glory in the magnificence of its landmarks, landscapes, and bizarre tourist traps, and--most important--both mourn and venerate its pagan (often immigrant) gods in decline, battered and diminished though they may be by the shallowness and speed of our technological world. The gods are indeed the best part of this very good book: degenerate and threadbare, yet still gods, capable of

    In this unique love letter to the United States, Gaiman manages to celebrate its underground spiritual traditions, glory in the magnificence of its landmarks, landscapes, and bizarre tourist traps, and--most important--both mourn and venerate its pagan (often immigrant) gods in decline, battered and diminished though they may be by the shallowness and speed of our technological world. The gods are indeed the best part of this very good book: degenerate and threadbare, yet still gods, capable of inspiring bptj allegiance and terror.

    Gaiman loves not only fantasy, but also mystery and horror, and here he has constructed a book which fulfills the genre requirements of all. The plot is complicated and crammed with marvels: the beginning promises pleasures and horrors, the middle disturbs the balance, and the ending surprises and yet satisfies.

  • Jayson

    | Very Good

    The concept’s pretty brilliant, but the plot can be slow and plodding at times and the end doesn't live up to the build.

  • Megs ♥

    This is a tough review for me to write. I'm not exactly sure what it is about this book that I don't like. I'm not sure there even IS something I don't like. Since I don't want to just leave you all with the ever popular "I'm just not that into it", I will try to explain.

    This book has all the elements of a book I would enjoy. The creepiness factor is up there, the writing is brilliant, the main character is a big lug I couldn't help but love. Also, I have always been fascinated by mythology, so

    This is a tough review for me to write. I'm not exactly sure what it is about this book that I don't like. I'm not sure there even IS something I don't like. Since I don't want to just leave you all with the ever popular "I'm just not that into it", I will try to explain.

    This book has all the elements of a book I would enjoy. The creepiness factor is up there, the writing is brilliant, the main character is a big lug I couldn't help but love. Also, I have always been fascinated by mythology, so that's a plus.

    Shadow is our main character and he just got out of jail after doing his time of three years. Right before he is supposed to be released he is let out early, because his wife was killed, in apparently scandalous circumstances. The first 50ish pages were about the extent of where the book was interesting to me. Shadow meets Wednesday, and then the story turns into a bunch of mini stories and flashbacks, and I didn't enjoy most of them. Some were okay, but the majority just felt like annoying disruptions, and I felt myself thinking this is yet another longer book that could benefit from losing about 100 or so pages from the dragging middle. Shadow is paid by Wednesday to be an errand boy while he travels America trying to rally his troops in preparation for a war between The old Gods, and the new Gods (media and money) I guess it's my own fault. I couldn't really bring myself to care about this war between the new and old Gods, because the Gods of Media and Money? Not my Gods...

    Books that are hyped up as much as this one leave me in a place where I tend to get disappointed, because it's so hard to live up to those expectations. Of course that's not the books fault, but I was just expecting to like this book much more than I did. I never felt engaged while reading this book, and that's the reason I couldn't rate this above three stars. I could appreciate the great writing and originality, however, so I couldn't give it below three stars.

    Three stars it is folks, but as most of you know this book is loved by (almost) all, so of course I encourage everyone who is interested in this book already to read it, and form your own opinions. This book didn't do it for me, but I am definitely going to try some of Gaiman's other books and see if I have a better experience.

  • Matthew

    My first thought on this book:

    This is a 2.5 to 3 star book max for me. I am pretty sure this will be my last Neil Gaiman book. I have tried two others (

    and

    ) and one of those was okay (Omens) and one of them I couldn't stand (Ocean).

    I realize that my feelings on Gaiman and his books are contrary to popular opinion, but they are just not my cup of tea. They are slow. They seem intentionally odd and

    My first thought on this book:

    This is a 2.5 to 3 star book max for me. I am pretty sure this will be my last Neil Gaiman book. I have tried two others (

    and

    ) and one of those was okay (Omens) and one of them I couldn't stand (Ocean).

    I realize that my feelings on Gaiman and his books are contrary to popular opinion, but they are just not my cup of tea. They are slow. They seem intentionally odd and artsy. By the end, I just don't care anymore. I think trying 3 of his books shows I have given him a good chance, but now it may be time to part ways.

    American Gods has its interesting storylines (that is why I have rounded up to 3 stars) but overall, I didn't see the point. I expected some really interesting stuff to happen between all the Gods and mortals, but instead I got sometimes boring, sometimes unintelligible speeches, or really odd occurrences that come out of nowhere and make no sense. In general, I am not really sure why any of it happened other than Gaiman spewed forth some really weird stream of consciousness (This was the same way I felt about

    ).

    So - if you love Gaiman, keep on reading! But, don't fault me for not caring for is style after several tries, it is just how I feel and I don't think it is going to get any better.

  • Oceana2602

    "Read Gaiman!" they say. "I can't believe you've never read Gaiman! You have GOT TO read Gaiman!" "Gaiman is SUCH an important part of popular culture and one of the BEST contemporary writers! You HAVE TO READ GAIMAN!"

    Well, I've read Gaiman now.

    Hi Gaiman!

    Bye Gaiman!

    Let me quote:

    I agree with everything but the beginning a

    "Read Gaiman!" they say. "I can't believe you've never read Gaiman! You have GOT TO read Gaiman!" "Gaiman is SUCH an important part of popular culture and one of the BEST contemporary writers! You HAVE TO READ GAIMAN!"

    Well, I've read Gaiman now.

    Hi Gaiman!

    Bye Gaiman!

    Let me quote:

    I agree with everything but the beginning and the end. It certainly was scary, strange and hallucinogenic.

    None of it in a good way.

    I like nothing about this book. Not liking it isn't very difficult, because I have honestly no idea what was going on. Not that I didn't get the actual story, it wasn't that hard, since Mr. Gaiman sure isn't the most demanding writer (that isn't meant as a criticism, it can be a good thing). But why the things that were going on, were going on, completely eluded me. And while I kept on reading and wondering, 'huh? why? What now?', in the end, it all came up to "Why should I care?"

    This isn't my kind of book, mainly due to the subject and the characters. That's why I don't think anything Gaiman wrote would be my kind of book. It certainly isn't a book, or an author, you HAVE to read.

    I guess this, like that strange car race video game and Star Trek, will be parts of popular culture that will have to live without me.

  • David Katzman

    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

    .

    First off, while the premise sounds inter

    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

    .

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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:

    Oh yeah, and if you tell me over and over again that

    a big, big, big

    is coming, then you better give me a big fucking

    . Guess what? What do you think?

    Big spoiler here:

    By the end, I was ready to shoot

    but I had to wade through an epilogue

    a postscript. It was like a pimple on top of a wart. But I guess I’m not surprised that he wanted to tie up loose ends after the climax because he couldn’t figure out how to do it during the story itself. Bah.

    I viscerally disliked this book. I think it’s because as a whole it felt emotionally manipulative. Such a charge could have been avoided with living, breathing characters. But despite the transparent planning and plotting, none of it rang true. Even Fantasy characters need to feel real. These didn’t.

  • Bookdragon Sean

    Do you ever read a book and become completely lost in the words and, ultimately, wonder what is actually happening? Well, I do. So, I go back and read the bits I may not have picked up or accidently skimmed over. This allows me to actually understand the book. I tried doing that with this, and I quickly realised that I

    had no idea what was going on. The plot of this felt completely random, drawn out to the point of ridiculousness and the events, themselves, felt incoherent. I have no idea

    Do you ever read a book and become completely lost in the words and, ultimately, wonder what is actually happening? Well, I do. So, I go back and read the bits I may not have picked up or accidently skimmed over. This allows me to actually understand the book. I tried doing that with this, and I quickly realised that I

    had no idea what was going on. The plot of this felt completely random, drawn out to the point of ridiculousness and the events, themselves, felt incoherent. I have no idea why most of the events actually happened in here, and at this point, I can honestly say that just I don’t care anymore.

    The book begins with the protagonist, Shadow, finishing his prison sentence. On the day of release his wife is killed in a car accident. What initially appears as mere bad fortune slowly evolves into what can only be considered as something much odder. His wife’s ghost visits him, and assists him in the random events he then encounters. I say random because that’s exactly what this book is. The events that occurred had no discernible point. I kept expecting to see some reasoning behind it all, but just couldn’t.

    Perhaps I missed something. But the plot of this felt barely connected. There was an overall lack of cohesion and plot driver. I had very little reason to read this, and as I got further and further into it, I had even less. The book seemed to be going in a weird direction of its own that felt completely ungraspable. I just don’t understand the point of most of it; the characters all felt like they belonged in a psyche ward. I understand the overall meaning of the book, but the way in which the author presented it was awful. The actual events and scenes that took place were bizarre to the point of them having no purpose. For me, this book needed much more than just an overall juxtaposition of god types; it needed to be enjoyable on the surface level as well; it needed a proper plot.

    If a book bores me this much, and confuses me this much, when reading, the overall message of the book cannot save it in my estimation. The reading process was dull and plain arduous, I wanted to cry at points because it was that bad. Indeed, I had to force myself to complete reading this incredibly packed out, and rambling piece of randomness. If someone asked me to give a concise summary of the book, and tell them what happened, I’d be unable to complete the task. Perhaps it’s just me, but this book is so strange. I have nothing positive to say about it, in any respect, and absolutely hated reading it. I just can’t appreciate what Gainman was trying to achieve because he did it such a roundabout way.

    I simply detest this book. It was an absolute trudge to finish it. This just seemed far too long. The message that the author was trying to capture could have been done in half the word count. Perhaps, it doesn’t help that my copy was the original version, which means its twelve thousand words longer than the normal one. For me, this meant that there were entire chapters that were completely pointless. Nothing happened in them, and nothing was achieved through them. At points, this novel felt like a connected series of events that could barely be considered a plot. It will, indeed, be many months before I pick up another book by this author, maybe even years, maybe not ever again. I’ll never forgive the author for this tripe.

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