Review: American Gods (American Gods Book 1 of 2.5)

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I enjoyed this book.  Within the first fifteen or twenty percent, I kept pausing and thinking to myself, “This is really good!”  I lost some momentum after that, which I think is mostly the fault of my work schedule.  I was working long and strange hours to support a project, and there was actually a stretch of two days where I didn’t read a single page.  I can’t remember the last day where I didn’t manage to read at least a few pages.  After that, my interest in the story started to fluctuate and I thought some parts were more interesting than others.  Over-all, though, I did really like it.

 

The story is set in the U.S. at around the time the book was written, in 2001.  I guess this would be considered Magical Realism.  The idea is that, when people immigrated to America, they brought their gods with them through their belief in and worship of those gods.  As a result, we now have a diverse collection of gods from various mythologies in the U.S., but nobody really believes in them anymore so they’re mostly a pretty miserable lot.  Making things even more difficult for them are the new gods that are coming into power, such as the gods of credit cards and the media.  In many ways this premise reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods, which I had read just two books ago.  They each took different approaches, though, and they each had a very different tone.

 

Our main character is known by the name of Shadow.  When the book begins, we meet him in jail where he’s been for three years.  He’s scheduled to be released soon, and he has good plans for getting his life back on track when he’s released, but events outside his control prevent him from going through with those plans.  Shadow was a very likeable character.  He was a bit more passive and laid back than what I typically like to see in a character, but I liked him anyway.  There were some other interesting characters introduced also.  My knowledge of mythological gods is about as pathetic as possible, so reading this on my Kindle was helpful because I could quickly get the wiki entries for various names and appreciate the references a bit more.  I could tell there was some clever wordplay going on and I suspect a lot of it went over my head.  I was still able to enjoy and follow the story, though, without really feeling like I was missing out on anything important.

 

I read the Tenth Anniversary Edition of this book which, according to the author’s introduction, adds another 12,000 words that had previously been edited out of the original version.  Since this was my first time reading any version of the story, I have no idea what kind of a difference that made to the story.  I did enjoy it though, and I plan to read the related novella “The Monarch of the Glen” next and then move on to the sequel, Anansi Boys.