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American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A Novel (original 2001; edition 2003)

by Neil Gaiman

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23,87460545 (4.09)12 / 1102
sallowswine's review
I found this really dull and uninteresting--it's just reading a hundred pages of tedious dialogue and plot that is then punctuated with ten pages of odd, dreamlike imagery or strange sex (I can see why HBO wants to make it into a miniseries). It was definitely a slog. It picked up a bit near the end, but I just feel Neil could have taken--perhaps--the entire middle three fourths of the book and either condensed it into a chapter or two or maybe even excised it completely. It just dragggggggged; I think a competent editor could have pared this down to something that wasn't filled to the brim with as much rambling. I will say the ending bumped this up to a "soft" 2.5/5, but definitely still rounded down to 2. ( )
2 vote sallowswine | May 28, 2012 |
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This is the second time I have read this book this year and the third time overall. Each and every time I have seen something new in it or got a new insight out of it. That is the mark of a great book.

The storyline is too complex to delve into a lot of detail but the basics are this: when immigrants came to America they brought their old ways or worship and belief with them from the old countries and continents they left (and the old gods came along for the ride and stayed). The new gods - the American gods - represent ideas that are culturally and uniquely American. The digital age, television,the great roadside attractions, the car and the freeway. A war seems to be brewing in which there will be a showdown between the new gods and the old.

But like all truly great works there are subtexts galore. Ideas about light and dark, good and evil, loyalty and betrayal. Ideas about life and death and the worlds between that we cannot see but that we feel and sometimes enter that hover on the periphery of our conscious life.

Ultimately it is also about belief and faith - do we have it? Did we ever really lose it? If we did how do we get it back?

In the course of reading the novel, I found out HBO is making the book into a new series. My shock and excitement were palpable. This will either be brilliant or a complete disaster. I am hoping HBO does it the justice it has done with the George RR Martin Game of Throne series. My sense is that since Gaiman is a fan of Martin's work and saw how Thrones was handled that he was able to confidently sign off on the idea.

Loved it and will read it again and again and again. ( )
  ozzieslim | Dec 28, 2014 |
This one's a true winner. What an epic, glorious, wonderful trip through the world of the gods, both past and new. This is the type of book that you can read over and over again, each time realizing different aspects contained within the main story. I've read other reviews saying this is a great light read. Yes, the book can be read in a light way, just for the fun story. But it's also a very deep book indeed. I'm very much looking forward to discussing this in a book club I belong to. I'm sure they will be seeing things in the book that I missed and I have a feeling I may just have to read the book all over again once our discussion is over, just to pick up on everything that our discussion reveals.

This is a quote from Neil Gaiman of what he wanted to accomplish when he started "American Gods" - and he accomplished his goals completely: "It would be a thriller, and a murder mystery, and a romance, and a road trip. It would be about the immigrant experience, about what people believed in when they came to America, and about what happened to the things that they believed." ( )
  hubblegal | Dec 25, 2014 |
I don't know if Gaiman just isn't my cup of tea or if I keep finding the books of his that don't work for me. I had to struggle through this book. It was intriguing and Gaiman-weird. But I feel like it didn't go anywhere, that it ended up just being almost a life story with some mystery and I've never been a big fan of 'life stories'. Also some scenes left me wondering why they had been included. After finishing it, I'm mostly confused. There are interesting lessons or messages in the book, which I am beginning to see are part of Gaiman's books, but overall I'm mostly just glad I finished the book. Gaiman is still I reader I will pursue in the future since so many of his books are known, but I will be taking a break from this author for a while. ( )
  Kassilem | Dec 13, 2014 |
entertaining, fatty book, I usually can't make it through them, but this one was just fine!
(great review, I bet you're much smarter about this book now) ( )
  Mrdrewk | Dec 2, 2014 |
Not worthy of my time Too many other "better" works still to be read ( )
  busterrll | Oct 25, 2014 |
This one sent me on a wikipedia adventure - highlights included:

List of confidence tricks
Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel
The Book of the City of Ladies
Yggdrasil (hey Hyperion!)
Fictional spiders

I like the mechanic that old gods (and the new suits for that matter) exist because people believe they exist, although it opens up the risk of 'anything goes' plot development, which is not my favorite. This was the first thing I read by Gaiman - I'll continue!

( )
  behemothing | Oct 25, 2014 |
This was, quite possilby, the weirdest book I've ever read. I think it was actually a religious sermon hidden in a fiction novel. Would I recommend it? Sure, why not, but I have no idea who I'd recommend it to. It was just that weird. ( )
1 vote trishaj | Oct 7, 2014 |
Maybe it was one of those books you have to read and not audiobook. ( )
  Gonzalo8046 | Sep 29, 2014 |
no idea of what to expect from the backcover description but I was awesomely surprised and enjoyed this book so much. It is well written and the short vignettes between the main story are so interesting and add so much to the novel as a whole. I just found it fascinating and I want more books featuring this world of characters. I would suggest that you have the internet or a pad of paper close at hand. There will be lots of things you may want to look up for more clarification. ( )
  lushrain | Sep 29, 2014 |
This author really knows how to mess up a good story idea. In this book, the new "American gods" of the Media, the Internet, TV, etc. are confronted by the old gods that previous generations brought over from their home countries, like Odin from Scandinavia and Anansi from West Africa. So, a cool idea, but a very boring read full of pointless, weird stuff. ( )
  piersanti | Sep 28, 2014 |
The star rating really ought to be a 1 1/2 or something, because there were some characters and some parts that I really did enjoy, but those were islands of delight in a vast sea of disappointment. I was really looking forward to American Gods. I loved Neverwhere, and though I wasn't expecting a carbon copy, I wasn't expecting quite so much blandness. I'm all for subtle wonders and hidden magic. I'm all for not showing all your cards.

What disappointed me was how boring the protagonist was. His name is Shadow, and he literally seems to take whatever role his environment dictates. This isn't some fascinating look at espionage or magic. The guy just has no personality, seems quite alright to just go with the flow (even when things get crazy), and save for ONE moment in the beginning of the book, and a handful of moments toward the very end, you really feel he's not actually doing anything to affect his situation. He doesn't really do anything for the plot.

There were small "shorts" mixed into the story of what happened to gods and magical beings who were brought to America by those who believed in them. You learn about djinn and piskies. About gods who were made into prostitutes, and African magic. Those parts, sadly, were more interesting than reading about Shadow driving across the states, or him living his small town dream in the ass end of nowhere. Even Wednesday lost his initial charm partway through. Infinitely more fascinating were the other gods they encountered, but they were flashes in the pan most of them, and too soon are we returned to the dragging roadshow that is Shadow and Wednesday's "recruitment" efforts.

There isn't any doubt that Neil Gaiman is a great writer. It's just my feeling that the major themes of: societal evolution suffocating spiritual belief, nature vs. spirituality, the honoring of debts, the power of dreams, American life, the significance of endings and beginnings, and the paths we must forge for ourselves--could have been explored in a more evenly stimulating fashion. With a late bloomer protagonist, the abandoned characters that outshone him, and a plot that could've been a great deal shorter--I stick with my (imagined) rating of 1 1/2 stars. ( )
  Illise_Montoya | Sep 28, 2014 |
Neil Gaiman, if i'm judging him by this book alone, is NOT a good writer. The flubs and thoughtless phrases in his narrative are almost unforgivable considering how popular a writer he is. I'm only on page 100 but I have found about five nonsensical phrases and also find the main character Shadow, along with having a lame name, totally unbelievable. NObody, no matter how stoic, would act like this. So freaking stupid.

BUT, I'll read on. Maybe I'm missing something because I'm focusing on his very bad imitation of Stephen King's narrative style. We'll see. I'm hoping I'm wrong. I really wanted to believe we had someone special to fill in the spaces of the generation now passing: Bradbury, Wolfe, Zelazny, Le Guin. Doesn't look that way so far.


Page 200. Still not a good writer, and kind of gross, just to be gross. And his transliteration of someone-with-a-cold dialogue is very, very bad, and unnecessary. Does this guy have an editor, or does he publish his first draft?


OK, Gaiman. I'm waiting to be floored by your literary prowess, And you're going to have to do more than stay away from the passive voice.

Characters: There's Shadow = flat and unbelievable
Then there's everyone else = pretty much all the same character. All of whom are in on the plot.

In fact, everyone seems to have all the information needed, except for Shadow, and us, of course. You'd figure SOMEONE would fill him in, at the very least to get the reader invested. But no, this text is meandering, unfocused, inconsequential, and fucking boring. I'm not entertained by your series of imaginative scenes. Yes, I'm sure you can bring it all together somehow with all the skill of a ninth grader, but I'm just not interested. Have you learned nothing about the craft of writing from Harlan Ellison who is you bestest pal?

Bottom line: Gaiman has a fine imagination, but he's a bad writer. Now, maybe he's improved with his subsequent works. I've read many of his short stories and was not impressed, but I didn't think he was bad. Now I think he's bad. Maybe I'll give another book a shot. Maybe not. But this one's getting shelved half-way through. It's too bad. We really do need a modern, young writer we can look up to.

( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
With a fast-paced storyline and unforgettable characters, American Gods is impossible to put down and will leave you wanting more. For the full review, visit The Book Wheel. ( )
  thebookwheel | Sep 16, 2014 |
Neil Gaiman is one of the best storytellers of our time. If you haven't read one of his books, you should start with Neverwhere, move on to Stardust, quickly devour American Gods and then treat yourself to Anansi Boys or Good Omens. You simply just can't go wrong with Gaiman! If you're in to audiobooks, he narrates both Stardust and Neverwhere. Give him a go! You won't be disappointed! ( )
  pennylane78 | Sep 6, 2014 |
A great read. Like some of my favourite books it seemed to be losing its hold on plausibility but brings it all together in the end to a satisfying conclusion which ties up all the loose ends nicely. I am not a big fan of fantasy but I'll make an exception for Gaiman, and Pratchett. ( )
  jerhogan | Sep 3, 2014 |
What if gods walked the Earth as they did in ancient tales? Neil Gaiman answers that question in his own way, this story assumes that all gods from all pantheons are real, but not quite in the way you might expect. They have their abilities, and we discover some weaknesses.

The book starts off slowly, as the protagonist, Shadow, seems to flow randomly from event to event and place to place. Wednesday seems to be guiding the story, but the reader gets very little information about what's going on, except that a war is looming.

There are a number of sex scenes early in the book that feel extraneous, and a bit over the top. I think the book would have been better without them.

There are a lot of dream sequences that seemed important. Some of the symbolism seemed to indicate changes in Shadow's life. Many of the dreams just felt random.

The writing is good, it holds your attention. The second half of the book definitely picks up as you begin to understand what is happening. If the whole book were like the second half, I would recommend it, as it is, it is good, but difficult to get through in the beginning. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Sep 2, 2014 |
This was quite a bit different from Gaiman's other works for me. I enjoyed it as it was very thought provoking, especially about what we believe in and actually worship here in America.
  hoosgracie | Aug 28, 2014 |
I loved it. ( )
  Irena. | Aug 26, 2014 |
I loved this book. First of all, Gaiman is a fantastic writer. He can really spin a story that keeps you interested, and his writing style is vivid, with amazing imagery. Secondly, this was just a fantastic story. Interesting, creative, unique. Loved it! ( )
  sammii507 | Aug 19, 2014 |
This is a spider's web of history and fiction and fact and myth and legend. It has the intricacies of a web, the confusion, the trickery and the beauty.

Gaiman is a master. With just one or two lines each character (and oh my are there a lot of characters in this book!) comes to life. Even the most unbelievable characters are believable and solid and real in their own ephemeral way.

The only thing keeping this book from being pure perfection is that there were too many places in the narrative when it was really easy for me to walk away, read a different book for a few days. These few slow places that lack the tension to keep the reader vested are rare, but they are noticeable enough I couldn't quite give it five stars.

Still, I will likely read it a second time. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
This has been a long and winding road, but very fulfilling, each page. I learned a great deal from Neil and I went places I have never been - and places I have been - and places I hope to be again. I have been a fan of his from Good Omens to date. I loved Terry Pratchett. I love Neil Gaiman.

This is the second time I've read American Gods. It never gets old. ( )
  mreed61 | Aug 10, 2014 |
In the end, I was glad I read it, but I often found it difficult to trudge through. ( )
  turbobks | Aug 6, 2014 |
Always amazed by how Gaiman could make up stories with such characters. I love the twists he always does. ( )
  ratuvictoria | Aug 5, 2014 |
Interesting. It is a very different book from most of the other Gaiman I have read. I did not like the Jesus chapter in the extended version. I am glad it was left out of the original. I like the idea of bringing our gods with us wherever we move to. ( )
  morandia | Aug 1, 2014 |
Neil Gaiman. What else do I need to say? He is an excellent storyteller. Such a surprising end. ( )
  nycke137 | Jul 29, 2014 |
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