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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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24,55963644 (4.09)12 / 1148
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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An epic story, funny and packed with action. Would give it 5 stars if not for too many graphic sex scenes and LGBT themes for a story where they don't seem to be the main subject. It's like adding some zebras to a cavalry battle painting because hey, zebras are so underrepresented in art. And making sure there are big horse genitals visible in front because sex sells. ( )
  valdanylchuk | Aug 26, 2015 |
I read this for WPL's book club. One of the other readers found it slow going, and was in fact stuck in the middle section. Her complaint was that "nothing happens." Given the ending, one might have that complaint: not much has changed by the end. And given that there is a plot involving conspiracies, secret groups, and cons, that may slow the plotting. What pulled me along was guessing the identity of the gods/mythical/legendary beings as they were being introduced. I was irritated that the Norse gods were used as the matrix for the narrative and that Native American legends were mostly background. Being from Massachusetts, I was in fact angered by the inclusion of Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman: 1) in that he was legendary and 2) that his speech was all wrong and 3) that he shows up in a Western setting. I was also bothered by the predominance of sexualized goddesses/mythical figures: Eostre, Bilquis, Bast, one of the Zorya sisters, rusalki, etc. Granted, many goddesses/mythical figures had that aspect, but there were many who didn't, and of the gods/male figures used in the book, very few have that role highlighted. My final complaint is that at points the figures mentioned are a messy collection: it suffers from pulling from both myth and folklore -- the two are not the same. The book does make a nice use of place and roadside America; I would use this in either a mythology or folklore class. ( )
  AmyMacEvilly | Aug 13, 2015 |
Dark, gritty and full of suspense, not to mention how fun it was to discover the various gods as Shadow, the main character, weaves his way through a complicated and detailed plot. The full-cast audio version is well worth listening to, and adds a new level of depth to the story. Gaiman, as always, is the master of myth, this time tackling the complicated matter of myth's role in the New World, and providing an interesting theory of how the gods of old might attempt to remain relevant in the modern world. ( )
  WritingHaiku | Jul 28, 2015 |
A very long and complex novel about the coming war between the old (and mostly forgotten) gods and characters of folklore and the new gods of technology. Hard to explain without giving up too much, but if you stick with the read, it's a compelling look at culture, history, and people. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Jul 18, 2015 |
American Gods is a long and complex book, a book where the reader's interpretation is as important as the story itself. There's a war coming, between the old gods and the new gods of technology. Religion is at the core of this novel, through both history and philosophy. I can't imagine a reader who doesn't have an opinion on that.

I listened to the audio of the 10th anniversary special edition. It's extremely well done, with a cast of readers. I would recommend this version, but with a couple of caveats. First, there are a large number of obscenities, especially in the beginning. It would not be appropriate to listen when small children are near. Secondly, the readers bring their own interpretations to the novel, so the audio can push a reader in a direction he or she might not have gone.

The story is about Shadow, a man who is just coming out of a three year stint in prison which he earned in a barroom fight over his wife, Laura. Circumstances limit Shadow's options and connect him with a strange character who calls himself Wednesday. Through this connection Shadow meets a series of people and gods who are choosing sides. Many odd things happen during the course of Shadow's journey. They can all be explained after some thought. I think this novel is best for people who enjoy that process.

Shadow's story is the main plot of the novel, but Neil Gaiman included a number of back stories of gods and the people who worship them. These seemed out of place at times, because I wasn't ready for a break from Shadow. But they made sense in the long run.

There are references to Christianity in the text, but no more than any other religion. When the god Easter plays a role in the story, this is the pagan Easter from which the Christian holiday took its name. The religions emphasized the most seem to be from Native American traditions.

American Gods is a perfect book to discuss after reading, so it would be a good choice for a book club.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | Jul 16, 2015 |
4/5 stars
I post all my reviews to athroneofbooks.booklikes.com

This book was an adventure, filled with so much going on at once it took me much longer than the average book to get through. It’s a book riddled with crazy characters, humorous dialogue, and surprises that were well thought out by Gaiman. It’s one of those books where I felt rewarded in the end and I will think about for quite a while after finishing. I think this is one you owe it to yourself to read and love, so I’m not going into much detail in the review. I will however share some of my favorite quotes below because this book had some gems:
“You shine like a beacon in a dark world.”
“The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”
Fiction allows us to slip into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives. ( )
  MarandaNicole | Jul 15, 2015 |
This is a big book with a lot going on. This book has received many awards ranging in category from horror (The Bram Stoker Award) to Sci-Fi (Nebula) and through to the World Fantasy Awards. That in itself is a fine example of the various genres this book encompasses, so I don’t even know how to begin to summarize it in a few sentences for a review.

It starts off as a simple story of our hero, Shadow, waiting for his release from prison at the end of the week. He is looking forward to seeing his wife and starting his real life again but cannot shake the feeling that there “was a storm coming” and “something bad is going to happen”. Before his day is over both these feelings prove more than prophetic. He is released from prison a few days early because his wife has been killed in a car crash. During his flight home a real storm jostles the plane and his seat partner … we’ll call him Mr. Wednesday … recruits Shadow to be his (for lack of a better word) bodyguard. Mr. Wednesday turns out to be a little more than human and soon Shadow is drawn into a battle between those ancient gods transported to America with their immigrant believers but now mostly forgotten about and the new crop of gods quickly gaining strength through their worshippers (commerce, sex, technology and money).

I enjoyed the premise of the book. I love Mr. Gaiman’s writing. I like the rambling road trip format of the story. Admittedly it was sometimes frustrating to begin to like a location and its populace only to be savagely ripped from there to another location. Definitely makes the reader empathize with Shadow. However, as much as I liked all those things about the book there came a point when all the rambling, which had previously made some sort of sense, totally lost direction for me.

I have to admit that if I had been reading it rather than listening to it on audio I may not have persisted to the last page.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
I read the author's preferred 10th edition of the book.
Brief synopsis,

Shadow (recently released from prison has nothing to go home to) is offered a job by a mysterious man named Wednesday. Very quickly Shadow is whisked away into an underground group of gods brought over from Europe, India, Africa, etc. And these gods are finding themselves on the verge of extinction as new gods of our age (media, technology, etc) are gunning for the hearts and "faith" of the people of America; but Wednesday has a plan. WAR!!!!!!!!!!!

I absolutely loved this book. I thought that Neil Gaiman did a fantastic job in making me fall in love with the characters. They were funny, entertaining, provocative, raunchy, well-meaning, deep, and from the start the characters were anything but two dimensional words on paper. I gave the book a 4 1/2 because to me a 5 means that I would change nothing about the book and while it was a phenomenal page-turner there were things that I wish were different. There were characters I was introduced to that I wanted to know more about (particularly a homosexual Ifirit or goddess who literally ate people with her vagina)- and never heard from again. I understand that though because there was so much going on that it would have been very difficult to introduce more characters than there were, but they had caught my attention and curiosity and just would have liked to know more. I also felt like I had good closure and while the author felt the need to tidy up every detail, I didn't find it tedious or time wasting. ( )
  wkeblejr | Jul 14, 2015 |
Did not finish. Crass and vulgar. What a disappointment.
1 vote RobinLythgoe | Jul 6, 2015 |
I very much enjoyed this book. Neil Gaiman has had a good time laying out the build-up to a horrendous shoot-out between the Gods imported into the Americas by all these immigrants. But they need to know who will be the successful interlopers and who will not be. Being in the USA the method of choice is the shoot-out, which t apparently is done on a hillside behind a diner in Northwest Georgia.
There's a great deal of carnage and no one's sure who's won. It's interesting that though the real Gods of North America appear in this novel, only the immigrant one's appear at the show-down. Are they being softened up before the final? A very good time was had with this book. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 20, 2015 |
A gripping mythology painted in an identifiable Midwestern palette. Breathes life into the histories and memories of small towns and amplifies these to epic proportions. House on the Rock, mentioned herein, is a must see. Plenty of room left for a sequel. ( )
  albertgoldfain | May 25, 2015 |
Very long but because I liked Shadow I kept going. It's like being in a non stop dream/nightmare. I was drained when I finished it. I think I'm done with Neil for the moment. I need to let my mind foat on some happy clouds for a while. ( )
  whybehave2002 | May 22, 2015 |
American Gods is to mythology and folklore as a Tarantino movie is to old westerns and Kung Fu films. Gaiman is clearly an expert on his topics, creating a multi-layered story in which Shadow, just released from prison as the story begins, is drawn into the employ of a man who knows more than is humanly possible and is working on a mysterious project involving all of the old gods-- kept alive, but with waning power, as long as they are remembered. As the gods of technology and business quickly rise and fall, the storm that the gods, old and new, sense continues to draw nearer. Gaiman creates a fully realized world; one in which prison inmates read Herodotus, there are plots within plots as independent immortal beings each have their own slightly different goals, and the scholarly reader can find hundreds of allusions, references, or nods to various cultures, histories, mythologies, and tales.
Chapters of the novel often open with stories of other people in other times, and Gaiman’s prowess as a writer comes through in his thought provoking tales, tangents, and anecdotes. As with a Tarantino film, for genre enthusiasts this proves to be an incredible work, a masterpiece by a creator whose love and enthusiasm for the folklore, the style (often a Kerouac reminiscent roadtrip), and the medium shine through on every page. ( )
  Ailinel | May 1, 2015 |
I can't figure out why people like this. There were so many things to not like--Shadow's wife is at the top of my list. And I normally like Neil Gaiman. It was too long and too weird and I wasn't sure what was going on and I didn't really care. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
Wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I enjoyed the slow burn pace of the story. Still looking for a story that evokes Lord Byron's Darkness in atmosphere. I didn't enjoy this as much as Neverwhere.
( )
  StaticBlaq | Apr 26, 2015 |
You may expect the magic, the lyricism, and the humor, but the poignancy of American Gods is a great bonus. Undoubtedly one of the best stories I've read about grieving and about letting go in general. The characters are strong--Shadow is someone we can all learn from--and Gaiman has an unusually humane view of our foibles and yearnings.

The insights into mythology and the American spirit are also worthy. Gaiman gets us.

Though there are perhaps one or two too many nested narratives here, you'll hardly notice because several of the longer passages are outright genius and there is always an interesting idea or a joke coming soon. Overall, it adds up to one of the best reading experiences I can recall.
( )
  wreichard | Apr 24, 2015 |
For a GR group read. Oh my. Took me a long time - and at that, I'm sure I missed a lot of depth. It'd be a good book for an intellectual to carry bumming around the hostels, reading & re-reading, talking about to other travellers, learning more and more about all the different gods and philosophies offered. Sometimes it got a little wordy and could've been edited to be a bit tighter - but other times it was elliptical and confusing. Somewhat gruesome, but not too bad - though because of unwholesome sex I'd not advise it for virgins or anyone under 18. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
There were so many references and allusions....I think I missed half of the book because I couldn't relate to all of them. I think the entire thing was a 'whoosh' moment, because I feel there's this huge deep and philosophical meaning that I totally did not get and just went right over my head....
Never felt so dumb in my life.... ( )
  LopiCake | Mar 25, 2015 |
I like Neil and I like when he says something that I never thought of but immediately identify with. His story pacing is typically excellent and his characters engaging.

That said, I liked this book the least of his that I've read. I'm fine with suspense and a little horror but I dislike being grossed out and horrified at the same time. Additionally there were a few parts that could have been omitted because they didn't appear to really move the main story onward. They were just fragments of other stories tacked on.

( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
2 ½ Stars ( )
  BookaholicCat | Mar 4, 2015 |
I have to admit, the first two thirds of American Gods was interesting, but it didn't compel me to stay up until 4 a.m. to read it. The narrative meanders and the settings of the book are constantly changing, so it was difficult for me to really get a sense of where the book was going. However, the last third wound things up fantastically, and made me very glad that I didn't put down the book. I also felt that in some ways the main character, Shadow, was very flat and at times hard to really get excited about. However, he does make an interesting dichotomy between the chaos happening in the story and the relatively stable, unaffected protagonist. ( )
  CandiedMapleLeaves | Mar 2, 2015 |
Holy WOW! This book was a trippy adventure! It is a fiction fantasy that contains elements of the magical & the mundane. Neil Gaiman creates such a fantastical world of divine beings. There are the old Gods (spiritual) and the new Gods (material). The old Gods came to America when the people who believed in them came to America from the old countries. The main character is Shadow Moon, an ex-con. He meets Mr Wednesday after he is released from prison & goes to work for him. There is a war brewing between the old & the new Gods & Mr Wednesday is at the center of it. Shadow is such a freaking awesome & compelling protagonist. He is smart & compassionate & courageous. There are so many fantastic secondary characters. A good deal of the book takes place in Wisconsin! Actually some crucial scenes take place at The House on the Rock. My review is not doing this book justice. Just know that I freaking LOVED it! I look forward to reading it again someday & can't wait to devour everything that Neil Gaiman has ever written. ( )
  michele.juza | Feb 25, 2015 |
An amazing book . It was a great read ( )
  durgaprsd04 | Feb 25, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this one. An interesting take on religion and gods being brought to America. Good characters, but some of the gods are not well known, which adds to the atmosphere. ( )
  adam.d.woodard | Feb 23, 2015 |
The premise of American Gods is that when people came to this country (United States) they brought their gods with them. Their pagan gods and assimilated them into their lives here, but that over time people have forgotten the old gods and they are being replaced by new gods, gods of technology. If you pay attention while reading, and if you’re familiar with Norse, Greek and Roman mythology and some other lands folk stories, you will recognize some of the gods. The old gods don’t want to be replaced, the new gods want the old gods gone.

Shadow is in prison, he does his time, he keeps his mouth shut and looks forward to leaving prison and going back with his wife. We never learn the whole story of why Shadow is in prison, just that he loves his wife very much. A few days before his release he gets the news that she has been killed in an auto accident. As he travels to home and the funeral he meets up with Mr. Wednesday who hires him and they start driving through America, Mr. Wednesday is a god and he is meeting up with the other gods because there is a storm coming and either the old gods will survive, or the new gods will survive.

This is the main story, but there are many other stories throughout this books. Back stories and side stories, the story of why Shadow went to prison, never fully explained, the story of who Mr. Wednesday’s associates are, the story of Mr. Wednesday and Shadow, and some stories seem to just be thrown in to take up space.

While I enjoyed this book I felt it went on and on. Many of the stories added seemed to be just filler, they didn’t seem to help the story along. In short a good story very masterfully told, Mr. Gaiman takes all the threads he scattered about and brings them together in the end, I just felt the end was too long in coming and there were too many ‘side trips’. ( )
  BellaFoxx | Feb 14, 2015 |
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