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American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2003)

by Neil Gaiman

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23,33757947 (4.1)12 / 1070
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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Though just as competent as all of Neil Gaiman's writing, this novel lacks the whimsy and the light-hearted macabre of Gaiman's other works. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jul 26, 2014 |
The writing in this book was really enjoyable, writing that made me want to read it out loud. I did eventually notice that the vocabulary used in this book was less exciting than I expected, lacking in beautiful words despite the beautiful sentences. The plot of the book reminded me of a thriller, with lots of action and lots of sex. I was a bit disappointed by how much this book resembled the archetypal thriller, since I’ve not been in the mood for thrillers lately. However, the writing was far above average, as was the creativity of the plot. The integration of mythology into a book that otherwise would fit neatly into the thriller genre was an exciting twist. And the plot twists at the end caught me completely off guard in the best of ways. Overall, I think this was probably Gaiman’s version of a thriller; I think I liked it far better than I would have a more stereotypical book in that genre; and I think there are probably other books of Gaiman’s that I would be blown away by. I’ll definitely be looking to read more of his work.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |

To be honest, for a long time I wasn’t even sure I was enjoying this book. I LOVED the first fifty pages, then began to grow a little restless, but by the middle of the book, I was sucked in again. I read most of this book in an eye surgical center waiting room as my dad had an appointment, and by the time I was to page 300, I was oblivious to the world around me. Despite this book being roughly 600 pages, it’s tightly crafted. Even if you don’t enjoy the story, I think most people can appreciate Gaiman’s writing style. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, where there’s all sort of events going on and you’re entertained and know it all has a point, but can’t figure out exactly what until the end. There is really not an unnecessary scene in this book, which makes for a fairly quick-moving story, despite the page length.

Final Impression: A profound, interesting read that I’ll probably re-visit in the future and recommend to most people. I’ll definitely be looking into reading more Neil Gaiman as well. I’d give it a 4/5 stars.

A (longer) review originally appeared on my blog at Book.Blog.Bake. ( )
  Stormydawnc | Jun 23, 2014 |
Just the characters make this a worthy read. I wont even go into the plot. Need to read more from Neil. ( )
  Me-chan | Jun 19, 2014 |
For next book club. ( )
  bonreads | Jun 11, 2014 |
I really liked the story, as well as most of the characters. Neil Gaiman is really a brilliant author, and he does not disappoint here. I still think Neverwhere is one of the coolest ideas. The only reason I took a star off from this book was Shadow. There was plenty of character development for him, but there was a sort of affective flatness that sometimes made it difficult to identify with him. I know that his mindset was more or less explained with everything going on, but still I felt the emotional disconnect created some level of detachment for me. ( )
  sffstorm | Jun 9, 2014 |
Shadow's wants are few: he looks forward to his release from prison, a warm bath, reuniting with his wife and a job with an old friend. When these are quickly dashed, with the death of wife and friend in a car crash, he leaves jail in a daze. He soon encounters an all-knowing mysterious man who offers him a job of questionable legality. Thus begins an odyssey of epic proportions as he mets Old World Gods (brought to American shores by immigrants only to be forgotten) and New World Gods of modern origin. A conflict - an epic battle even-- seems inevitable. Many people have loved this book and it certainly kept me reading through almost 600 pages. I just wish Shadow, as close to an Everyman narrator as we we're going to get, had awoken from his daze at some point earlier than he did. He acts with little agency, accepting the incredible and the painful with amazing equanimity. He finally wakes up, but far too late for me to be much invested in it. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jun 6, 2014 |
American Gods is one of the earliest novels by Neil Gaiman which centered on a man called Shadow who was incarcerated in prison and counting days to get out but was released earlier because of the death of his wife, Laura. Not knowing what to do with his life without his wife and the lost of his potential job because of the incident, Shadow agreed to job proposal by a mysterious man called Mr Wednesday who was a con man himself but turn out to be an incarnation of Odin who came to America by immigrants but now like the old deities, had their powers diminished by the lost of modern Americans's belief in them. Under Wednesday's wing, Shadow saw that the new and old deities was in the verge of a war. The old gods disgruntled by their increasingly forgotten presence in favour of the new gods while the new gods feeling that the gods were old fashion and deserve to be forgotten or die.

However, I'm not sure whether the additional text (I read the 10th Anniversary edition) was necessary since surprising most of the book functioned as a filler around Shadow. Neil Gaiman had a tendency to form a narrative main character with barely enough backstory in them to make them interesting. His main white male characters often was a blank-slate character with an only function was as a vehicle for the audience to dive into the story. I see this in Richard Mayhew, Nobody, Tristran, the narrator in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. In fact there's some similarities between American Gods and Neverwhere which can be a spoiler if you focus too much on the characterization.

Since Shadow spent most part of the book, on the run from the trails of people who wished him dead or wanted him to play on their team, the book is a road trip with a lot similarities like CW's Supernatural. There's many also many subplot in this book which are unrelated to the rest of the book but good on their own. I love the story about the egyptian and slavic pantheon and wished for more of them. But to be honest, I couldn't care much about 60% of the book. Much of the wealth of this book came around the confrontation in the end and because Gaiman's tendency to spread bread crumbs of spoilers in his narrative, the rounding climax is quite predictable if you're used to Gaiman's style of writing.

It took me days to finish this audiobook but I probably will look forward to the HBO adaptations since much of Gaiman's strength is in his screenwriting. I'm not sure about how American was this book but I do enjoy the subtle mythologies.
( )
  aoibhealfae | Jun 2, 2014 |
This is the first Gaiman novel that I have read, and I really liked it. It kind of reminds me of Stephen King, from the fantasy/supernatural point of view. Maybe Gaiman's characters are simpler than King's (at least in this novel), but at the same time the story is more complex, and have more layers to it. I wonder if that is always the case (I've read many Stephen King novels, but as I said, this is my first and only Gaiman's).
Not being American (nor a native English speaker), I picked this book with some fear of losing many details due to my lack of knowledge about American culture. But I managed it just fine.
( )
  chaghi | Jun 1, 2014 |
American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Perenial
Published In: New York, NY, USA
Date: 2003
Pgs: 541


The gods of ancient man found themselves in conflict with the gods of modern man. The gods of credit cards face down the gods of thunder. The gods of television battle the gods of the sea. The gods of plastic face the goddesses of the hearth. And man is caught in the middle, though unaware. Hidden in human form, the gods prey on men like parasites, boons and magic mixed with bloodletting. Fading away, some of them unaware of what they were. Magic is loose in the land; new vs. old, life vs. death, past vs. future.

Gods and Goddesses
Science fiction

Why this book:
Written by Neil Gaiman. That’s reason enough all by itself.

This Stories are About:
courage, doing the right thing, greed, friends, sadness, family

Favorite Character:
Shadow is a good character, beaten by life, persevering in the face of odd and awesome circumstances. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop on what Shadow really is.

Least Favorite Character:
Shadow’s wife and best friend. That’s some serious bad relationship stuff there. Very messed up. Laura, Shadow’s wife, does a bunch to redeem herself in my mind, but that’s still a tough thing...even with their being under the influence.

Mr. Wednesday, mentor, bastard, deflowerer of virgins

Character I Most Identified With:
Shadow is the narrator and the central figure of the story. It’s hard not to identify with him as the world and the story happen to him.

The Feel:
There is a great sweep to this story that pulls you along.

Favorite Scene:
Shadow’s dead wife showing up the night after her funeral, obviously dead and zombie like, to sit beside his motel bed and smoke a cigarette and try to apologize for dying in a car wreck giving his best friends a blowjob a few days before Shadow got out of prison. I mean...damn.

The whole section where Shadow is settling into Lakeside. The place feels too good to be true. So, it probably is.

Shadow’s vision quest while doing the vigil for Wednesday is awesome.

Shadow’s talk with Whiskey Jack when he begins to see.

It’s a bit slow in the first act. With the introductions and the setting up of the later plot points, this makes sense, but it is a slow roll to begin with. This picks up significantly once Shadow and Mr. Wednesday are out on the road. Once you get through the opening, the book’s pace picks up well.

Plot Holes/Out of Character:

Hmm Moments:
Bar fights with leprecauns and a modern Queen of Sheba devouring a Hollywood producer with her vagina by page 39. I love Neil Gaiman.

The thunderbirds and the buffalo man in Shadow’s dreams, if they are dreams.

Odin hanging on his tree vs. Christ hung on his cross...the juxtaposition is striking.

Can’t say it without giving it away, but damn. Just damn.

Why isn’t there a screenplay?
A movie won’t be able to do this justice.

Casting call:
Would love to see George Clooney as Mr. Wednesday.

Last Page Sound:
That’s freaking awesome.

Author Assessment:
Neil Gaiman is a titan in my book.

Editorial Assessment:
The introduction makes it seem that this “anniversary” edition may have been the author’s big chance to go back and re-include parts stripped away by the first set of editors. I wonder if I should have tracked down the standard edition and read it instead. This version by Gaiman’s own count is roughly 12,000 words longer than the one that won the Nebula, the Locus, the Bram Stoker, and the Hugo Awards due to its wide genre footprint.

Knee Jerk Reaction:
real classic

Disposition of Book:
Irving Public Library, Irving, TX

Would recommend to:
friends, family, colleagues, everyone, genre fans ( )
1 vote texascheeseman | May 29, 2014 |
Well, I technically read a version slightly edited by Nat, because I was about 14. But it was nearly whole.
  GrytaJME | May 27, 2014 |
Well, I technically read a version slightly edited by Nat, because I was about 14. But it was nearly whole.
  GrytaJME | May 27, 2014 |
I listened to this book as an audiobook, the 10th Anniversary Edition Full cast version of American Gods. I think I enjoyed it more than I would have reading it.

For one thing, I have found that I *really* enjoy listening to Neil Gaiman read aloud. He doesn't read the whole book, he just reads the legends, the forward and the afterward, but he's in there and when he's reading he's just marvelous. Also, the different voices really helped me stay with who was who. The deep voice of Shadow, *was* Shadow... so I didn't ever have that moment when reading dialogue when I was going... so *who* is talking here? Also the various gods were very distinctive as well, and the acting was wonderful.

I do know that I will have to "read" or listen to this again. Preferably after finding a study guide somewhere because this book makes me feel stupid. It's so totally complex and has so many different plot lines and things going on underneath what's actually going on in the main plotline that I felt like I was really missing a lot of symbolism. (If anyone has a good guide or explanation of the themes of American Gods feel free to PM me!)

I did find it absolutely fascinating. I've always rather thought of "God" as a form of energy... so the idea that people brought their gods with them when they immigrated, then forgot about them and then their gods just sort of wandered around, "forgotten" in America was really interesting. And the idea that we are now putting our collective mental energy into creating "gods" of "Internet" and "Credit Card" was also quite interesting-- why not? If you put your energy into it, if it is what you truly value... why would it not be your "god"? It was a very interesting thing to ponder. Something I never would have thought about before reading this book.

And then the manipulations of the gods, by the gods... just-- Oh. My. Word.

Just Wow. Mr Gaiman, you are amazing. Every time I think that you cannot get more interesting or surprising, yeah... you do.

This book will remain a favourite and will be re-read, and re-listened to. I even bought it and donated it to my local library so others could read it. Thank you for being you Mr. Gaiman, you rock, Sir.

Now publish "Chu's Day", because it looks WAY CUTE and I want to read it really, really bad. ( )
  Clare_M | May 25, 2014 |
Not done with this one yet and it could be awhile till i am. I see this book everywhere, so many people have it in their "favorite books of all time" type sections. I have read a few things by Neil Gaiman before and i adore books about the gods but this one? Meh.....I am definitely not committed to the main character, i just dont get him. Who is he? What kind of personality does he have? i dont really see one, He just does what he's told. There are so many interesting little things that have gone on in the book that made me perk up a bit but they never get elaborated on. I guess thats because the main character is so detached and has little to no curiosity but it made so i wasnt curious about the next page of the book either. I found there to be alot of scenes that seemed totally unnecessary, scenes that might have been for adding more development to the main character but failed to do so, and many scenes that were unnecessarily long to the point of "GET ON WITH IT!!"
Eventually I'll finish this book, i'll plug away at it a page at a time when i'm super bored and inbetween books and maybe by the end it will have absorbed me some. I hold out hope.
  whispring | May 24, 2014 |
I finally read American Gods! I enjoyed the journey of Shadow, recently paroled from prison, as he learns that the world he has always known is only a small part of what actually exists. The gods of old are trying to hold on to the old ways and to the people who brought them to America through their belief systems. The new gods are vying for followers of their own. War may be the only way to settle the differences. Sacrifices must be made.

This book had several twists and turns that kept me wondering what else could possibly happen. Dead does not mean dean; alive does not necessarily mean alive. The character development was very interesting, particularly the way Gaiman dealt with old gods in a modern world. On a personal note, I'll never look at roadside attractions the same way! ( )
  GeorgiaDawn | May 13, 2014 |
Neil Gaiman excels at world building and this novel is no exception. His story of Gods in the new world is full of twists and turns, cons and double-crosses, and ultimately, redemption and hope. ( )
  Katya0133 | May 1, 2014 |
A little confusing, a little trippy, a little magic, murder, mythology, etc., all rolled up into a strange, but surprisingly INTERESTING read! Shadow, who we never learn the real "human" name of, commits a crime, & ends up in prison on a 6 year sentence. He gets out after 3 when they release him upon his wife's untimely death in a car accident. And THAT is where it begins to get weird. He meets a plethora of characters, some seedy, like the drunk who can pull gold coins out of thin air & then ends up dead in the cold, a pair of morticians who are MUCH more than they appear, & the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who is the driving force behind it all.

NOT sure I was at ALL happy with the ending, but I'll let the rest of you make up your own minds. I am "presuming" that The Anansi Boys is the sequel, or at least a companion book to this story, but since I haven't read that one yet, I can't judge. Needless to say, that one goes in the TBR file :) ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 10, 2014 |
Read for discussion here. A picaresque tale about a man who encounters gods from various cultures liviing in mufti in America who are threatened by new gods of consumerism and technology. See Rock City! Where the gods clash - and the House on the Rock where ... well, you kind of have to be there. A strange and entertaining hero's journey through tacky American tourist spots and creepily idyllic small towns.
  bfister | Apr 7, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

This is a bad land for Gods...The old gods are ignored. The new gods are as quickly taken up as they are abandoned, cast aside for the next big thing. Either you've been forgotten, or you're scared you're going to be rendered obsolete, or maybe you're just getting tired of existing on the whims of people.

Shadow, just out of prison and with nothing to go home to, is hired to be Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard as he travels around America to warn all the other incarnations of gods, legends, and myths, that “a storm is coming.” There's going to be a battle between the old gods who were brought to melting pot America by their faithful followers generations ago, and the new gods of technology, convenience, and individuality.

That's the premise of Neil Gaiman's American Gods and it's just crackling with promise! But unfortunately, that's not really what this novel is about. It's what the novel keeps telling us it's about (and what many critics told us it was about), but it doesn't deliver.

Yes, there are plenty of gods, myths, and legends, and Gaiman does great things with some of them (e.g., Ibis the undertaker and Mr. Nancy) but most are never developed and a reader who has not read an encyclopedia of folklore probably won't catch all the clever allusions.

Yes, there's Neil Gaiman's characteristic style, which I always enjoy. His prose is clean, unvarnished, and exquisite. His characters are recognizable; His America is recognizable. In fact, this was the best part of the book (and what Gaiman does so well) — Shadow's roadtrip across the United States gave Gaiman plenty of opportunities to showcase his humorous insights into the human condition and, in this case, small-town American life. This was lovely, and I enjoyed these parts of the book.

The problem with American Gods was that the plot, meandering this way and that across the continent, never solidified. Shadow goes to this American town, meets a few gods and legends, goes to this other place, meets a couple more .... There are numerous short stories detailing the lives of these gods and the people who worshiped them, so we expect to see some of these folks again (perhaps at this coming battle), but we don't. A few weird mystical things happen to Shadow and we anticipate an explanation for those occurrences. Then there's a sub-plot involving Shadow's undead wife who asks Shadow to bring her back to life.

I don't want to ruin it for anybody, but let me say that the “storm” we're promised doesn't materialize. Every time there's a conflict, or a tight spot, someone suddenly shows up and, knowingly or unknowingly, takes care of it. Shadow (and his dead wife) figure out what the bad guys are going to do before they do it. Characters who we hoped might play a bigger role, and events that seemed to be significant, just fade away. The whole thing kind of fizzles. The plot twists at the end aren't clever or inventive — they just seem to be there to fit the role of “obligatory plot twist.”

The premise of American Gods has so much promise. I was anticipating some poignant social commentary on America and our habits of worship. After all, American Gods is a best-selling award-winning novel and I expect great things from Neil Gaiman. But it didn't happen this time and I really can't explain the critical acclaim for this novel.
My other Neil Gaiman book reviews. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
A stunning book from Neil Gaiman. It is thick book, but well worth reading. ( )
  KESwriter | Apr 2, 2014 |
You know all those old ancient Gods that humanity used to worship back in the day? Well, they're still hanging around. The only problem is that without that constant devotion from the general public, they're powers aren't as strong as they used to be. Bring in the newly worshiped! The new Gods of media, technology and celebrity. They want to wipe out the Gods of old. Oh, there's a storm on the horizon alright and it's time to see who will win in a battle between the old guard and the new.

I had a lot of trouble with this book. I flip-flopped back and forth on whether I liked it more than well, a pair of flip-flops. The concept is brilliant, I loved it more than I can probably describe here. It's just Gaiman's execution that had me struggling with the material.

I found the content so boring at times which made it beyond frustrating given how much I adored the ideas presented by the author. I did enjoy the banter and blossoming relationship between Wednesday and Shadow, with Shadow developing into a pretty interesting character. His subplot with his wife kept me interested throughout and those he encounters in Lakeside fit in nicely as a strong supporting cast.

I really dug what Gaiman presented here. The idea alone is saving the overall score but everything felt like such a mess at times I found myself unable to really focus. I'll probably get some serious backlash for not loving this one but this is just one man's experience in the face of many positive reviews.

I'm not ready to form an opinion on Gaiman as a writer yet, I just don't know where to go from here. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
Entertaining fiction. I thought it was a very interesting premise - that each wave of immigrants to the USA has brought their own gods with them, but then forgotten them, leaving them to make ends meet however they can (con artists, funeral directors, slum landlords...). A war is coming between these old gods and the new gods of the age of technology. Shadow journeys through America and the underworld and eventually comes out a hero. However, the book was let down by the unnecessary lengthiness. Apparently there are two versions, perhaps the shorter version is better. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Mar 21, 2014 |
Awesome story. While metaphorical, I enjoyed the perspective of an outsider on America.

If you choose audio, get the 10th anniversary full cast recording. Very good! ( )
  JWhitsitt | Mar 17, 2014 |
This wasn't my favorite of the Gaiman books I've read so far. I loved the first half, but didn't care as much for the last. The Wednesday con stories were great, and I loved the characters. I would have liked to have read even more about each of the Gods characters, they were wonderful. The whole concept was so interesting to me, all of the Gods of the past vs the current Gods of todays world. Well written and fast paced with all the quirkiness I've come to love in all of Gaiman's books. ( )
  a.happy.booker | Mar 14, 2014 |
I guess hanging out with mythical gods who apparently aren't just mythical is not my cup of tea. I read this longer, 10th anniversary edition for a book group, and my reading probably would have dragged on much longer if I didn't have a book group deadline to meet.

I was bored.

Yep, I get it. I get the allegories, the symbolism, the war between the old gods and the new ones. I did like the concept of what keeps the old gods viable. I even liked the character Shadow. But the story was too long and never really drew me into it. It has been a long time since I studied mythology but still I recognized most of the main gods. I just didn't care about them, and even their struggle to be recognized in the modern world just fell flat.

The physical settings, the descriptions were very enjoyable.

I know this book has many fans, but I was happy to finally move on to something more interesting. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Mar 12, 2014 |
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