Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American GodsAmerican_gods
636 pages
Headline
Published in 2004

Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she’s been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible.He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever he the same…

I thought the idea of the book was pretty great. America is a multicultural country with people of many different nationalities and beliefs. What if gods existed and were taken to the new country with their people? And how would they cope there? The story follows Shadow, a normal American citizen who just got released from prison and hears that his wife is dead. On the way home he meets a strange man and decides to work for him. Working for him means following him around in all of America to meet other strange people who may or may not be some kind of gods. We don’t know who Shadow’s weird boss, who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, is, but I had some suspicions. Apparently there is some war going on behind the scenes between the old gods and the new ones and they are all scared.

‘Gods die. And when they truly die they are unmourned and unremembered. Ideas are more difficult to kill than people, but they can be killed, in the end.’

The book is a bit of a road trip through America. Shadow and Wednesday meet gods and people on their way and hear their backstory while Wednesday is trying hard to persuade the old gods to stand up for themselves.

There are lots of things I liked about the book and a few things I wasn’t happy about.

First of all: I LOVE Gaiman’s style of writing, the pictures he paints, the beautiful language he uses – it is a pleasure to read! Also he is inventive and doesn’t mind shocking people. The book has some really funny parts as well.

The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, to one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
‘Say “Nevermore”,’ said Shadow.
‘Fuck you,’ said the raven.

Give me Poe-references any time.

Also I enjoyed the little interludes about people from other parts of the world who came to America in the past and brought their beliefs/gods with them. It deals with the way people as well as gods fit in and got along in their new home.

Lots of scenes starring Wednesday, Shadow and other gods were awesome too, especially the one where they meet up with the Zoryas and Shadow’s time at the funeral home. Also, the reader finds many riddles and mysteries, within Shadow’s weird dreams and also during the part where he spends a quiet and apparently peaceful time in a town at the lake.

While I liked reading about many different colourful and interesting characters, gods and humans alike, I wasn’t sure what to make of Shadow. He doesn’t show a lot of emotions during the story and stays quite cold all the time. He doesn’t ask many questions and isn’t surprised at all about dealing with gods and other creatures. Wednesday is the typical mysterious leader with a lot of secrets. Smug and clever.

I did not expect the turn in the end of the story but was a bit underwhelmed by the solution to the conflict. That was dealt with far too easily. The whole build-up throughout the story seemed a bit useless in the end and also I expected much more by the opposition. Also the solution of the mystery surrounding the town at the lake wasn’t as impressive and seemed like the author almost forgot about it and solved it quickly so that it was not left unanswered.

All in all an adventurous, imaginative tale with some cool scenes, a beautiful style of writing, but characters that were lacking emotions and a rushed, disappointing ending.

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