16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An epic supernatural road trip which, when all is said and done, falls a little short of its potential.,
This review is from: American Gods (Kindle Edition)
This is a story about ancient gods and their struggle to survive in a world where their fickle worshippers have abandoned them in favour of advertisements, technology and consumerism. Shadow is an ex-con who gets catapulted into a crazy world where he finds himself helping the old gods reclaim their relevance. Throughout the book, we follow Shadow on his journey through America as the sidekick of the enigmatic Wednesday, recruiting disenchanted gods to help win a war that will bring them back to their former glories.
If the premise sounds intriguing, rest assured that it is, unfortunately the execution lets it down slightly. The best parts of the book are the parts spent encountering the old gods who have been forced to live human lives in America after their once loyal worshippers have either died or forgotten them. More interesting still are the occasional glimpses into the gods’ true forms which are spectacular and often terrifying in equal measure. The Ifrit and The Queen of Seba scenes are just a few that spring to mind. There is no denying the Gaiman’s imagination is one of the best in modern fiction, and “American Gods” never falters in the imagination department .
Another commendable aspect is the characters themselves. From the ever mysterious Wednesday to the fear-inducing Czernobog, Gaiman’s characters are a unique and interesting bunch with a strong motive directing their actions. Whilst it is natural for the reader to back the cause of the old gods, it is never made explicit that they have morally superior reasons for their actions than the new gods do. This lends their exploits some moral ambiguity, where it is left to the reader to decide which group is on the side of right, or indeed whether either of them are.
With a host of such great characters, it is a shame that the only character I never really clicked with was Shadow, the protagonist. Gaiman paints him as an observer for the majority of the novel - things just sort of happen to him and he goes along with it. It is only near the end where he starts taking a more pronounced role in the conflict and subsequently his own destiny. I found it was at this point, the book picked up steam after a long lull.
And that long lull is the biggest detriment to the novel as a whole. After the old gods have made their dramatic appearances and we learn what their plan entails, Shadow is abruptly cut off from the action and finds himself in the sleepy town of Lakeside. Here the plot almost completely loses it’s momentum as Gaiman focuses on the much more mundane drama of Lakeside’s residents and the town’s history, none of which is all that interesting. It does have a serviceable murder mystery sub plot, but I didn’t find it as interesting as the main plot line. It was during these middle chapters where i’ll come clean and say I almost gave up.
However with that in mind, i’m glad I powered on. The ending is largely satisfying although it is left open to interpretation, which I enjoyed. Looking back on the journey as a whole, it’s one which left some very strong images thanks to the vivid characters and their fight for survival. It definitely drags in the middle which prevents me from wholeheartedly recommending it, but I think if you have the patience to see it through, “American Gods” is a road trip you’ll be glad to have embarked on.