American Gods Hardcover – 21 Jun 2011
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|Hardcover, 21 Jun 2011||
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Within just a few pages of Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, he commandingly reveals that he is at his considerable best with this disturbing and dark journey into the hidden soul of America. Gaiman, one of the most talented and imaginative writers at work today, achieved nigh-legendary status with his comic Sandman, which took the genre to heights that even the equally talented Alan Moore had not attained; Gaiman's subsequent career as a novelist has displayed the same glittering inventiveness and exquisite use of language.
Gaiman's protagonist Shadow has patiently done his time in prison. But as the moment of his release approaches, he begins to sense that some unnamed disaster is lying in wait for him. As he makes his way home, he encounters the mysterious Mr Wednesday, who appears to be both a refugee from a distant country at war and the King of America. And perhaps even a god. As Shadow and Mr Wednesday begin a bizarre odyssey across the United States, solving murders is only one of their accomplishments. With an epic storm of supernatural origin brewing, one questions whether they will be destroyed before Shadow pays the price for grim mistakes in his past.
The use of language here is impeccable, and it is wedded to a surreal narrative that brings out the most quirky and unsettling aspects of Gaiman's imagination. Forget Gaiman the Guru: just enjoy Gaiman the consummate writer:
He opened his mouth to catch the rain as it fell, moistening his cracked lips and his dry tongue, wetting the ropes that bound him to the trunk of the tree. There was a flash of lightning so bright it fell like a blow to his eyes, transforming the world into an intense panorama of image and after-image. The wind tugged at Shadow, trying to pull him from the tree, flaying him, cutting to the bone. Shadow knew in his soul that the real storm had truly begun...--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"American Gods is like a fast run downhill through a maze -- both exhilarating and twisted."--Jane Lindskold, author of Changer and
"Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions."--George R. R. Martin
"Gaiman understands the shape of stories."--Patrick Rothfuss, www.tor.com
American Gods is sexy, thrilling, dark, funny and poetic."--Teller, of Penn & Teller
Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive; a picaresque journey across America where the travelers are even stranger than the roadside attractions. --George R. R. Martin"
Gaiman understands the shape of stories. --Patrick Rothfuss, www.tor.com"
Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive. --George R. R. Martin"
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
American Gods is essentially a road trip book and is written with great energy and bucketloads of imagination. The main premise is that gods die when they are forgotten but many have been brought to the New World by immigrants and are still around and impinging on the lives of humans. Some of the gods are more easy to identify than others (Mr Wednesday=Odin, Mr Nancy=Anansi and Low Key=Loki). In Shadow (the main protagonist) the analogy with Christianity is implicit - the tree, death, resurrection, the wound in the side.
Shadow's journey criss-crossing the United States is told from the outsider's viewpoint. He passes through towns with fascinating names: Thebes, Peru, Cairo etc. and meets equally fascinating characters.
This is a big novel packed with action and ideas but a bit rambling and ragged in parts. However I can understand its appeal - it is energetic, witty and imaginative.
At one point a character says "All things have rules." "Yeah," said Shadow, "But nobody tells me what they are." As a new reader to this genre I felt the same!
It eventually transpires that Shadow has been recruited into a war between gods; the old gods, brought to America by the various immigrants over time, and the new gods of television and media and so forth.
The nice thing about this book is the amount of mythology hidden to a lesser or greater extent in the storytelling. Some of the gods are more easily recognisable than others; the jump from "Mr Nancy" to "Anansi", for instance, is not so great, whereas the link between Mr Wednesday to Odin is not as immediately obvious. But you don't have to have much grounding in mythology to be able to enjoy the book, which is one of the great things about it; there are plenty of layers to be unpicked, if you're that way inclined, but on the other hand, you can just sit back and enjoy Neil Gaiman's masterful storytelling.
The added benefit of this particular edition is the author interview in the back, which gives that extra little insight into the book. It's apparently also the author's preferred text, though having read both versions, I have to say that for the reader it makes little difference.
The main protagonist, Shadow, is likable and compelling. He offers a deadpan counterpoint to the weirdness of the god-filled world in which he finds himself. His mental equilibrium helps the reader to safely negotiate the strangeness into which he is released after serving time in jail for committing GBH.
He soon meets Wednesday, who employs him for reasons that slowly become apparent as the story ensues. He provides an equally compelling character to enjoy. His dubious moral compass serves to add to his intrigue, while his humour and bravado make him a character who you never quite trust but nonetheless root for.
This is a glitzy, showy beast of a novel that shines with Gaiman's creative flair. I loved the way that all the various mythologies were interwoven within the fabric of this novel and Shadow's deadpan view of the whole is an interesting complement to the wackiness of the prose.
To justify giving this 4 stars rather than 5, I would say that the conclusion to the novel does not really live up to the promise of the preceding narrative. I was looking for something a bit more profound, perhaps mistakenly, and felt a little like I imagine one of Wednesday's victims might once the mechanics behind one of his confidence tricks has been revealed.
Magic loses its joy once it is explained and, while the story dazzled me, the ending ensured that the joy I had in it would not endure quite as long as it should have if it had performed the miracle I was craving!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I feel I cannot say anything that hasn't already been said about this wonderful story.
I have loved Gaiman for years but I've only just read this and I let myself down not... Read more
Strange and brilliant although only a quarter of the way through. There is little point in asking for feedback on a long book a couple of days after it has been delivered. Read morePublished 1 month ago by John Reed
An exceptional book that will live with you long after you've finished reading. I first encountered this book in the library of an American cruise ship. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Philip Whiteland
Fascinating, intriguing, beautiful and clever. You can read this on a number of levels. One to keep on the shelf and read at different times in your life.Published 1 month ago by Carol T
Review can also be found in <a href="https://chillandreadblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/american-gods-by-neil-gaiman/">Chill and read</a>
Locked behind bars for... Read more
Shadow is let out of prison two days before his sentence ends because his wife has been killed in a car crash. Read morePublished 1 month ago by rwmg