American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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. When Wednesday offers to hire him as a bodyguard, Shadow reluctantly accepts. But the journey they face turns out to be more dangerous and dark than he could ever have imagined. For unbeknownst to him a war is being fought -- and the prize is the very soul of America.

Having previously read Nevermore, Stardust, Anansi Boys and Good Omens (co-authored with Terry Pratchett), American Gods was a welcome return to the utter madness that characterises Neil Gaiman's books. Despite its often absurd detours and mishaps, it had me quite hooked right from the beginning.

The many gods were a pleasure to read about (mostly), some I knew, most I didn't and one I recognised from a previous book of Gaiman's. The characters are in general a bit smoky and hard to make out with the exception of Shadow, whom I grew to care for greatly. I truly felt I could understand the path he chose.

I did find the ending a bit anti-climactic, a bit ordinary somehow, and some of the final events a bit too much like a balloon from which the air had gone out - it is a fairly long book after all. A number of scenes in the book contain some very graphical scenes of a sexual nature and to my surprise the language was briefly very crude and explicit. Something I didn't expect from Gaiman.

As you can tell, my plot graph was not the easiest one to draw. The story mainly follows Shadow and what he's up to and put through, but several times a chapter or section takes a detour to fill the reader in on an entirely different story, background or something more obscure and it became hard to keep up with all the impressions it left me with. About halfway through, after reading a particularly long chapter detailing the story of two African slaves (a story that didn't seem to fit in anywhere and characters I didn't expect to read about again), I did feel a slight urge to just close the book and put it down. However, my interest for Shadow's story overcame my more negative thoughts on the matter and so I kept reading. I can completely understand why so many people only gave this book 1 or 2 stars. It is a very odd book with an often confusing drawn-out plot. Myself I debated between 3 and 4 stars and ended on 4 because I think it deserves it in the end. It is not my favourite of his books, but it was worth the read and I can now look forward to the tv series they're making based on it.

624 pages / published in 2001
Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2011

The Kindle book also includes an extra snippet which is Neil Gaiman's "On the Road to American Gods." It's basically just some journal entries he wrote during the, shall we say, post-production of the book (copy-editing etc.) The entries are both interesting, fun and educating (on the subject that is being an author and publishing stuff).


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