Sunday, May 11, 2008

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

I read this book as part of the Once Upon Time II challenge. It had been sitting on my shelves since it first came out in hardcover and I had purchased it based upon the great reviews and the fact that I had immensely enjoyed Neil Gaiman's book Good Omens that he wrote with Terry Pratchet. American Gods is the story of Shadow who is released from prison where he was serving time for bank robbery only to learn that his wife has died in a car accident. At lose ends he meets up with a grifter named Wednesday who offers him a job and Shadow becomes embroiled in the world of the American Gods. Unbeknownst to most people, America is full of gods that where brought here whenever someone from their homeland believed in them and therefore brought them to America. There is conflict between the old gods that we may be familiar with from mythology and fairytale and the new American gods of the media, internet and dot coms who think that they are superior.

I enjoyed the book but not as much as I had hoped. Of course with any book that gets so much hype it raises your expectations so that it is bound to be somewhat of a disappointment. I enjoyed the portrayal of the gods as everyday Americans, the old gods usually down on their luck and the new ones enjoying their time in the lime light. I loved the idea of tacky road side attractions being important power centers. I found the story a little slow to begin but then I got sucked in and just had to know what happened to Shadow next. I did not find any of the characters particularly compelling however, even Shadow. While I wanted to find out what happened next I didn't really care about any of the characters. I also found the sheer number of gods way to much. I would have preferred to have fewer gods but developed more then to have a very interesting three pages on a particular god never to see them again except once for one page. And I saw the punch line a mile away.

I also found a couple things confusing. While I liked the gods portrayed as regular people and I appreciate that some of the older gods were not very powerful because they were forgotten and not worshiped anymore, I found it odd how easy it was to kill any of the gods. I also kept wondering what about the same god in other locations. For example, say Odin comes to America from Scandinavia in the belief of Scandinavian immigrants, is there is another version of himself still in Scandinavia and another version of himself in each location that his people travel too? If so is the American version aware of the other versions? I know I am nit picking but I kept thinking about it through out the book.

All in all I enjoyed American Gods but I don't know if I will read its sequel, Anasazi Boys. I would highly recommend that everyone read Good Omens.


Carl V. said...

I wouldn't let your feelings on American Gods determine whether or not you read Anansi Boys as these two stories are absolutely nothing alike. Anansi Boys focuses on just a couple of gods and even that is only a small part of the story. It is much more of a comedy in the vein of the kind of stuff that P.G. Wodehouse writes. More romance in Anansi Boys, more family studies and what it means to be a family. It really isn't a sequel at all, just a story set in the same universe but even that is a stretch considering how different these stories are. It is not as out and out funny as Good Omens, but I suspect if you enjoyed Good Omens that you would enjoy Anansi Boys.

Moo said...

Good to know. Perhaps I will check out Anansi Boys, it certainly got good reviews.