American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Okay. I’ve been attempting to read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for what feels like forever. I can’t get through it. Maybe if I had more time (it’s already way overdue at the library), I would venture onwards. Maybe not.

It’s a mind-bender, that’s for sure. The characters are realistic (in a sense) and the world is rendered beautifully to make it feel very normal at times. But then there’s the fact that several (most) of the main characters are either ancient gods or, in one case, dead. There are odd trips away from the “real” world to foray into what I can only describe as ‘god-land,’ in which accurate descriptions are apparently difficult. Well, whispers the English major in me, that’s clearly a way to force the reader to identify more closely with the main character, Shadow, who as a human is equally as confused as you are right now. He’s probably freaking out more than you are, despite the fact that he seems amazingly even-keel about the whole thing. Thanks, Major English, for whipping me back into shape.

Anyway, it was too much. I couldn’t feel the thread of the story taking me anywhere. The only thing that pulls all the odd disparate elements together is this idea that “there’s a storm coming,” which is, at best, vague and unhelpful though slightly ominous. Honestly, it makes me feel like there’s an old wizened Southern man in flannel and overalls speaking to me around the piece of wheat in his mouth, or perhaps a hand-rolled cigarette.

Anyway, I gave it up in favor of The Magician King by Lev Grossman, which is the sequel to The Magicians. In a sense, the books are similar in that they bring fantasy into “normal” life. But at least I’m finding The Magician King an interesting read that doesn’t completely gross me out every 15 pages or so.


2 Comments on “American Gods, Neil Gaiman”

  1. Adam says:

    American Gods was an odd book. My biggest problem with it is that Shadow never really takes any initiative about anything in the entire book. Personally I thought that the best parts of the book were the short interludes dealing with minor gods and mythical creatures.

    To me many of Gaiman’s books are kind of one off books, he’s telling the story from the viewpoint of a character who is along for the ride rather than the character who is driving the action. He’s a very talented writer, but the way he sets up his books almost starts him out in a hole before you even have a chance of getting into the book.

  2. ovenandink says:

    That’s a good point. He doesn’t take control of anything; instead, he’s content to let Wednesday use him without protest. In that way, Shadow is less of a main character and more of a vehicle for viewing the action. Maybe I would have liked the book more if Shadow were a more compelling character with motivations of his own.

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