Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods Amer­i­can Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars
I’m try­ing to remem­ber whether or not I’ve read any of Gaiman’s oth­er nov­els before, and I’m fair­ly cer­tain that I haven’t. I read Good Omens, but that was co-writ­ten with Ter­ry Pratch­ett, and the col­lab­o­ra­tion was genius. Of course, I know that the entire world seems to love Sand­man, but I’m not a fan of graph­ic nov­els. It took me a while to real­ize that the Good Omens co-author and the Sand­man author were one and the same. 

I’ve cer­tain­ly read some short sto­ries, too. The most mem­o­rable, “Snow, Glass, Apples” was reprint­ed in an anthol­o­gy I read recent­ly. I find it dis­turb­ing, so I won’t re-read it. Well-writ­ten, of course—it would­n’t be so mem­o­rably dis­tress­ing if it weren’t so mas­ter­ful­ly done!1I found the text online if you care to read it, but please under­stand that the sto­ry deals with pedophil­ia, necrophil­ia, and incest. It is the polar oppo­site of all things Dis­ney. Snow White was nev­er one of my favorite fairy tales, and Gaiman pushed it much far­ther down the list.

In any case, I don’t know what I was expect­ing from Gaiman, but Amer­i­can Gods was­n’t it. I like sto­ries with hap­py end­ings, and with­in the first few chap­ters, I was rea­son­ably sure that there would­n’t be one. Is Gaiman fun­da­men­tal­ly opposed to joy, or is it just hap­pi­ness that he does­n’t allow?

The nov­el is epic. It is mas­ter­ful. All that stuff from the promi­nent crit­ics is dead on. The book could be used as the back­bone of a mytho­log­i­cal scav­enger hunt if a teacher were will­ing to run a very unstruc­tured but engag­ing course. I cer­tain­ly enjoyed that aspect of it, and it made me glad that I was read­ing it on my iTouch so that I could look up each ref­er­ence online at any time. 

I sel­dom want to see illus­tra­tions in any book, but yes, I think I would like to see good pic­tures of some of the char­ac­ters Gaiman described in this one. On the oth­er hand, with­out art­work, I spent time imag­in­ing what the char­ac­ters looked like based on the descrip­tions. I don’t usu­al­ly stop to do that, as such mat­ters are sel­dom rel­e­vant to a plot, but these beings caught my fan­cy. Not enough that I would sit through an entire graph­ic nov­el, I’m afraid, but if I saw one now, I might flip through it to see how the artist’s ren­der­ings com­pare with my versions.

I’m sel­dom able to iden­ti­fy an over­all theme in the books I read. Most of them, hon­est­ly, are fluff. I’m fine with that. I read them because they enter­tain me. Amer­i­can Gods is dif­fer­ent. It is enter­tain­ing, but it isn’t light or fluffy in the least. It has an eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able theme and tropes and all those ele­ments that I recall from long-ago lit­er­a­ture class­es. Those were the things that put me off from my orig­i­nal Eng­lish major. I hat­ed tear­ing oth­er authors’ works apart instead of writ­ing any­thing orig­i­nal. (Now, I under­stand that we were being taught to rec­og­nize what makes for good writ­ing, so we might have some hope of pos­si­bly cre­at­ing some of it one day.)

I some­what timid­ly con­clude that Amer­i­can Gods is the first piece of lit­er­a­ture I’ve read in a long time and well worth the time spent read­ing it. (I find it rather amus­ing that it would be British lit­er­a­ture, despite its title, due to the author’s nation­al­i­ty.) I’m not going to state the theme because that would be a spoil­er, and I hate putting those in reviews—but it’s some­thing that I see as truth that needs to be stat­ed far more often, espe­cial­ly today. It’s even more inter­est­ing that it took a Brit to say it.

The book is dark, although it has some very bright spots. I will acknowl­edge that I was going through a ter­ri­ble time regard­ing my health when I read it, but I still think it might be best for some peo­ple to read this one when in a rea­son­ably pos­i­tive state of mind.

View all my reviews »

Cyn is Katie's mom, Esther's Mémé, and a Support Engineer. She lives in the Atlanta area with her life partner, Rick, and their critters. She knits, does counted-thread needlework, reads, makes music, plays TTRPGs, and spends too much time online.
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